Meet Stephen Howard, Head of Middle School at BASIS International School Shenzhen. Stephen’s journey at BASIS shows a commitment to excellence in education and a passion for continuous growth. From his beginnings as a Grade 4 teacher to his current leadership role, Stephen’s experience reflects BASIS’s supportive environment and opportunities for professional development.  

Journey to Leadership

I started at BASIS International School Shenzhen in 2015 as a Grade 4 Learning Expert Teacher (LET) and World History Teacher (now social studies). I then transitioned into teaching English Language Arts in Grades 4 through 6. In 2019, I accepted the role of Vice Head of Middle School. I served as the Head of Primary School from 2020 to 2022, and since the fall of 2022, I have been the Head of Middle School. 

The opportunity to be part of making decisions for the school motivated me to embrace a new role. This shift allowed me to move my influence and experiences beyond the classroom and look at how we do things across a division. 

Balancing Perspectives 

The need to listen and balance multiple perspectives has been very clear since taking a division head role. There are many people and many ideas as an organization gets larger. It has been really important to balance these ideas, listen to them, and ultimately have a process for making decisions based on this feedback. 

Fostering Development 

The BASIS network setup is key in supporting employees to explore different roles. We are able to communicate with others across campuses. We are also beginning to do more campus exchanges where teachers from one BASIS campus physically go to another.

BASIS is highly academic and focused on students’ learning in the classroom. That hyper-focus has helped me develop as a teacher, working on fundamental teaching skills. It also means that we have to continue to get better and work together to find ways to improve our teaching craft. 

As part of the BASIS International Schools network, I’ve had the opportunity to try new roles and move into a leadership position, something I’m not sure would have happened in a smaller school or an independent, non-networked school. It would have at least taken longer. The growth and size of BASIS allow people to find new roles in the organization fairly quickly. 

Advice for Professional Growth

Focus on the fundamentals of teaching, building relationships with students, and engaging them in interesting, challenging lessons. Even those of us who have moved into leadership roles still teach—it is the main factor in considering whether someone should be promoted or given an additional opportunity. 

Stephen Howard
Head of Middle School
BASIS International School Shenzhen 

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