MHIS Welcomes Anna Packman as Associate Principal Pre-School

11 Jan 2015

We are pleased to announce that Ms. Anna Packman will join Mission Hills International School in April 2015 as the Associate Principal of the Pre-School. An Early Years specialist with over 11 years teaching and 8 years administrative experience in the UK and China, Anna is currently working as Assistant Principal at Shen Wai International School – an International Baccalaureate (IB) school in Shenzhen.

Following completion of her PGCE specializing in Early Years, Anna spent her first six years in education working at the Strand on the Green Infant School in London UK where she progressed from Classroom Teacher to Coordinator (Literacy, Art, Music) to Head of Year, and to membership on the Senior Leadership Team. In 2006, Strand on the Green was awarded the highest possible rating of Outstanding by Her Majesty’s Inspectors.

In August 2009, Anna moved to the British International School in Shanghai (BISS) as a Classroom Teacher and Head of Early Years. In her second year at the school she was also appointed as Lower Elementary Leader. After working successfully for 3 years in Shanghai, Anna moved to Shenzhen in August 2012 to take on the role of Classroom Teacher and Early Years Coordinator at Shen Wai International School (SWIS) with responsibility for overseeing 280 students and managing 40 staff. In 2014 Anna was promoted to Assistant Principal for Early and Primary Years at the school. SWIS follows the Primary Years Programme (PYP) of the IB and, as such, promotes an integrated, inquiry based approach to teaching and learning.

Question: What do you enjoy most about your profession?

Answer: Having had the privilege of working alongside children in their Early Years for over 14 years, I have come to understand that my singularly greatest pleasure is to engage with and explore young minds. It is a joy to witness the empowerment when a child discovers a pattern or a skill for the first time or the pride as a parent hears a child share the story behind their creation. Equally valuable to me as an educator is the knowledge gained when I discover an often highly logical misconception held by a child. Such simple events have not lost their appeal, but rather continue increasingly to inspire and motivate.

Question: How does Play factor into an Early Years program?

Answer: Open, playful inquiry gives rise to profound learning and joy and is the basis of great Early Years experiences. This does not mean that children should merely play freely throughout the day. It is crucial for them to learn social skills from small group work, build routines to help them feel secure, read stories and engage in conversation to build language, and figure out how to solve challenges set by others. All of this will come from a well-planned and balanced programme with a wide range of teaching approaches. However, it is through their child-initiated play that we learn most about our youngest students, using skillful assessments and observations to discover where they are now and then provide the next steps in their learning journeys.

Question: In Shanghai and Shenzhen you worked in International Schools with diverse populations and linguistic backgrounds. What are your thoughts about the bi-lingual program planned for Mission Hills?

Answer: Language and interactions are central to our development of thought and concepts. For Early Years settings to excel and playful learning to truly take hold, there should be ongoing conversation throughout the day. Promoting language by setting up stimulating, multi-sensory environments that act as ‘the silent teacher’ is imperative. It is also important for children, of all linguistic backgrounds, to be able to use language spontaneously, with or without adults, independently or in a group; to frame and more fully comprehend their learning. If we aim to enforce certain language at certain times of day, we limit our students’ ability to engage at their own level, to share ideas as they occur and to make connections between mother tongue and additional languages. As such, I embrace the model of a bilingual environment in which Language instruction is fluid and responsive, meeting the needs of the child.

Question: How important are the links between Parents and the School?

Answer: Positive relationships in any work environment are fundamental to success and perhaps this is most true in an Early Years setting. By getting to know our students and building our understanding of who they are, we are better placed to help them make sense of the world, celebrate their identities and meet their needs at a challenging but developmentally appropriate level. The child’s sense of self at an early age is inextricably linked to their culture, both in its broadest sense - relating to where they are from, the languages they speak, the beliefs they hold – and in its closest sense - their name, their family. Links between home and school are powerful enablers of success and finding creative ways of building parent engagement should be at the heart of any Early Years establishment looking to meet the diverse needs of an International community.

Question: How would you describe your leadership style?

Answer: Leaders should be visible. Spending time informally in the classroom builds trust with teachers, raises students’ awareness of the various roles of adults at school and enhances communication channels. As with students, the more fully we engage with our teachers in classroom settings the better we are able to offer both praise and guidance for growth.

Ensuring that all staff are on board with school goals is the first step to creating a thriving establishment where the capabilities of the team are more than the sum of its parts. By fostering a cooperative and supportive environment we are able to empower individuals to share ideas, take risks, enact change and communicate openly about both successes and misses. Building a shared understanding of expectations, inviting different perspectives and pooling expertise helps build respect for our colleagues along with a sense of joint ownership and pride in our school. This can be achieved through collaborative meetings, task forces, professional growth plans, evolving leadership opportunities, mentoring and peer appraisals.

Of course, there are times when leading by example and modeling best practice are called for. Effective leaders with in-depth knowledge of their team know when collaboration will be effective, when guidance is called for and when stepping back and encouraging a balanced lifestyle is required.

Question: You are about to begin a second professional posting in Shenzhen. What do you enjoy most about living in this part of the world?

Answer: I love the amount of green there is in Shenzhen and the lifestyle of spending time outside, in parks and other natural spaces. Lizhi Park is a great example of this with people out on boats in the lake, playing badminton or mahjong, dancing with friends, enjoying picnics, walking dogs and encouraging children to explore the world around them. I think the people in Shenzhen are very warm and friendly. As there is such a large migrant population in Shenzhen, I feel less like a foreigner here, as so many of the people are here for the same reasons as I am – to try living in a new place, explore new possibilities and expand horizons.

Question: Please share with us a little bit about your personal life in terms of hobbies and interests.

Answer: I came to China with my husband in 2009, just two weeks after we were married. We planned to go to China to have an adventure and begin our married life with a shared journey. Six years later we are still here and have little intention of returning to England any time soon. We love it. Along the way, we have adopted several animals, two dogs and two cats, who form our little family. My favourite way to spend my spare time is trying out new recipes in the kitchen, spending time with friends and swimming. I hope to add golf to my list of interests, although I am dubious it will be on my list of talents!