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Ready for Take Off: Introducing YCIS Beijing’s New Co-Principal

October, 2018
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ycis-principal-sStudents at Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) probably don’t know that Timothy Gray, their new co-principal, might have instead been a British Royal Air Force helicopter pilot if the timing of fate had been a bit different.  

The divergent paths appeared as Gray finished A-level courses at school in England and applied for university and as a pilot in the Royal Air Force at the same time. The university’s offer came in a month before acceptance by the air force, so “by serendipity - or under God’s will - I ended up as a teacher,” Gray said.

After college graduation, Gray joined a school in Berkshire where he taught science, math and information technology. Three years later, his bid to get a teaching job in the United Arab Emirates was accepted. So began a “cultural adventure” that has lasted more than 30 years.

Decades of hard work earned Gray the honorary MBE award for his contribution to promoting the British education system in South Korea at a time when international education was predominantly American. Unlike the normal way of receiving the award at Buckingham Palace, Gray’s was presented to him in South Korea in 1999 when the Queen and Prince Philip were visiting.

“It does not make any difference to your daily life like getting a better seat on British Airways. You instead get a special medal, a beautifully-written citation and a great photograph of shaking hands with the Queen,” said Gray. “But it is a great honor I can pass on to my sons. 

After working in South Korea for 12 years, Gray continued his education journey along with his wife by taking the job of Co-Principal of YCIS Beijing this May. Despite the fact he is working in China for the first time, he does not feel a stranger to the country as he visited China about six times since the 1990s.  

He even has a family connection from about a century ago. “My great uncle, who is Irish, left Ireland to work in China’s customs in Shanghai in about 1890 and stayed there until 1945,” said Gray. “That’s why we chose YCIS Beijing — not only because it is one of the best international schools but also it gives us a chance to explore history and culture.”

From his point of view, YCIS Beijing is remarkably different from the other international schools that normally take the educational curriculum and culture from their home country to create an isolated “bubble” in the local culture.

“In this school, a truly international curriculum was formed by taking the best of the English curriculum, the best approach of China and other YCIS schools. It is bi-cultural rather than bi-lingual.” Gray said.

The new co-principal said he will approach his new role with caution as he learns and grows with the school. Confident about his core values and approaches for the school, Gray also respects the local culture. To him, a country’s culture matters because it not only governs how a school operates but also how it is viewed within the country.

“I will work closely with local staff at the school to guide me to avoid ending up as a loud Brit who speaks English by shouting,” he said. “Some other part of my role here is to try to learn the local language and culture as well.”

When Gray first came to the school for his job interview, he found a brass sculpture that impressed him instantly. It depicts three books lying down, one book on top, an open window and two shoes. “The three books represent past, current and future learning. The fourth book is the Bible that represents moral guide and character development. The pair of shoes represent our students while the open window means future opportunities,” he explained. “That all encapsulates YCIS Beijing.”                                                                                                                

By Tan Rui



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