Shanghai American School’s Pudong campus will welcome another new Eagle to the high school administration. Ms. Sheri Neal will be the new Director of College Counseling. She started her career in education 30 years ago as a high school social studies teacher, but spent most of those years guiding students through the maze of college admissions. As with any newbie that joins the leadership team, we asked Ms. Neal a few questions to get to know her. Here’s what she had to say.
Can you share some of your professional background?
I hold degrees in Asian Language and Literature, Secondary History Education, and School Counseling. Outside of my work with high school students, I have also worked as a faculty member for the College Board in training new international college counselors, leading college visits during the summer, running workshops for local students on U.S. college admissions, and reading applications for the University of California.
What is your approach to college counselling?
For me college counseling is all about relationships. And relationships have to be built, one conversation at a time. SAS has a college counseling program that allows for college counselors to work with fewer than 30 students a year, providing that extended time for both exploration of opportunities and a highly personalized execution of the college application. The college process does not need to be fraught with anxiety, but it does require work on the side of students to self-reflect on who they are, and balance their short-term desires with long-term goals. Parental involvement is key to students successfully navigating this journey (staying calm) and are important partners every step along the way. The more I know a student and their family, the better I can support them during this process.
Can you tell us more about your personal background?
I am originally from Iowa (U.S.), and grew up in a small farming community. After graduating from university, I moved to Japan and have lived overseas ever since. I have two children (both graduates of The American School in Japan). My daughter is currently an elementary teacher in Quito, Ecuador, and my son is a software engineer for Bloomberg in NYC.
Which three words describe you best?
Adventurous. I love to travel, eat new foods, meet new people. I’ve never met a country I didn’t like!
Pragmatic. I think this comes from growing up in small town Iowa, where I learned to be hardworking, straightforward and friendly. I appreciate dreamers, but I tend to be practical and wear comfortable shoes!
Resourceful. I never claim to know all the answers, but I will probably know someone that will and I’m never too proud to ask questions.
What makes you want to be an Eagle?
SAS is known for its supporting and nurturing environment, where students are encouraged to take risks, explore their interests, and develop as individuals. SAS has weathered many challenges, including the recent pandemic, and each time seems to come through on the other side a stronger and more intentional organization. It is an exciting time to be joining SAS as it re-establishes old traditions, and maybe starts some new ones in the post-pandemic era. I am so excited to be joining the SAS community.
We can’t wait to have this eager Eagle join us on campus soon.