Principal Search: Dr. Engstrom imagines leading the school

As the term for the current principal, Dr. Jonathan Long, comes to a close, the new principal candidates, artfully chosen by the Search Committee, have briefly visited the school. In this series, we introduce the candidates and their educational philosophies:

Dr. John Engstrom was educated at Wheaton College (B.Sc.), State University of New York at Stony Brook (MA and MSc.), and Columbia University (Ed.D).

Since 2014, he has been the Head of School at Portsmouth Christian Academy, U.S. He taught for a number of years at The Stony Brook School, U.S, after which he was designated as Head of School successively at The American School (TASIS), Switzerland, Minnehaha Academy, U.S, and Seoul Foreign School, Korea. Through working with these schools in which their system rotated around IB (International Bachelorette) system, Dr. Engstrom was familiarized with the system.

In the CFI session that was held on April 1, 2019, Dr. Engstrom shared his experience and thoughts about the importance of imagination in the lives of school leaders.

Inspired by his creative grandchildren, he shared how he realized that  imagination is “a God [gifted] privilege.” Therefore, since then, imagination has played a very important role in his journey.

While working in his previous school in Switzerland, one of the challenges he faced was developing better relationships among the students, faculty, and parents.

Hence, to strengthen relationships, he imagined a parents weekend at the school.

He imagined the possibility of parents watching their children playing sports, performing musical instruments, and acting in school theater productions.

Although a few disagreed with the idea, with the support of his team, he was able to make it work. This resulted to be very fruitful, where relationships between students, parents, and faculty largely improved.

Imagination was also the basis for raising approximately $30 million for a school which had severely old facilities. “That whole thing developed from trying to make a vision, trying to look out ahead and see how our imagination might be able to develop such programs,” Dr. Engstrom said.

One of his plans for the school is to build stronger bonds not only within the school’s community, but also extending it to the local community.

Some of the other plans are to continue the renovation processes in the school, especially the science labs and see it through. He is further planning on to appealing to the alumni to help raise funds, not only for the renovation, but also to support the student scholarship programs such as the peace scholarships.

When asked about how he would handle controversial issues such as religion, gender identity, and sexual education, he said that the perfect solution is to openly discuss the issues and make sure that people understand the importance of listening and respecting one another.

On the role of staff and adults in controversial issues he said that it is important to “challenge the students to think through their decisions, as well to be prepared to answer any questions in a fair balanced way, where they can explore these issues with the students and be able to clarify their confusions and misconceptions.”

Tala Bagh is the staff reporter of The Woodstocker

Edited by Victoria Lee and Hyenjin Cho

Photo taken from the Internet

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