Faculty Updates

Wondering what your old teachers or school administrators are up to these days?

Check out what's been going on with some of our featured faculty members and be sure to pop them a message to let them know you're thinking of them!

Current Faculty Members

George Coombs

DragonTales reviews the “good old days” with veteran teacher George Coombs

Veteran HKIS teacher George Coombs says teaching for him is a vocation, a calling. “I always wanted to be a teacher. My own high school teachers as well as my uncle who taught high school inspired me.”

The Coombs family - Jonathan '94, Ame and George

George grew up outside Philadelphia and attended a Catholic boys’ school. He remembers his 10th grade English teacher’s name was Ed Smith. He was a religious brother with a social conscience who became a role model for George.

“He used to take us down town where we repaired and painted houses in the poor sections of the city. We met civil rights’ leaders, and we participated in marches in support of the poor. Literature and scripture came alive in his classes. We had to practice our faith!”

Those formative years had a lasting impact on the young George, to such an extent that he started the first Interact Club in his high school as a teenager.

“When I was growing up service was a regular part of my high school experience, but when I came to HKIS there was just a ‘Day of Giving’. There was no Humanities I in Action.”

High School Principal Jim Handrich wanted a more formative service program, and in response, high school teacher Marty Schmidt and George began to explore ways to deepen the service ethos at the school.

Micah Schmidt, Zella and Marty with Ame and George

“The two of us took a trip to Anteneo High School – a Jesuit school in Metro Manila. They had a well-developed service curriculum with a weekly service experience. We were inspired,” he says.

Today, half of HKIS high school students participate in service on Saturday and almost half of our 9th graders take Humanities I In Action, which includes service.

Mr. Schmidt has also been a more recent inspiration and hero for George. “For the past four years he has been working on his PhD in Service learning. His research has added much to our understanding of the transformative power of service in the formation of social conscience. His work is a real labor of love and a gift to the school.”

George joined HKIS in 1988, the same year as the new high school opened at Tai Tam. He remembers it was a spectacular October day. The building, however, was not completed, and high school students had to share the Repulse Bay campus with the Middle School.

“We attended class on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. It was a rough transition. Two weeks after we moved in, we had one of those rare October typhoons. Windows leaked. Drains were too small. Water damage was extensive. There are about four of us still on the faculty who remember how challenging that year was. However, we made it through the year. For me, it was ‘baptism’ by lots of water!”

George with Bijoy Goswami '91

What George liked most about those early years was the size of the high school. Even if he did not teach a student, he knew who they were. “Between concerts, plays, sports and extracurricular activities, you could meet just about everyone.”

George lived in Kowloon and had to commute to school. He remembers getting on the MTR at 6:23 am each morning. “I rode the same car each day. The journey lasted about 40 minutes and after 6 months I began to speak to some of the people who rode in the same car every day. After a year, we were celebrating birthdays and knew all about each other’s families. We even went to Yum Cha occasionally. My Chinese was basic, but it was heart-warming to connect to so many local people in a simple community. It made the journey special and

George’s first teaching position in Hong Kong was at Maryknoll Convent School in Kowloon Tong where he taught for 10 years 1974-1984. In his first two years there, he was fortunate to work with Ame Lee, who eventually became Mrs. Coombs.

George and Ame with Emi Takahashi '96

“We taught an interdisciplinary humanities course. It was a great way to teach language and culture. It was innovative in those days. We designed several units on science, technology and society. It was an amazing opportunity and a challenge to teach in a local school,” says George.

He remembers there being 40 students in each class, and he had to have a seating chart in each of his six classes. Nevertheless, the students were enthusiastic, disciplined and well-behaved. Their standard of English was also very high which made teaching them enjoyable.

Outside of School

In his free time, George loves to hike and swim. For each of the past thirty years, he has traveled to Tai Long Sai Wan in the fall.

“It’s part of the Maclehose Trail that goes to the beaches. It’s the most beautiful beach in Hong Kong! When you come over the hill and see three beautiful beaches with spectacular waves, you can hardly believe you’re in Hong Kong. This has been my still point. While the rest of Hong Kong continuously changes, Dai Long Wan has remained untouched,” he says.

George also enjoys classical music and opera. He says while his passion for opera came late, he has become a big fan. “Thanks to the efforts of people like Warren Mok, I can even experience live opera in Hong Kong.”

George is currently promoting the art form in his Humanities II classes. Each year, in the spring, he shows The Ring of the Nibelung by Richard Wagner. “Of course, I only show excerpts. However, for the dedicated few, we have “ring parties”.

This past year, he has shown all four parts of the Ring Cycle. “We set up the big speakers in room 417. We bring food. I have even made Philadelphia Cheese Steaks! But the sound! The music! You can’t help but be affected by the power of the drama. It speaks to the yearning for transcendence and the music takes you there! Next school year, I will organize a similar experience for adults,” he promises. George lives with his wife Ame and their son Jonathan who works in the financial service industry. Ame’s mother, who is 95, lives one block away. Her older brother lives nearby as well. “So it is very easy for us to get together for ‘Yum Cha’ on Sundays,” says George.

“We have three nephews and one niece living in Hong Kong. There have been a couple of family weddings to celebrate recently. I have been very lucky in many ways. I am very close to my own family and when I decided to live in Hong Kong, it meant a lot to me to be part of a large family,” he says.

Ame’s family has provided George with an understanding and insight into Chinese culture. “My life in Hong Kong has been richer because of the bonds of family. And I am truly grateful.”

Source: DragonTales Volume 11 Summer Edition 2009

Pat Klekamp and Bill Leese

The award winning Pat Klekamp and Bill Leese

DragonTales would like to congratulate two stellar members of the HKIS family: High School Principal, Patricia Klekamp and High School Religion teacher, Bill Leese.

Pat Klekamp and Bill Leese receiving their awards from Dr. Laabs, who
presented it to Pat on behalf of the ALSS while he was in Hong Kong

Principal Klekamp was awarded the prestigious Paul Lange Award at the Association of Lutheran Secondary Schools (ALSS) conference, which took place in March. Originating in 1994, in honor of highly respected educator Paul Lange, this award “annually recognizes an administrator of an ALSS school who has an exemplary commitment to the educational ministry of Lutheran high schools.” Pat is the first ever female recipient.

Pat is in good company with this award: in the inaugural year the award was presented to former HKIS Head of School, Bob Christian. Another previous winner of the award is incoming Head of School, Kevin Dunning.

Bill Leese was recently selected as the Outstanding Secondary School Teacher of the Year by the Lutheran Education Association (LEA). Another success for HKIS as Donna Koehneke also received the award a couple of years ago.

Bill collected his award from the LEA conference in Cincinnati, Ohio and received a surprise visit from Dr Jonathan Laabs from the LES who presented the award to Bill at a High School faculty event.

Congratulations to Pat and Bill for such outstanding achievements.

Source: DragonTales Summer Edition 2011

Zella Talbot

HKIS's dedicated follower of FASHION - Zella Talbot

Zella Talbot, Hong Kong International School’s (HKIS) longest serving high school teacher, talks to DragonTales about her life, the Fashion Show and service.

Zella Talbot has made a difference in the lives of countless students over the years. However, her journey toward teaching was not a foregone conclusion.

“I was studying History at college and knew I loved it, but I didn’t have a clear picture of what I would do after I graduated,” she says.

That all changed one day when her college Professor asked her if she had ever thought about teaching. She remembers being both surprised and moved that the Professor had noticed her.

“It was a big class and she had somehow managed to focus in and see something in me that I had not seen in myself,” says Zella. “That led to me starting to understand something that I now know: why as a teacher you can inspire.”

From that moment, Zella never looked back. She got her teaching degree, and as destiny would have it, joined HKIS in 1983. “I was adamant that this would be for only a year at the time,” she says.

Yet twenty-six years on, Zella is still at Zella Talbot, Hong Kong International School’s (HKIS) longest serving
high school teacher, talks to DragonTales about her life, the Fashion Show and service.

HKIS, and with no regrets. “I am glad I stayed, as here is where I met my husband and where my children have gone to school. HKIS is home for us in many ways.”

Over the past 26 years of teaching, Zella has had the opportunity to do what her Professor did for her – inspire young people. “As a teacher I have been privileged to touch the lives of many students and see their successes later on. I think that is more than anyone could ask for – money can’t buy this feeling.”

As busy as she is as a teacher and Mom to her children, Christa and Micah, Zella still finds time for service, and lots of it. Over the past 13 years, she has been involved with the Foshan Orphanage in China, a girls’ scholarship program in China organized by the Concordia Welfare and Education Foundation, and service Interims in Hong Kong and Kolkata, India.

Students at the Foshan orphanage

She started the Service on Saturday program at HKIS in 1996, which today has grown to 21 groups and over 300 students who do service in Hong Kong. Zella, with her husband, fellow HKIS teacher Marty Schmidt, developed the Humanities in Action course, which transformed the service ethos in the high school by guiding students to be better people through teaching them the joy of helping others through service.

“A lot of kids are searching for their own identity, and through this course they learn about meaning and purpose in life. This is very important for the younger generation,”
she says.

However, arguably, Zella’s most successful service-inspired project is the Interact Fashion Show, both in terms of funds it has raised and in how it has affected the lives of the students who put the show together.

Fashion with a Conscience

Zella says ten years ago when a fashion show was first proposed as an Interact fundraiser by President Joanne Chow, she thought that the idea, once tried, would not last.

“I thought the production itself would be too time-consuming on the part of the student leaders and committee members. I didn’t think that future student leaders would be committed to this kind of work without having to make personal sacrifices involving their academic performance.”

However, the first fashion show, ‘Divine’, was performed in 1999, earning HK$80,000 for UNICEF and Oxfam.
And like Joanne, Interact leaders throughout the last ten years have felt that the sacrifice was well worth it, and the fashion show has become a tradition.

Over the years, the fashion show has evolved into a major school production. Year after year student leaders have improved the quality of the performance, and the show has continued to receive an enthusiastic reception from both students and parents.

In 2006, Interact President Eliott Suen stepped into the leadership role and introduced higher standards and greater professionalism. “The speed, timing and choreography were synchronized to a point unimaginable for a high school production. This new trend was the blueprint for future leaders to adapt to their own styles,” says Zella.

‘Nova’ in 2007, led by David Suen and Soojin Kim, was part of the school’s 40th anniversary celebrations, and saw student created designs introduced for the first time. This has grown to be an important aspect of the show and at ‘Vivre 2009’, 21 students participated in producing their own designs.

The ultimate accolade came this year when a parent who had been a professional model for Vogue said that the level of performance in this show surpassed some of the ones he had participated in. “Each show took on a different character depending on who the leaders were, but the expectations of high quality continued,”
says Zella.

She believes it is the sense of ownership students feel for the production that motivates them to be involved in this six month process. “As the faculty advisor, I have learned so much from the students in terms of self-motivation, perseverance and attention to detail.”

“I believe that the show is an opportunity for our students to join together from all grade levels to create a high quality performance with a sense of purpose.”

In the last ten years, the show has raised over HK$2 million and has contributed to various organizations, such as UNICEF, Oxfam, Hong Kong Down’s Syndrome Association, Rotary, Youth Outreach, Save the Children Fund, Free The Children, and Concordia Welfare Education Foundation.

Zella says she is most proud that over the years the fashion show has contributed to many people’s needs in Hong Kong, China and the world. Our donations to ‘Free The Children’ have built a total of four schools in Kenya and China. The proceeds from this year’s fashion show will allow more than 30 girls to attend and graduate from high school in Deqing, Guangdong Province. It has been these contributions that have sustained
my commitment to the fashion show.”

Service and the Christian Connection Zella and Marty’s strong Christian faith has been fundamental for them in the service work they do: “In thinking of service we think of serving God as well. Our faith embodies all that and makes us stronger individuals, even when being challenged in certain areas.”

She tells her students that in doing service there are huge sacrifices one has to make, and not to expect reward.
Nevertheless, Zella’s commitment to service and helping others has been recognized. She received the Paul Harris Fellow Award from Rotary in 2005 in recognition of her fund raising efforts.

And this year, Zella and Marty were jointly recognized by Concordia University and presented with the Partners in Ministry Award. Somewhat ironically, they could not fly to the US to be presented with their award because they had already committed to a service trip to China at the time of the presentation.
“This recognition means a lot to us; it is nice to know that our work has been noticed. However, this is not why we do it. It’s always about helping young people and those less fortunate,” smiles Zella.

Asked to name two students she would most like to recognize, Zella sits back and pauses for some time. “That’s such a tough question,” she laughs.

After a few moments, she comes up with the name David Begbie: “He was on one of my Kolkata service trips and I always knew there was something special about David... he was so determined to care. It was during this trip that David told me he wanted to be “the voice for the voiceless”.

“In fact, the Begbie family is my role model of a good Christian family. “They are glowing with love. There is so much warmth in that family. HKIS is very fortunate to have them.”

Zella says a highlight of the Nova Fashion how in 2006 was that David and Josh Begbie and their parents were awarded medallions for their years of service with Crossroads International.

Zella pauses again in thought, and says another she would recognize is Joanne Chow who was the Interact President who first dreamt of a fashion show at HKIS.

“If you met her as a leader you’d notice she is a very quiet and unassuming character. For her to take the risk and say let’s try doing a Fashion Show was quite something,” says Zella.

She says we have many leaders like Joanne that we could all learn from, if we give them a chance. “Even though the risk factor may be high, they can come up with some great ideas. No one would ever have thought that the Fashion Show would be still continuing today.”

Joanne has inspired Zella to always look for different qualities in leaders and not just to go with the vocal, outgoing type, but also to look to the humble ones and the real risk takers. HKIS needs to be open to all these types of young individuals because they are the leaders of the future. For HKIS to be able to raise so much money through
Joanne’s one idea to start a fashion show is truly remarkable.”

As for the future, Zella has no life-changing plans, apart from keeping busy helping others. She believes, as her father taught her, that one should keep working to keep the mind active.

“I want to keep busy. If I ever left HKIS, I am sure I would do something in the area of counseling, service or teaching. Perhaps one day we will go and work for Crossroads.”

“Yes, the SLRs do come through. Through managing the Fashion Show, which involves 100 students over 6 months of preparation, students grow in their character development as they learn the leadership skills necessary to pull off such a major production. Students care passionately about the quality of the show and do a lot of the work themselves, which demonstrates self-motivated learning. Finally, the funds contribute to real needs in our community.”

– Zella Talbot

Source: DragonTales Volume 12 Winter Edition 2009

Former Faculty Members

Bob and Arleen Christian

First Head of School
Years at HKIS: 1966 – 1977

Arlene and Bob Christian

Getting into our mid-’80s, we’re doing OK, busy at our church and with lots of other things that keep popping up in “retirement”, whatever that is.

We’re especially blessed in that our five families live in the Northwest U.S., within 250 miles of us, so we see each other frequently, along with keeping the phone lines open. Of the 22 of us, including nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild, all but three who are away at college, were together at Thanksgiving at Lois and Jim Erickson’s in Eatonville, Washington, in the shadow of beautiful Mount Rainier.

Food? ... The tables were sagging.

Of the five families, eight of the parents are in health related professions, two nurses, two medical doctors, a hospital consultant, the CEO of a statewide Community Mental Health Council which services mental health agencies, and two professional artists who use their backgrounds at a publishing company which publishes medical newsletters across the country.

Additionally, there’s a ceramic artist and a salesman who also is a BBQ champion ... so there’s no excuse for Arleen and me not being healthy in mind, body, and spirit.

We wish the very best to HKIS alumni, students and their families, staff, new head of the school Kevin Dunning and his wife, and the Alumni of the Year Award winners who are using their backgrounds and abilities in such special ways to serve others.

God be with you all ... Peace and blessings.

Email: abchris2@comcast.net

Source: DragonTales Winter/Spring 2012

To view Bob Christian's previous update to DragonTales,Winter Edition 2008, click here.

Mary Hoff and Jim Handrich

Mary Hoff and Jim Handrich On the Road

Mary Hoff and Jim Handrich traveled throughout the west of America for three weeks earlier in the year, and stopped off and treated former HKIS colleagues to dinner and had a mini-reunion of sorts. Here are some pictures from their travels and the alums they met along the way.

Michael '93 and Sara Elliott, with Jim and Mary

Source: DragonTales Volume 10 Winter Edition 2008

Arnie Holtberg

Birthday: December 18
Years at HKIS: 1982-1988
What did you teach? High School Principal
Current location: Headmaster of St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas

Arnie and wife Jan in front of Centennial Hall at St. Mark's School of Texas

What did you do after HKIS?
Upon returning to America, I became Head of School at the Louisville Collegiate School in Kentucky.

What are your fondest memories of HKIS?
The interesting and wonderful students, extraordinary and committed colleagues, the supportive community, and the many opportunities to grow as a professional and as a person. HKIS was a rich experience for me and for the entire Holtberg family.

What are your fondest memories of Hong Kong?
I have always referred to Hong Kong as a kaleidoscopic place. The hustle and bustle of the Territory, the best food anywhere, friends from around the world, road races, Little League baseball, softball at Tin Kwong Road, Church of All Nations, exploring every nook and cranny of the Territory, learning to speak Cantonese, and simply feeling connected to the world in a deep and satisfying way.

What is the one thing you learned during your time at HKIS that you still make use of today?
More than at any other time in my life, I found that the more I learned, the less I knew. My commitment to lifelong learning is strong!

Have you been back to Hong Kong since leaving?
The Holtbergs traveled back to Hong Kong in 1998 and spent two action-packed weeks exploring our old haunts. Jim Handrich was kind enough to allow us to stay in his flat during our holiday.

Who do you keep in touch with from your time at the school?
Don Goodyear, Nancy Kroonenberg, Sarah Todd, John and Christiana Stich and their children, Frank and Noriko Martin, Jim and Rita Williams, Jim Handrich, Shirley Miske, Caroline Tuchardt, Dean Fritts, Richard and Claire Mueller, Ray and Donna Rothermel, Fred and Charlene Schneiter, and Debbie Gibbs-Brooks.

In three words, describe HKIS.
Brilliant, Frenetic, Challenging.

How can people re-connect with you?
Email: holtberg@smtexas.org or holtberg@sbcglobal.net

What’s next for you?
I am in my nineteenth year at St. Mark’s and will be here a bit longer. We are in the throes of completing a major fundraising campaign. Once the campaign is complete, Jan and I expect to retire to Arkansas where we own property. And the Holtberg family will travel to Hong Kong in the summer of 2012.

Source: DragonTales Winter/Spring Edition 2012

David Kohl

Rekindling Friendships on the Road

Former HKIS art teacher David Kohl writes to us on his 8000-mile epic journey to reconnect with over a hundred former HKIS students and colleagues.

It’s hard to imagine a more rewarding experience for a teacher than to meet up with successful former students. In most disciplines, professionals work with people in need (doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc) but rarely get the joy seeing the positive benefits of their involvement. Last January, it was my good fortune to meet up with over a hundred former HKIS students and colleagues, in 13 cities, over an 8000-mile journey via Amtrak.

Not wanting to spend all of my winter feeding my wood stove in Oregon, I decided to book a 30-day rail journey, utilizing Amtrak’s “North American Rail Pass.” I thought it might be fun to ride the rails, visit and stay with friends and alumni, and even promote the “DragonTales” book of alumni memories which I had compiled for the 40th Anniversary. Via e-mail and the DragonTrain, helpful alumni and I set up gatherings in Minneapolis, Chicago, Buffalo, New York City, Boston, Portland (ME), Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Washington DC, St. Louis, Dallas, Austin, and Los Angeles.

I was rewarded with some wonderful mealtime meetings, overnight visits and discovering local museums and Chinatowns - while laughing, reminiscing, networking, and celebrating both Hong Kong International School, and the Christian spirit which so contributed to our mutual caring for each other over the years.

I also found that there is little distinction between faculty and students - we are all just alumni of a remarkable and life-altering experience at HKIS. Sometimes, there were alumni who I had never taught or even met, from classes as early as 1968 and as recent as 2003. No matter the age, we found instant connections thru the Hong Kong experience, discovering overlaps of career, education, travels, or family.

Conversations sounded like:
“Did you know…
“He was my brother’s best friend…
“She was my roommate at…
“I went there too…
“Wasn’t she the one who…
“I remember Mr… He used to…
“Whatever happened to…
“I didn’t know her, but we lived in their flat years later…
“The assignments Mrs… gave us made such a difference when I got to college…
“We were on the same Interim trip…
“Remember the time when…

I also had some fairly unique adventures on this wintertime trip - leaving Minneapolis in -15 degree weather; watching Pat Hotung play hockey in Buffalo; getting a tour and research time in the stacks at the Library of Congress with Ann Sullivan; arriving just in time to watch the Super Bowl with friends of Patrick Pang in Philadelphia; exploring coastal Maine with Ian Geopfert;being put up in the executive suite of Gregg Saunders’ hotel in Austin; attending church in St. Louis with many friends and alumni hearing Libby Wallis Reinking preach (followed by dim sum for 25); digging thru church archives with Lois and Fritz Voelts plus Karl and LaVerne Boehmke;mobbing an Los Angeles chinatown restaurant with 32 alumni for dim sum. Is it possible to have too much dim sum? (you all know the answer to this one!)

Be assured, wherever two or more HKIS alumni gather, a good time will be had by all. I encourage you to reach out, find alumni in your geographic area, set up a gathering. The energy and spirit is one of our special heritage as HKIS alums.

Source: DragonTales Volume 10 Winter Edition 2008

Nancy Kroonenberg

Mrs. Nancy Kroonenberg
Birthday: June 20
Years at HKIS: 1977-1996
What did you teach? Middle School and High School French Teacher
Then High School Assistant Principal
Current location: Tokyo, Japan

Nancy with Pip Simpkin, former HKIS High School faculty member, in Tauranga
New Zealand, March 2011

What did you do after HKIS?
For 15 years, I have been the High School Assistant Principal at the American School in Japan.

What are your fondest memories of HKIS?
The people - loved the students and colleagues. Great memories of 3 summer trips to France with students as well as various Interim trips, especially to the Pattaya orphanage. Former students often remind me of some fun French classes, especially when I shampooed my hair in class, dressed in pajamas or sang - which I do very poorly.

What are your fondest memories of Hong Kong?
Everything - the pace, the people, the food, the nightlife.

What is the one thing you learned during your time at HKIS that you still make use of today?
HKIS was such a formative part of my educational career. There is not one thing which I can pinpoint, but to this day, I still make reference to students and colleagues.

Have you been back to Hong Kong since leaving?
Almost every year.

Who do you keep in touch with from your time at the school?
Ken Koo ’79, Bill Bossany ’82, Pattie Bossany Gordon ’84, Robin Tierney ’84, David Wu ’86, Gia Antonellis ’96, Eric Sun ’86, Patricia Chen Sadayasu ’98, Terry and Bill Anderson, Lisa Ahnert, Kevin Baker and family, Carol and Larry Eichert, Anne Ellis, Joanne Fallon, Karen Fish, Dean Fritts, George Coombs, Jim Handrich, Jenifer Holcombe, Jane and Joel Klammer, Dave Kohl, Sandy Krist, Susan Kuyper, Lesley Lewis, Anna Maakestad, Eric MacDonald, Dan McCarthy, Shirley Miske, Gina Maltese Preciado, Ken and Karen Rohrs, Bob Scripko, Cyrus Shaoul, Rosalyn Shaoul, Pip Simpkin, Janet Taylor, Sarah Todd, Mike Wong-Russell and many more which I’ve seen at the 40th reunion, on Facebook and email.

In three words, describe HKIS:
Terrific, Life-changing, Life-long friends

How can people re-connect with you?
Email: nkroonenberg@asij.ac.jp

What’s next for you?
We are still inveterate travelers. In recent years, our travels have taken us to Albania, Moldova, Montenegro, and Slovakia, just to mention several places on our long and lovely summer journeys. In a few years, it’s retirement. We’ve dreamt of Malta, Cyprus, Portugal and France but will probably end up in Amsterdam. Would love to have visitors here or there.

Source: DragonTales Summer 2011

Karen Moffat

Karen Moffat - Half the size but still as Fab

Karen Moffat worked at HKIS for four years: one year as a teacher in the Humanities Department and then for three years as the High School Associate Principal for Academics. She reflects on her life and tells us how she managed to shed half her body weight.

Karen Moffat

If home is where the heart is, then HKIS will always be a home to Karen Moffat, who says the years she spent at HKIS had a strong impact on her.

“I forged some very deep friendships and personal connections with the faculty, parents and students and I still feel a part of the HKIS community in my heart,” she says.

When she left HKIS in 2006, Karen returned to South Island School (SIS) Hong Kong for an 18-month stint as a Deputy Principal. She had worked there previously for 17 years.

Today she is working in Bahrain as the Deputy Director for the British School of Bahrain, which admits students from more than 60 nationalities, the most ‘international’ school she has worked in.

“Bahrain and Hong Kong are two entirely different worlds. Bahrain has about half the land area of Hong Kong, but has a population of just over a million, only half of whom are Bahrainis.”

“Things here are on a much more human scale than Hong Kong, although the pace of life is still busy and there’s always more to do than you have time to do comfortably.”

These past 18 months have been a profoundly transitional journey for Karen, who has nearly lost half her body weight over this period. She says there were a number of factors that converged into the motivational force to help her to lose this amount of weight, but the most significant was having a living example that it was actually possible to do it.

Karen and Linda Anderson, Associate Head of School

“At South Island School, one of the teachers changed shape right before my eyes over a period of several months and that got me thinking that maybe, just maybe, I could do that too. I guess I needed someone to inspire me to believe that I could do it because I had come to accept the slow, gradual accumulation of extra weight over the years. It’s all too easy to justify it to yourself as being ‘just the way you are,’” she says.

Other motivational factors included being healthier and fitter and able to lead a full and active life, with none of the handicaps that are just part of being overweight, like not being able to go into a shop and buy clothes.

“And, by the way, not having to have everything tailor-made is one of the joys of having lost this weight. It makes life so much simpler to be able to walk into a shop and buy something to wear. It sounds like an everyday kind of thing to do, but not when you’re overweight.”

Karen with her personal trainer Nong at the gym

Karen now weighs 70kgs, but she is still working on those last 5kgs. “Not deviating too much from my eating plan, and exercising and swimming for at least an hour five or six times a week, I have been able to maintain a steady weight loss of 10kgs every six weeks.

Her son is getting married in Scotland this August and it is Karen’s intention to have reached her weight goal by then.

Karen’s strategy was not to just lose weight, but also to eat a healthy and balanced diet. “I hadn’t dieted much in the past but I knew that I didn’t want to follow any of the fad diets that come and go.”

She bought several books about nutrition and read them avidly to really understand the basis of a good diet so she could design one that worked for her.

“I would pretty much prepare all the food I ate at home so that I could control exactly what went into everything. It’s astonishing how much fat and salt there is in processed foods!”

Support and Encouragement

Karen says she was fortunate to have the support and encouragement of her family and close friends who were prepared to put up with her eating different foods and not going with them to eat out. However, her greatest ally and support has been her Thai personal trainer, Nong Pussanut Jienmas

Karen with some familiar HKIS folks at a noodle restaurant in Wong Tai Sin

“She has been with me every step of the way: cajoling, encouraging, pushing and coercing me to reach my targets.”

Karen says Nong is very tough and pushes her to go way past the point at which she would have given up. Her uncompromising carrot-and-stick approach has given Karen the motivation she needed to keep going.

“Knowing that I have to get on the scales and face Nong’s judgment every second day when
I go to the gym, keeps me on the straight and narrow,” says Karen. “She does not take kindly
to being disappointed! Seriously, though, she has been a wonderful mentor and coach and has taught me a lot about good learning and teaching along the way.”

Karen likens working with Nong to other productive and creative partnerships of “flow” that she was privileged to be part of at HKIS: “Like my collaborations with Linda Anderson, Karen Rohrs, Doreen Liu, David Elliot and Justin Hardman.”

Karen with Justin Hardman and Myron Buck at the
Building Learning Communities Conference in Boston 2009

“...When people are committed to work together cooperatively to reach a common goal and are willing to support each other to overcome the difficulties they encounter with a willing and gracious spirit, there is no limit to what can be achieved.”

Karen’s Fascinating Study

For Karen, losing weight has been a fascinating study in human psychology. She’s found out many things about people and human nature that she would never have known otherwise.

“The most surprising and maybe disappointing thing I’ve discovered is that people really do treat you with more respect and are generally kinder, friendlier and more willing to help you when you are slimmer, than when you are overweight.”

She says people fell into several categories in terms of their reaction to seeing her looking different. “There were people who were genuinely pleased and happy for me, who were very supportive and encouraging.”

At the Bahrain Relay Marathon

“There were others who wanted to know EXACTLY how and what I did to lose the weight and who often asked me to write it down for them.”

“I think most of those people were really hoping that I had some magic formula to impart to them and they were usually disappointed to hear that it involved healthy, balanced eating and lots of exercise over many months.”

Other people asked Karen what surgery and drugs she had taken. “If only it were that easy,” she laughs. “There is also a small group who seem unsettled about the change in my appearance and who’ve told me, often repeatedly, that they preferred me the way I was.”

Losing so much weight and then seeing people she knew well who had not seen her for a time gave Karen a little taste of what it must be like to be an instant celebrity. “Naturally, people were curious and asked a lot of questions, which is okay, but sometimes it made me feel awkward to have so much emphasis and focus put on my appearance.”

What about the future?

Losing weight has been a liberating and life-changing experience for Karen, but she has to work hard at maintaining the “new her” and she knows that will be an on-going task.

“I can relax a little sometimes but I know that I will never be able to go back to my old lifestyle and expect to stay slim.”

“I can’t say that I like exercise; but I’ve accepted that it’s just something that I have to do. And, maybe I am learning to enjoy it a little, the fitter I get the easier it becomes,” she says.

Karen can now do things that she never thought she would ever do again – silly things like safely climbing on a chair to change the clock.

Bahrain Relay Marathon - Karen with the British School teachers' team

She even ran a relay marathon as part of the schoolteacher’s team. “And even though I was the oldest team member, I was not the slowest. Actually, I wasn’t even the second slowest! I’m not sure that I’m ready to run a whole marathon, or even that I want to, but I could, with a little training and a great coach.”

Things to Achieve...

“I guess I would much rather be the center of attention for having achieved something more worthwhile than losing weight, like having written a great book that adds to the store of useful human knowledge. As I get older, and hopefully just a little wiser, I am even more convinced that knowledge is insufficient; that without application and outcome, knowledge is not worth anything...”

“...So, I’m hoping that Justin Hardman and I can find the time to get down to finishing that book we’ve been working on some time now. We need to get it finished and published before all this new technology we are writing about becomes just business as usual.”

“My passion to know more about educational technology and its potential to greatly improve and transform learning for people, continues to grow the more I know about it, and I’d like to spread that knowledge and help to make a difference to the way teachers teach and learners learn.”

Source: DragonTales Volume 13 Summer Edition 2010

Richard Mueller

One-Way Ticket to Lake Tahoe-Reno

Richard & Claire Mueller bid farewell at last year's
Celebration Gala in May 2010.

As HKIS prepares to bid farewell to Richard and Claire Mueller after 27 years of service and connection with the school, DragonTales sat down to talk with Richard about the past and explore the future...

Surrounded by some of his favorite photographs depicting a lifetime of travel and adventure,
Richard Mueller tells me about a trip he is planning back to their new home between Lake Tahoe and Reno, Nevada in late June. The difference this time, he says, is that after five years here he will not be returning to Hong Kong to resume his role as Head of School.

“This summer I’m going home with no return date on my ticket,” he smiles. “Claire and I are retiring to pursue new adventures after 27 wonderful years of association with HKIS.”

Richard first experienced HKIS in November 1982, during a trip enroute to China. “I had heard of the school because many U.S. Consulate General families sent their children to HKIS.”

“I felt that HKIS could offer a good education for our sons, Jonathan and Eric, both whom I felt were very capable, as all parents do of their children!”

Photo opportunity with HKIS Senate students following
a meeting in 2009

During his first visit to the school in 1982, including a conversation and tour with Elementary Principal Darrell Wallis, (whose son, Mark, is now a member of our Board of Managers), he noticed a heartfelt caring for children about the place. “There was also a Christian ethos as well as an understanding, support and respect for people of different cultures and faiths. I was impressed.”

Richard says what he discovered at HKIS during that first visit nearly 30 years ago is still present today: “We are a school grounded in the Christian faith and proud of it. Those are our origins. Also, as our mission states, we want students to learn about and respect other faiths. If somebody is Jewish, we respect they are Jewish. We hope to see students and adults engage in spiritual and religious discussion and learning. I think that is a special, HKIS quality.”
When his family eventually moved to Hong Kong in 1983, his sons, Jonathan and Eric, attended elementary school, and Jim Handrich was the new principal. Soon after, Richard was invited to join the Board of Managers. He remembers thinking,“Why do they want me?”

However, the idea of being able to give back to HKIS appealed to him, and he joined the Board. Richard soon found himself heavily involved in the issues of the school. One was the future of the Chinese language program and whether it should be Mandarin or Cantonese. Another was, ‘Do we build a new high school in Tai Tam or the New Territories, or not at all, since the 1997 reversion of sovereignty to China was just ahead?’

“I will never forget my first trip to Tai Tam and being shown the parcel of land the government was offering HKIS and asking, ‘Where’s the proposed site?’ There was nothing but the slope of a hillside. Then Patrick Lau, our architect, said, ‘Yes you can build on that, you can build a very nice complex. ’ And he was absolutely right.” That’s the site on which today’s High School and Middle School stand.

Richard enjoys the artwork of some Middle School students

Richard and his family left Hong Kong in 1986, but returned again in 1993 – Richard as United States Consul General to Hong Kong. Their son Eric finished his junior and senior years at HKIS, graduating in 1996. Richard says he felt a strong relationship with the school and Church of All Nations, a Lutheran congregation associated with the school. One way he found to serve was by inviting students and teachers to lectures, presentations and concerts at the Consul General’s residence.

“Bon Jovi came to town, so I called up David Rittman and Jim Handrich and told them Claire and I were hosting a reception for the band and wondered if the high school would like to send some students and teachers to attend. It was great to have the opportunity to offer this. There were many similar occasions, such as Winton Marsalis as well as the Boston Symphony.”

As U.S. Consul General, Richard officiated at the opening ceremony of the new Middle School building in November 1994 – which had indeed been ‘very nicely’ built on the same hillside that he had seen and questioned some years earlier.

When he finished his service as Consul General, Richard worked with the Asia Society in Hong Kong from 1996 to 1998 on a leave of absence from the State Department. It was during this period that he served a year as Board Chair, his second stint on the Board of Managers. “The view from the Chair’s side of the table is an altogether different one from that of Head of School! But the working relationship is close and collaborative.”

Richard worked closely with Chuck Dull, Head of School in his first year, who led the Board and school through an envisioning and planning process that year, culminating in what are today’s Mission Statement and Student Learning Results.

Richard with Jim Handrich, who was his sons' Elementary Principal

Richard points out that Claire’s connections with HKIS are as deep and longstanding as his own. She worked at the Middle School 1995-96 before resuming her Foreign Service career. “Even when she was working full-time at the Consulate General, Claire was involved with teachers, students and with me and my Board activities. Moreover, since 2005 while I have been Head of School she has contributed to all aspects of school life. In so many ways, it has been a real partnership between Claire and me and the school.”

When he left Hong Kong to become Head of School at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts in 1998, Richard never imagined he would return to HKIS as Head of School. However, in 2005, that’s exactly what happened. “In some ways, coming back here as Head describes my life. Things happened I never planned for... It took me a while to get my head around the idea of returning to HKIS; it came so unexpectedly. Who knows, I may be back again,” he quips.

Richard will treasure many fond memories of his time as Head of School. The most special memories revolve around the students. “My discussions with students interested in international relations and the world and my dialogue with the High School Student Senate around leadership and change are highlights.”

There have also been opportunities for him to get to know individual students. “I have memories of Andrew Yip ’06 who was here during my first year. In addition to his strong academic accomplishments, he learned to play the organ at Church of All Nations. On graduating, he went off to a wonderful education at Lewis and Clark. His father – Philip Yip – is a security guard at school, and his family has been so grateful for the experience Andrew had at HKIS.”

Holding up a card from high school student Cathie So thanking him for his time, Richard says he has learned alternative perspectives about the world through the eyes of students like Cathie. “She is very interested in politics and history, and we’ve had some good conversations.”

Rummaging through his papers, Richard locates a note from a Lower Primary student, John Cassidy, wishing him a happy birthday and thanking him for reading the book It’s a Fine Fine School to his class. “I don’t think it was my birthday, but still...”smiles Richard.

“Another young student wrote to me to show how well he had learned to write and that he had gotten better and better and wanted me to see it. Some Middle School students dropped by my office a few weeks back just to say hello and asked if I had ten minutes. Of course I did; I showed them some of my photos of China and we talked about school; we had a good chat.”

Richard holds these interactions dear as he prepares to embark on the next chapter of his life. Aside from school, students and friends, Richard will miss Hong Kong.

“I’m going to miss the adrenaline. I’ll miss the double-decker tram ride from Western to Shau Kei Wan. The slow pace of the tram slows me down and is a nice antidote to the hyperactive drive that is Hong Kong. I’ll miss hiking the Dragon’s Back, a family favorite” he says pausing, before giving off the biggest of smiles and saying, “Yes, I am going to miss this place.”

Mueller family Christmas holiday in Hong Kong 2007

Retirement in the Lake Tahoe and Reno area, however, is already starting to look busy for the Muellers with a new grandson on the way – their first – and Richard having accepted an invitation to join the Board of Trustees at the Chinese American International School in San Francisco. He also has in mind working with his son Jonathan’s non-profit education organization, Sierra-Nevada Journeys. They will also spend time with Eric, who is an aerospace engineer with NASA’s Ames Research Center, and his fiancée, Susan, in San Francisco…

“I want to find opportunities to stay plugged in and use my diplomatic and Foreign Service experience to educate young people about what’s going on around the world. I’m not going to let my mind run down – I plan to be a lifelong learner,” he insists.

This retirement will be the first time that both Richard and Claire have not had a demanding job. “We’ll have more flexibility and freedom to travel. Strangely, I have spent most of my life traveling the world, but have seen little of my own country. We have much U.S. travel planned. I am sure we will reconnect with friends from our time in Hong Kong, many of them with HKIS connections.”

Even though Nevada and California are a long way from Hong Kong, Richard and Claire intend to stay connected with HKIS. “We have been blessed in so many ways through our lives and careers. Our association with the school has been among the most satisfying, and serving so many parents and students over these years has been our privilege.

I am also proud of our HKIS alumni – current and future. I have enjoyed watching them mature and grow; and I am extremely happy now to be joining their ranks.

Source: DragonTales Volume 13 Summer Edition 2010

Sue Shaw

After we returned to California, my husband Colin and I spent the best part of two years supervising the remodel of our home in Fremont CA.

I volunteer at a Crisis Pregnancy Center, and have been a visitor in a program through our city which aims to give companionship to lonely and home bound people. I am involved at my church in Bible Study and with the Community Service Team. I also assist with Women’s Breakfasts. Annually, I reunite with Lois Branstrator, Mary Hoff and Lilly Mainland, (former faculty) and am in touch with many other Hong Kong friends by email and telephone. We enjoyed a brief but wonderful visit with Mary Hoff and Jim Handrich a few weeks ago.

Colin and I are fortunate to have our daughter Lisa, (class of 97) and her husband Tim living a short distance away. Spending time with them on a regular basis, often having dinner or lunch together, is a favorite pastime. Lisa is a chiropractor and I avail myself of her services on a regular basis! I enjoy attending concerts, entertaining, decorating, reading and spending time with friends, old and new. After 20+ years in Asia, I am relieved to find that there is a good life for me beyond Hong Kong!

We have been truly blessed and are thankful for these blessings. We are located about an hour south east of San Francisco airport and would love to see those of you who know us if you are in the area.


Source: DragonTales Volume 10 Winter Edition 2008

Regina (Reggie) Smith

I taught in the primary school three separate times, 1985-86, 1990-91, and 1993-95.

With Jenny Stevenson '94 in Hong Kong (March 2008)

I have been retired from teaching for 13 years. We have just left southeast Asia after 23 years, having lived in Hong Kong four times, Singapore twice and the Philippines twice. My husband, Mike, is now retired also, and we have settled in New Jersey.

Our two sons, Daniel James and Timothy Robert Smith attended HKIS 1985-86 (Singapore American School [SAS] in 1989). Dan came back to HKIS in 1990-91, and graduated SAS in 1993.

Mike and I are the proud grandparents of four wonderful kids. Tim lives in Florida now and has a boy and a girl; Dan lives in London and has two British princesses. Life is good. We hope to spend three months in Florida this winter and we know several former faculty of HKIS can be found around the state, so we plan to visit them!

I would love to hear from former students (and faculty, of course).

William Stork

The “Great” Storkey

Veteran HKIS teacher Bill Stork departs this summer after 19 years with the school. DragonTales spoke to Bill about his life and career...

Growing up in Ohio in the Midwest, Bill Stork had a passion for books. His dad was the headmaster of a school he had taken over during the Great Depression, and it was he who inspired Bill to be a learner.

“When I was quite young, dad gave me a ledger to keep track of the books I read,” says Bill. “When I look back, this was a clever thing to do because it motivated me to read more.”

“If my father was the educator of the family, my mom was the brains,” laughs Bill. “She saw her role as that of the supportive wife and mother, and did both excellently.”

When he was in his 10th Grade year at school, Bill’s family moved to California, where his father took a job as headmaster of Polytechnic School. This school; however, only taught up to Grade 9, which meant Bill had to attend Flintridge School in Pasadena.

Here he found himself in a class with some fantastic students. “We developed our own study groups to help each other. History was my forte, so I was the history coach. Other classmates were strong in mathematics or physics, so would take turns coaching these subjects. I grew so much in these years, and started to appreciate what it meant to teach and coach others,” says Bill.

Bill’s appreciation of teaching was cemented when a bridge partner of his mom’s asked him to tutor her son in math. “Her son was two years older than me,” remembers Bill. “But I was getting paid to teach him, did the lessons, and thought that was that.”

However, it wasn’t, because when the boy returned to school and did well, Bill felt a tremendous sense of fulfillment. “I liked the feeling of making a difference, this meant far more to me than the money.”

Yale Tercentennial Gala 2001, Hong Kong. Yale
President Levin to William's left

Following school, Bill attended Yale University, majoring in math and physics. But history was still a passion, and influenced by two exceptional History Professors, he switched to History in his junior year.

“The plan throughout most of my university years was to complete my studies and attend Law School,” says Bill. “However, by my Senior Year at Yale, I realized I did not want to be lawyer. I was a people person, not a paper person. Law might be lucrative, but it was not for me.”

It was at this point in his life that Bill realized he was destined to teach. “I knew teaching was no way to fame or fortune, but it was what I wanted to do. As a teacher I could make a difference.”
Bill applied and was accepted to do a Master’s in History at Brown University. “I figured if I worked hard, I could get my Masters in a year... and that’s what I did.”

His first teaching job was at a prep school in Boston, teaching East Asian history. The next year he headed the department and added a course in British history. The following year, Bill left Boston to return to Brown University with the intention of writing his first book. “The book was to be based on some rich resource materials I had uncovered while studying earlier at Brown,” says Bill.

“However, my timing back to Brown was inopportune, because the materials I needed were in storage and inaccessible owing to the old John Brown House being under renovation.”

Bill shelved his writing ambitions and started to look for a job. A stroke of luck was a chance discovery of an ad in the Brown teacher-placement office for a math teacher at St George’s School (Newport).

Bill called the number and a man on the other end of the line told him his name sounded familiar. Bill explained he had sent his CV earlier. He was the History teacher.

“Within a couple of hours I was in his office. He wanted to know why I thought I could teach Math. I explained I was a Math major at Yale until the middle of my junior year...”

Brother-in-law and Father copying
Storkey's style (age 26)

“...He asked ‘if I would be willing brush up on my math skills by taking a course on number theory during the summer.’ To which I replied yes, knowing that Brown had a great course during the summer.”
The interviewer was impressed that Bill knew about the course at Brown. “But most of all, he was impressed by my East Asian history teaching experience, because St. George’s was planning to develop a program in East Asian history.”

Sure enough, Bill was hired, and in his second year at the school, he started an East Asian (Honors) program for sophomores. “Later I taught seminars in both Modern China and in Game Theory. I also got into administration: college advising and as Associate Dean of Students.

In 1971, Bill accepted a position as Director of Studies at Marlborough School in Los Angeles, where he was charged with developing the school academically. He also taught one course each year, and in 1978 was selected for a Fulbright to India.

In 1983, he moved to Polytechnic School in Pasadena to be Department Head, Mathematics. I was thrilled to return to full-time teaching, and was able to concentrate my efforts on developing the K-12 math program.”

“Somewhere along the way, I was talked into heading the Polytechnic School’s Summer Session, and built it eight-fold to over 800 students.” Around this time, Bill also became interested in the special needs of gifted children, doing advisory work and teaching for Johns Hopkins’s Center for Talented Youth.

It was through this connection that he was asked by Hong Kong International School to develop an intensive math program for highly gifted local Chinese students, known as the HKIS High Achievers Program.

Three Weeks in Hong Kong

Bill and Jasmine at Caesar's Palace

Bill arrived in Hong Kong in 1991, the same year HKIS celebrated its 25th Anniversary. This was his first trip to Asia.

He initially came for just three weeks as a consultant/teacher to set up and run the High Achievers Summer Program. The headmaster at the time, David Rittmann, had established the program to give back to the local Hong Kong community.

“I remember arriving in Hong Kong and being transfixed by the cityscape and lights. It was not what I expected; I was anticipating little squatter huts. Obviously, I was thinking of somewhere else.”

Bill will always remember his first glimpse of HKIS. “It was at night. We seemed to no sooner leave the city than we were in the countryside, a few bends later, Sam – the school driver [who still works for HKIS] – pointed out a shining oasis in the darkness and said, “that’s HKIS.’”

“Though I was only here for three weeks, it was a marvelous experience to be at last in Asia having taught the history of the place for so many years. I mean, what an opportunity for a Math teacher to be in Asia! I got a letter the next year and then the year after asking if I would come back to reach on the High Achievers Program. Of course I did.”

What started as a fun venture that Bill expected to last a summer, turned into something much more in April 1994 when he received a faxed message from David Rittman about an unexpected resignation of a full-time mathematics teacher.

“David asked me if I knew any suitable teacher to recommend to HKIS, or what about you?”

I came to Hong Kong for three years. Then it became another two years, and I have been happily teaching at HKIS ever since,” says Bill.

Initially Bill had planned to stay no more than ten years at HKIS, but in year nine, he met the love-of-his-life – Jasmine. “So the nine years has become 16 years most easily! And I don’t regret a single day.”

Bill's new office! The Foreign Correspondents' Club

Ask Bill about the highlights of his years teaching at HKIS and it is the names of students that roll off his tongue. “I have had many gifted and giving students. Far too many to mention each by name,” says Bill, who hands me a list fifty names long. He then asks that I do not quote from the list because he is sure to have missed someone. The list includes Captains of his rowing teams, HiMCM (High School Contest in Mathematical Modeling) team members, student leaders of Amnesty walk-a-thons, and many more.

But as the adage states: All good things come to an end. This summer, some 19 years after first walking through the gates of HKIS to start the Summer Program, Bill has decided to depart. “It’s just the right time... I have lots to do,” he says.

“Perhaps I’ll start a business, or do some writing... In the past, something has always surfaced to excite, intrigue or involve me. I will wait and see what comes up in the months ahead and then decide.”

Bill expects travel to occupy much of his time. “In recent years Jasmine and I have been to Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, Bangkok, Budapest, Vienna, Prague, and St Petersburg. Hong Kong is a lovely hub for travel, and I am of a mind to linger here for several years, and enjoy all that Asia has to offer.

He hopes also to get back home more often to visit his Mom, who is now invalided. “When I went back to see her in December she told me she keeps outliving her doctors,” smiles Bill, who insists he does not know her age.

“I do have a sense that she is quite old, and when I was there in December, I noticed a congratulatory birthday letter from Michelle and Barack Obama on her mantle-piece. So I guess she could be 200,” he quips.

Bill asks alumni who know him to keep in touch. His email is william.stork@aya.yale.edu

Things you didn't know about William Stork...

• During ‘the Emergency’, had tea with Indira Gandhi and a private audience with then-Prime Minister Moraji Desai
• Was on the cover of CalTech’s magazine Engineering & Science
• Was Chair of the Yale Assembly, “The Internationalization of Yale”
• Raced own 1960 Alfa Romeo 2000 spider on same track at Laguna Seca historic car races as Juan Fangio, five-times F1 Gran Prix champion
• First course ever taught was ‘History of East Asia’
• Served for five years on Yale’s alumni Board of Governors
• Wrote a book on ‘social change in rural China’ while at East-West Center (Hawaii)
• Studied Mandarin at UCLA
• Co-chaired the 300th anniversary event for Yale’s alumni in Asia
• Served as Sports Information Officer for Soccer (Football) at the LA Olympics
• Recruited by NASA while undergraduate
• Owned for five years a center in mid-levels specializing in Conversational English
• Coached the HKIS Crew that won 10 medals at the HK all-Schools Rowing Regatta
• Worked on NASA solar wind investigation
• Serves as Regional Director (Asia) for the Yale Day of Service
• On steering committee for USC’s first International Alumni Convocation
• Invited by Columbia’s Institute of Far East Studies to work on the East Asia Curriculum Project
• Was honored by receiving Stanford University’s Teacher Tribute award
• Decided to leave HKIS after 9 years were over, but in that year met the love-of-his life, Jasmine, and no longer has plans to leave Hong Kong!

Source: DragonTales Volume 13 Summer Edition 2010

Sarah Todd

Mrs. Sarah Todd
Birthday: March 13
Years at HKIS: 1985 to 1992
What did you teach: US history, American Studies, World History,
Psychology, Sociology, Economics
Current location: St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas

Sarah Todd at her current school in Austin, Texas in March 2011

What are your fondest memories of HKIS?
Many including my years working as a dean and social studies teacher. I felt I got to know the students in many different
ways as we worked to change schedules, talked about colleges and about curriculum. Loved working with Jim Handrich and the other deans.

What are your fondest memories of Hong Kong?

Star Ferry, walking the Dragon’s Back with the Baker family, early years with the high school in Repulse Bay, tea at the Peninsula Hotel, Flagstaff House Museum of Teaware, the Man Mo Temple, walking on Hollywood Road, Honeychurch Antiques, trips to Macau, Lunar New Year holiday, Mid-Autumn Festival and on and on. Loved living in the neighborhoods of Happy Valley.

What is the one thing you learned during your time at HKIS that you still make use of today?
I learned students are our greatest resource in schools.

Have you been back to Hong Kong since leaving?
I am there very often. HKIS staff and faculty helped me start another school in Tianjin, China with HKIS veterans Charlene Schneiter, Jack MacSlarrow and Scott Rhodewalt. My husband continues to do work at HKU so I am there twice a year and often make it to HKIS to check on my beloved school.

Who do you keep in touch with from your time at the school?
I keep in touch with many people including Anna and Tom Maakestad, Denise Carver, Scott Rhodewalt, Jack MacSlarrow, Nancy Kroonenberg, Janet Taylor, Doug Baker and Family, Lesley Lewis, Beth Smith Nicholson, Jim Handrich and many former students including Rob Gvozden ’87, Henry Kim ’87, Molly Giss ’88, John Hyun ’89, Bijoy Goswami ’91, Mark Abernathy ’91, Seth Baker ’91, Darlene Lanham ’93, Kemal Arsan ’93, Catherine ’89 and Chris Puranananda, Maija Muncy, Benjy Lee and quite a few others. I have been to quite a few reunions since I left including one in Austin, Texas last summer.

In three words, describe HKIS:
Postive, Tolerant, Adaptable.

How can people re-connect with you?
Email: stodd@sstx.org

What’s next for you?
I am the Director on the International Program at my school and I love it. I also teach world history. I do a good bit of travel which is wonderful.

Source: DragonTales Summer Edition 2011

Sandra Walters


Mrs. Sandra Walters
Birthday: September 1
Years at HKIS: January 1970 – 1974
What did you teach: French, I was Head of the Foreign Language Department when teaching full time
Current location: Hong Kong



Sandra in front of the main reception desk at the Four Seasons
Hotel, Hong Kong, one of her major projects, completed in 2005.
The painting is by Jean Miotte, the first French artist to go
to China following the Cultural Revolution.

What did you do after HKIS?
Stayed in Hong Kong and started an art business, Arts Promotion, in 1973. Later owned two art galleries, Alisan Fine Arts and Mandarin Oriental Fine Arts and am now still working as an art consultant. Also enjoying my six grandchildren!

What are your fondest memories of Hong Kong?
I’m still here, and continue to enjoy life in a dynamic city with an international flavor.

What are your fondest memories of HKIS?
The interaction with the multi-cultural student body, the support we received from Mr. Bob Christian and Mr. Earl Westrick. The welcoming spirit of the school and viewing each student as a unique individual. The comprehensive approach to school.

What is the one thing you learned during your time at HKIS that you still make use of today?
I take an ‘educational’ approach to art, informing audiences and clients about artists and their artwork, thus using the teaching skills I developed at HKIS.

Have you been back to Hong Kong since leaving?
I have stayed here since 1969, except for one year – 1977 – that we spent in the US and I worked at the National Gallery, East Wing, for six months before returning to Hong Kong.


Grandparents Sandra and Richard Walters with their grandchildren
Quinn (standing) and (seated, L to R) Skylar, Kate, Bailey and Ellie

Who do you keep in touch with from your time at the school?
I see a number of my former students, such as Robert Dorfman, Peter Keller, John Shostrom, Kenneth Koo; friends of my siblings and children such as Doreen Soong, John Langford, Hans Lambardo, Andrea Wong, Melody and Jennifer Fong, John Mallaris, Jarrett Bostwich and Bimal Kapoor.

I had a wonderful time helping with the Alumni Group for the reunion and attended the 40th Reunion at HKIS in June 2007 when I reconnected with some of the previous faculty members, Nancy Kroonenberg and David Kohl. I have stayed in contact with Carol Fox, who remains one of my closest friends. We met in 1969 when Carol was a 4th grade teacher at HKIS.

In three words, describe HKIS:
Embracing, Sharing, Multi-cultural.

How can people re-connect with you?
Email: swalters@art-swc.com

What’s next for you?
More work, but balanced with more time in our apartment in Paris and with my family and fabulous HKIS grandchildren.

Source: DragonTales Winter/Spring 2012

Earl Westrick

Life After HKIS

Earl Westrick describes his 26 years at HKIS as “the most transformative experience” of his career. DragonTales finds out more…

At a family celebration

Serving at HKIS for 26 years was the most transformative experience (personally, spiritually, and professionally) of my career in education. HKIS offered opportunity, growth, and nurture which stimulated the transformative life. In my view this was evidence of God’s abundant grace – beyond my prayers.
Acceptance was the “magic” of HKIS. There were nine in our family, plus one German Shepherd. Wife Marge, the seven kids, and even the dog, thrived on the welcoming acceptance of the HKIS community. When we arrived in 1971, HKIS was four years old. I left in 1997. Seven offspring graduated from HKIS, attended U.S. universities, Marge served eleven years as school nurse, she died in 1987. As an “amputee”, HKIS continued to accept me and encouraged my healing.

HKIS gave me many and varied professional opportunities: high school principal, counselor (student, faculty, marriage), staff and team development, parenting courses, community drug education, deputy headmaster, teacher recruitment, managing the building of the Tai Tam High School and Middle School, Head of School.

The above brief history provides context for describing my life after HKIS. Leaving HKIS was a wrenching experience.

For several months, the most recurrent emotion was being lonely. I missed the vibrant community of students, faculty and staff, parents, and Chinese friends. All those precious relationships were diminished. But the HKIS “tapestry”, woven of many religions, nationalities, and cultures, continued to give warmth and meaning to my life. Amidst all of HKIS’ diversities, the warp and woof of the tapestry was Christ’s presence.

Five Westrick brothers: Paul, David, Ken, Gregg and Brad

Understanding reverse culture shock helped me move on in my new life. A new house to make into a home, connecting with family and friends, finding a church, and, in short, planting myself in new soil became my

Professionally, I served as an interim principal in a Bend, OR school, facilitated workshops, did some counseling when requested, served on a church council and several committees. I’m still active in some of these areas, but less frequently. I still believe that life is to be spent for others. However, aging has lessened my living out this belief.

Rebecca Westrick-Miller and Christine Westrick-Witt

My personal life is full and varied. Most important are family relationships. There are twenty-nine of us in the immediate family – many baptisms, birthdays, school programs, sports events, graduations, a granddaughter’s wedding, whole-family events, and many “subsets”. I’ve driven across the country several times to visit family and friends.

One of my many blessings living in Sunriver, is that several couples here are close friends from Hong Kong. We have good times.

Some of my personal interests are reading broadly; gardening (a challenge in Central Oregon); cooking; following politics; social, educational and foreign policy issues; and pottery. While I have a pottery studio, my skill level and creativity are quite low. But clay’s lesson for life is important, keep your clay moist. “If it becomes too dry, it turns to dust and blows away. If too wet it becomes a slurry and flows away.”

Earl (far right) celebrates his 75th Birthday with his children

During most of my retirement years, I’ve participated in a men’s study group, Men in Ministry. We study any topics, many provocative books. Our purpose is to grow in our spirituality and translate the growth into the many possibilities for ministry. Squash was my favorite participatory sport when I lived in Hong Kong. A torn meniscus and subsequent surgery was prelude to an arthritic and dysfunctional knee. On my way to a knee pre-op appointment, I fell and broke a hip. Several hours later, surgery was completed. Healing has been fast and strong and I’m scheduled for knee surgery in January. Care and love from family and friends have been beyond measure.

So, yes, there is life after HKIS. And while scrolling through the old memories is frequent and nurturing, it’s blending them with my life now that gives clarity and purpose to my identity.

Earl is happy to receive emails from former students, faculty and staff at earlwestrick@chamberscable.com.

Source: DragonTales Volume 10 Winter Edition 2008

Alumni Slideshow