Shanghai American School’s Pudong campus had some special guests recently. The high school’s new principal and vice-principal set foot on the school grounds for the very first time and had their first glimpse of what’s in store for them when they return for the new school year.
Let’s start with Mr. Ivan Velasco who will be taking over the reins from the current high school principal, Dr. Benjamin Lee. After months of emails and online calls about the ins and outs of the high school, Dr. Lee finally met his successor who shadowed him for a week. Mr. Velasco took a tour of what will soon be his new home, meeting with students, teachers and parents. So, when the first day of school rolls around in August, all the places and faces on campus will be familiar enough for him to roll up his sleeves and get right down to business.
Our new principal’s 25 years of teaching and administration experience extends from the deserts of Kuwait to the volcanic landscapes of Guatemala and a few other countries in between. Throughout his career he has been dedicated to finding what motivates and inspires students, and discovering how they learn best to ensure they are ready to follow their passion and dreams once they graduate. “Along with that comes the idea of educating the whole student. I think it’s very easy to see our job as strictly academic, but when students graduate here we want them to be strong in many areas of their life so that they can thrive.”
Mr. Velasco, who is Canadian, is not just all work and no play, though. He enjoys adventure and spent the last year exploring the U.S. in a converted school bus with his family and their pup.
“I will be joining SAS with three children, who are all very excited,” said Mr. Velasco. “Coming with a family is a commitment to the community and that helps us and them be successful. We’re here to jump all in.”
After many years of dedication to the high school and having built an excellent rapport with students and parents, Dr. Lee will be leaving the high in very capable hands. “This is not Mr. Velasco’s first rodeo – he is an experienced administrator,” Dr. Lee. “He will be supported by a strong faculty. He is spending a good amount of time getting to know the place, so the fundamentals are strong.”
While at Pudong campus, Mr. Velasco was joined by his future second-in-command, Vice-Principal Jennifer Loria, who is taking over from the interim vice-principal, Ms. Bett Alter. A seasoned performing arts teacher, Ms. Loria dedicated three decades to developing students in all areas of life and teaching them responsibility, collaboration, creativity and compassion. “We want kids to have excellence in different areas and enjoy coming to school.”
Ms. Loria spent her week on campus absorbing all of Dr. Lee’s and Ms. Alter’s wisdom and knowledge. “We’re getting to know what makes SAS special so that we can add to it and continue the great work that has been done here. We’ve been insanely impressed by every group of people we have met.”
Fun fact about Ms. Loria: She is multitalented with nimble fingers that can play a variety of instruments and quick feet that can create rhythmic masterpieces through tap dancing. Another interesting tidbit is that she’s not completely new to Shanghai. She lived here 22 years ago when she started her career in international education.
Mr. Velasco and Ms. Loria may have met for the first time during their SAS visit but got along famously. We’re looking forward to having this dynamic duo back on campus in the new school year.