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New Headmaster Brings New Hope

January, 2018
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A passionate sports lover, a devoted family man and a confident problem solver… That’s the impression one most likely will get from talking with Stephen Meier, the new Headmaster of Hope International School (HIS).

stephen-meierMeier grew up in Austria with missionary parents, lived across the US in college and for three Master’s level degrees. He taught in South Korea, and served as Secondary Principal in Ecuador for four years. Before coming to Hope International School in Beijing, he served as Head of School for a private school in Texas for six years. 

Such a background and experience has endowed him with extensive experience in cross cultural settings and school administration, which he firmly intends to put to use in order to help Hope International School achieve healthy growth in the years to come.

“I like new challenges. Once I felt that my job at the private school in Texas was done, I grasped the chance of coming here,” he says, “Currently there is a lot of planning we are working on. And it feels like I am riding a very big wave which is very exciting.”

Several months into his new job, Meier finds that HIS is a small school facing a fast-growing prospect. 

Opened in 2012 at the “Crab Island,” a resort area in eastern Beijing featuring a green ecological environment, HIS has developed into a school with nearly 300 international students from Pre-K through Grade 12.

The school uses a US curriculum based on the modified US Common Core standards, taught by teachers from a variety of countries. For High School students, the rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) courses are offered so as to provide opportunities for them to receive university credits in higher education institutes around the world.

stephen-meier-family150In addition, HIS firmly believes that the development of a child is not restricted to textbooks and worksheets in the classroom, but it also occurs as students engage and extend themselves through sports, arts, and other creative pursuits. That’s why there are abundant after-school activities offered to the students, including various sports, Model United Nations (MUN), guitar club, horse riding, and movie making, just to name a few.  

Headmaster Meier believes that HIS has come to a point where the school needs a physical expansion, which means either staying at the current campus but with upgraded buildings and facilities, or looking for another suitable location. Actually, the school has recently added a new gym. HIS is looking to build a full-size soccer field and track, additional indoor gyms, additional classroom spaces, additional cafeteria and coffee shop, additional music, orchestra and art rooms, etc.

Along with the expansion, the Headmaster anticipates a growth in the student population: “We are looking to grow in all areas of Pre-School, Elementary, MS, and HS by 10% next school year. We are splitting all of our Elementary classes into two sections for each grade level to allow for more growth in the Elementary school.”

“Hope International School is looking for students that want to challenge themselves in areas of academic, athletic, spiritual, and service that will cause them to be world-changer,” he points out. In three to five years from now, he would like to see the number of students at HIS doubling to 600, all catered for with sufficient facilities and equipment.

On the academic side, Meier plans to strengthen the HIS curriculum mapping program, which will allow the school for closer alignment of units and consistency of teaching the curriculum. This is to make sure that even as teachers come and go, what they teach is in the same framework.

What makes Hope International School unique is that the school is a faith-based school, where character education plays an important role. This is also an important reason why Meier wanted to join HIS.

“At HIS we are concerned with more than just a child’s academic ability and progress. Our Character Education program is designed to help students grow in character by understanding each character trait and the benefits of growing in character,” he says.

At the school, each month there is a single character trait as the focus and students learn various aspects of that trait in their classes. Teachers address each character trait in their classrooms as well as during teachable moments that arise. Weekly assemblies also serve to further explain and reinforce the importance of each character trait. Students are encouraged to grow in the highlighted character trait of the month and to demonstrate this trait in their interactions at school and at home. By the end of the month, character awards are given to the students who have either best exemplified or who have grown in that character trait.The monthly character traits in the current school year include Orderliness, Determination, Initiative and Leadership.

Meier explains that the desired student learning outcomes at HIS are for its students to communicate effectively with confidence, to show honor and respect, to be responsible global stewards, independent learners, to strive for excellence, and to think at a higher level.

“We have a truly warm, loving and welcoming community. We practice love-based education,” he says proudly. It is expected that students from HIS will become global citizens with international perspective and are able to serve, love and work with other people, Meier emphasizes, “They are not supposed to just focus on themselves, but learn to focus on others, as well.”

Such a vision requires good partnership among administrators, teachers and parents. The Headmaster hopes to ensure effective communication with parents so that they understand what the school is about and where it is going. As for the teachers, they should not just come here to teach, but also want to take the time to love and care for the students outside their academic studies.

A fierce, competitive runner and soccer player in his spare time, Meier likes doing his job as an administrator, which he considers challenging and about problem solving, “I don’t see problems, I see solutions. Constant resolution is something I actually enjoy.” He argues that administration is vision casting, and it’s about seeing the bigger picture and allowing that mindset to govern one’s ideas.

For him, a school is simply a place where teachers can teach and students can learn, and he is determined to keep at bay any disruptions or distractions that may hinder teachers and students from doing so. “That’s the forefront for an administrator.”

Meier feels it is very rewarding for him to see growth of the school, and see the students succeed, do well and move on to college and also prosper in life. HIS is like one big family, where people know each other not just on professional level, but on friendship and community level. Now as the steersman of the school, he is committed to keeping it that way and ensuring its growth.

Meier is married to Cristina Meier, and the couple has four children who are now all attending HIS. The Meier family is multi-lingual in English, Spanish, German, some Korean and now learning Chinese. It is the first time for the whole family to be in Beijing, but they are exited for this brand-new chapter.  “I like to see my children experience a different culture, just as I did as a child in Austria. And this is also one of the reasons why I wanted to join HIS,” he says.

 

 

By Qin Chuan,

LittleStar Magazine Editor

 

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