Life at AISK
Meet AISK School Head: Susan Canobie
Making the world a better place has always been a goal for Susan Canobie, the new Head of School at the American International School of Kingston (AISK). However, Canobie didn’t always intend to become an educator.
A Scientist Drawn to Education
Canobie initially had dreams of impacting the world through work as a research scientist, perhaps finding new cures for diseases. Her first job of producing flu vaccines inside a lab didn’t feel particularly meaningful, and she realized how isolated she was from people. She had also been offered a scholarship to complete a graduate program in education and decided to pursue that path. She began the program and discovered she loved teaching children.
“As soon as I got in the classroom, I realized how powerful it was to watch students learn and the impact I could have making the world a better place through a career in education,” says Canobie.
Her career has included serving as a chemistry teacher, International Baccalaureate (IB) coordinator, and administrator in six different international schools scattered across the globe. She served as the Middle and High School Principal at AISK for three years, and recently returned to the school after serving as Dean of Academics at a large school in Bangkok.
We recently sat down with Canobie to learn more about her goals for AISK and her thoughts on education today.
Q: What are the unique challenges students, parents, and educators face today?
A: How do we prepare children for the future when we don’t know what that future will look like? How do we build important skills they will need 20 years from now, such as adaptability, emotional intelligence, and risk-taking? On the one hand, we need to find new ways to prepare students for this future, and on the other hand, we have to help them meet the conservative entrance requirements that most universities still adhere to in admissions. Traditional tests like the SAT don’t measure those future-ready skills, so we need to equip students for both the traditional standards and the 21st-century skills employers require.
Q. What makes AISK unique?
A: The diverse makeup of our school community, including both international and Jamaican students, creates a unique culture that we can celebrate. AISK is also small enough to feel like a family — it’s one of the reasons I wanted to return. We’re able to know children and their families and teach the whole child, including their interests, passions, hopes, and dreams.
Q. What are some of your goals in your first year or two as head of school?
A: I want to ensure that students are engaged, and at the end of the day, they’re looking forward to coming back the next day.
Q. What do you want parents to know?
A: We want to set an expectation that students will achieve their full potential and dedicate themselves to working hard to make a difference in the world. Our job as parents and educators is to listen to our students’ passion and voice and to recognize that care for the whole child and learning go hand in hand.
One essential element of a learning-focused community is developing a culture of reading. If you read consistently and it becomes a habit, you can learn anything. Parents need to model reading for students. One way to help build that culture is for both parents and students to be involved in reading clubs.
Q. What are some of your closely held beliefs about educating children?
A: I believe that healthy relationships with students are the cornerstone of providing the emotional support and structure needed to put them in a safe place for learning. Schools expect students to take risks and this is best achieved when students have a feeling of trust and wellbeing. Students rely on ‘social cues’ from adults to maneuver their path to adulthood and mature academic conversations and thinking. As they do this through conversations and modeling from the adults in their lives, ethics are developed. A healthy relationship with teachers, administrators, parents, and coaches is central to nurturing healthy growth and development.
In addition to nurture there is a need for rules and structure. Without such conditions; young minds can easily go down a ‘slippery slope’ of complacency through lack of guidance and adherence. Students, in their elementary through high school years are at a stage of their development where they do not have the choice to underachieve. Learners must be shown by adults that they can go beyond what they think they are capable of. It is the task of the adults in their lives to model, push and believe so that the students can also.
I value student “voice and choice”, and putting the best teachers that we can in front of students where educators use that brain research to improve teaching and learning using mindful pedagogical practices to cause learning to take place and have impact. Development of a ‘growth mindset’ is a continual message that students need to hear, so they can always get ‘just a little better’. Couple that with intentionally thinking about creative learning spaces that help students develop and you have the complexity of what is school.
Society and schools are facing challenges with adolescent wellness as health, exercise, sleep and the use of technology issues in our students’ daily lives. It is the responsibility of the school to help educate school communities on the impact such issues have on learning and to be proactive in their response.
I believe that the care and learning go hand in hand.
I believe that schooling is complex as we attend to the academic and personal needs of learners.I believe that it is my responsibility to create the best learning conditions for students and staff and I will work tirelessly to make that happen.
Q. Tell us about your education and certifications.
A. I received a bachelor of applied science at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, and a graduate diploma in education in Melbourne. I hold a Masters in Education and Leadership from The College of New Jersey. I also earned a certificate in International School Leadership from the Principal’s Training Center and serve on a team that helps evaluate IB programs in other schools who are undergoing accreditation.
Q. What are some of your interests outside of school?
A. I like to cook — part of it is the chemist in me experimenting with something new and perfecting it. My favorites are Turkish and Thai cuisine. I’m a runner and completed a half marathon for the first time last year in Cambodia. I also have collected art and different carpets from around the world.
Want to See the AISK Community?
See how AISK can help your child live up to their potential. We serve students from age 3 through high school. Schedule a tour or arrange a shadow day for your student with our online form.
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