Every BASIS International Schools campus works hard to ensure a vibrant school community for faculty, staff, parents, and students. At BASIS International School Nanjing, representatives from the faculty, administration, and staff have joined together to form The Sunshine Committee which has contributed greatly to the school community by supporting, recognizing, and encouraging school staff, enhancing communication, and offering input and ideas to school administration.

The Sunshine Committee at BASIS International School Nanjing is made up of seven local and expat faculty, leadership, and staff: Candy Xiong, Student Services Assistant, handles transportation; biology teacher Tiffany Johnson and English teacher Erika Trnka work with local events and vendors; Middle/Upper School Dean of Students Aaron Herman does photography and event planning; Primary Dean of Students Quinnesian Joyner is the Committee Chair and handles wellness and event planning; HR Assistant Bella Jin assists with finance and purchasing; and the committee’s newest member, chemistry teacher Robert Wingate, is the group’s photographer.

Sunshine Committee at BASIS International School Nanjing

Sunshine Committee photographer: Chemistry teacher Robert Wingate

Some of the events planned throughout the year include a Chili Cook-off, Cinco De Mayo party, Nanjing Family Day/Historical Tour, Secret Santa, and other fun community building activities. Summer isn’t left out either, with an end of school and July 4th events planned.

In this post, several members of the Sunshine Committee at BASIS International School Nanjing answer a few questions about how they came to be part of this initiative, what they enjoy, and how they feel their work benefits the school community.

What interested you in participating in the Sunshine Committee?

Quinnesian Joyner: I saw an opportunity to create events for staff to connect, to support each other, and to make our new home in China enjoyable.

Erika Trnka: I have always served on a Sunshine Committee since my first year of teaching, so when I heard that BASIS International School Nanjing would form one, I immediately got involved! It has always been my favorite committee because it’s fun, positive, and gives people something for which to look forward.

Aaron Herman: I was in Nanjing in late June 2019 a bit before the rest of the staff. I accompanied the operations staff on the first airport pickup of arriving expat teachers and loved the experience so much that I ended up going on a dozen more. Being there to greet our teachers, some of them coming to China for the first time, was an incredibly rewarding experience. Answering their questions on the ride from the airport, checking out their new homes with them, and meeting our incredible operations staff while doing so, had me hooked on the sunshine experience!

Aaron meeting new teachers at the airport in Nanjing.

Bella Jin: It’s lovely to do something meaningful with all of the members on my team.

Tiffany Johnson: What drew me to participating in the Sunshine Committee was the opportunity to show the appreciation to teachers that was never shown to me in the other schools I worked at. Teaching can sometimes be a thankless job, and I wanted to make sure that the staff at BASIS International School Nanjing knew they were appreciated. Because when you feel appreciated, you will have longevity and perform better at your job.

Robert Wingate: I initially volunteered before school began so I was super excited to have this opportunity present itself later. I have always been a part of a sunshine type of committee at each of my schools for 20 years. I think it is very rewarding as the work done here is vital to staff morale.

Candy Xiong: I really like to introduce Nanjing culture to our new staff. Our BASIS International School Nanjing is a little community: It’s FAMILY.

What have you enjoyed the most, or what has been the most rewarding aspect, of being a part of this group?

Quinnesian Joyner: I enjoyed the Secret Santa activity the most because when I think of Christmas, I think of holiday cheer. We had beautiful pastries from our BINJ chef and then the magic of gift giving with our participating staff. It was amazing to see the look on the faces of those who received their special gift from their Secret Santa.

Erika Trnka: The best part of being on the Sunshine Committee is seeing the results of our efforts. People are very excited to receive an unexpected treat or celebration, and seeing everyone’s smiles always makes me happy.

Aaron Herman: Working with the rest of the committee to come up with inventive, non-cliche ways, to show our teachers and staff that they are truly appreciated, then seeing their joy with each event, has been the most rewarding aspect for me.

Tiffany Johnson: Just being able to bring a little “sunshine” to a person’s day when they least expect it.

Candy Xiong: I enjoy the bus trips every month. I like to share my city with the BASIS International School Nanjing family. It allows the new staff to see all of the beauty around them.

Christmas activities

What activity or event do you think has been the most popular with teachers, staff, or the school community?

Quinnesian Joyner: The Teacher Appreciation event was massive. We had a weeklong of activities for the faculty and staff to join in. We tried to plan activities during the school day and also with a few evening outings. I love to see the collaboration and togetherness of our team!

Erika Trnka: Our Cinco de Mayo celebration was a huge hit. Our school community had recently gone through a challenging time, and everyone did a spectacular job with adapting to current world events. This teacher appreciation event was a great way for us to bond and celebrate, and of course everyone loves a free meal!

Aaron Herman: I would need to give a top three.

  1. Airport pickups for newly arriving teachers.
  2. Working with Dean Q, Mr. Wert, and my daughter to create an epic collage in our staff break room.
  3. Organizing our Cinco de Mayo celebration during the midst of our teacher appreciation week extravaganza.

Tiffany Johnson: Definitely the Chili Cook-Off. People definitely showed their competitive sides. Plus, it was good seeing and tasting the different variations of chili.

Sunshine Committee Chili Cook-off

Chili Cook-off

Bella Jin: The Teacher Appreciation Week was the most popular, I think! It was great to see the Western way of recognizing their teachers and staff.

Candy Xiong: I like being a part of the staff orientation trips because it allows us to show the staff their new city. The operation staff gives the taxi book and tours around their neighborhood and city to help with making the smooth transition to Nanjing.

Robert Wingate: I think the cook-off competition was a hit! It was great to see everyone excited to see and taste the delicious selections.

Recent trip to take an evening stroll at the Nanjing Eye

Nanjing Eye

Nanjing Eye
Photo by Robert Wingate

What do you feel has been the greatest benefit of the Sunshine Committee to the school environment and the experience teachers have at BASIS International School Nanjing?

Quinnesian Joyner: The greatest benefit of our committee is the effort in making BASIS International School Nanjing an enjoyable place to work. Hopefully our home away from home!

Erika Trnka: I think the boost in morale has added to the positive community feeling we have at BASIS International School Nanjing.

Bella Jin: We can create a very kind and warm environment for our expat hires. They are not in their home country and it means a lot to have a community of support.

Aaron Herman: From the beginning, BASIS International School Nanjing has made appreciation of, and the well being of, our staff a top priority. I remember organizing staff get together all through the summer of 2019 back when we first arrived. Through this unity we have become a group of more than colleagues, we are truly friends. Thus, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, although we were scattered around the world, we were all in it together. The greatest benefit of this is clearly visible–99% staff retention. We are all still here! Still together! BINJ Strong!

Tiffany Johnson: I would say the greatest benefit of the Sunshine Committee has been the continued development of the family that was started for us.

Candy Xiong: The greatest benefit is the committee gives the staff extra support from our group. As a team, we wish to make the experience as a Nighthawk a memorable and enjoyable one. We want our staff to stay with us in Nanjing. It’s HOME.

Robert Wingate: The Sunshine Committee has been a morale booster and has helped the teachers through a very tough quarantine year. While many of us are isolated away from our loved ones due to the virus, the Sunshine Committee has stepped in to provide opportunities to explore new areas, commune with peers, and relax with benefits in order to take our mind off of the long haul of working so many weeks without a break. It is impossible to comprehend the impact that the Sunshine Committee and its resources have had on the lives of our staff. As the world adapts to a NEW normal we will all have stress in our lives. However, the Sunshine Committee plays a major role in reducing the work related stress so that we can continue pushing forward.

School community artwork of a tree consisting of the fingerprints of students, faculty, and staff.

Supporting our school community takes many forms, but this committee is committed to spreading sunshine wherever they go!

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