Tiger teachers have been hard at work this week preparing for a safe and successful new school year.
Our new faculty orientation took place last week from Aug. 4-7, where new teachers were introduced to the TAS community and administration, learned more about Taipei and Taiwan, met with new colleagues, and began to experience first-hand the TAS standard of excellence.
This week, faculty masked-up for their return to campus on Monday, Aug. 10. Dr. Sharon Hennessy started off the week by welcoming all faculty back in a socially distant manner. Faculty members met by division in various places around campus to listen to her welcome address, which was viewed via live stream by the lower school and middle school faculty and viewed live and in-person by upper school faculty. She expressed how lucky our community is to be together during this unprecedented time, but that luck is only one part of the equation and which hides the hard work and commitment to wellness our entire faculty and staff have shown, starting last year and continuing to this new school year. She reminded our community that we must all take care of ourselves and our loved ones, and pay extra attention to look out for one another during this challenging time.
Chief Information Officer Dan Hudkins also shared some important news with our faculty including the rollout of five major IT tasks undertaken by his team over the summer. A new digital calendar system, a new ID system, a new printing system, a new phone system, and a new email system were some of the technological highlights.
During the professional development days, the administration made ample time for timely and impactful conversations focusing on diversity, inclusion, and anti-racist teaching and living. Led by Dean of Faculty Dr. Nathan Smith and Dean of Programs and KA-12 Articulation Dr. Adam Nelson, the school has committed itself to ongoing and meaningful work in this area. To that end, all faculty participated in small group conversations about race and privilege, with particular attention to alumni feedback about their experiences with racial identity after leaving TAS. The focus of the conversation was on learning about those alumni experiences and discussing what every teacher can do to help build a more welcoming and inclusive community for all of our students and faculty.
Upper School faculty continued this work in their discussion of the timely upper school reading choice, "Just Mercy," by Bryan Stevenson, a respected lawyer and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. All faculty and students in the upper school will meet throughout the school year to use this text as a starting point for learning with a critical eye to improve curriculum and practices within the school.
"Everyone is ready to start the school year and welcome our students back to campus," said one administrator. "And it's great to have some time before classes begin to come together to learn new things and have important conversations. Given the challenges so many people are facing around the world, we are fortunate to be able to be getting ready to have classes on campus, and to have that opportunity to work together to build a more inclusive community for all our students."
Faculty members agreed on the importance of these meetings. "It was great to sit down and deepen the divisional-wide conversations about inclusion and issues of race," said one lower school team leader. "Learning about the experiences of people from different backgrounds helps us to understand how deep and personal these issues are."
In addition to these important discussions, faculty also met within their divisions, departments, and teams to prepare for the return of the school's most important assets: its students!
We cannot wait to see everyone's smiling faces on Thursday. Although everyone's smiles will be hidden behind masks, we know that the excitement will shine through. Teachers are ready to make this a memorable year for all.