At BASIS International Schools, one of the ways we provide support and professional development to our teachers is through the advice and guidance of a teacher mentor, or Subject Advisor. Subject Advisors are experienced teachers who are available not only as a resource for questions about curriculum, lesson plans, and school relationships; but also mentor teachers in the subject–across schools in the network–on how they can best implement the BASIS Curriculum and engage students in their discipline. In this post, our Subject Advisors gave us insight into what they enjoy most about their role, common questions they answer, and growth they have seen.

What do you enjoy most about your role as a Subject Advisor?

Lisenka Burger, Drama: After becoming a Subject Advisor, I’ve connected with so many teachers in my field. Shared email conversations, phone conversations, and now with online teaching we’ve gotten together even more often. I would not have known how talented and what amazing human beings they are if I didn’t have the opportunity to connect with them professionally. I hope to open up the communication channels so that others don’t have to be a Subject Advisor to be able to connect with others.

Amanda Gould, Primary Humanities: I especially enjoy leading Summer Institute training, where I have been able to make some fun connections to teachers at other BASIS International Schools. I also enjoy being able to help share my knowledge with the other teachers and to help them grow.

Evelyn Lareau, Art: As a Subject Advisor, I enjoy giving the art teachers a voice and sharing their accomplishments. It’s important to me that the teacher feel heard and that I can help them out whenever and with whatever issue.

Ms. Lareau leading Summer Institute training for art teachers.

Ariel Rosenthal, Math: One of the things I enjoy the most about being a Subject Advisor is getting to meet the new teachers during the Summer Institute and developing a working relationship. After this initial meeting, teachers know that I am here to help and mentor.

Susheel Singhal, Physics: I enjoy the collaboration and exchange of ideas which confirms the growth of not only one person, but of the entire community. I strongly believe in “Serve People, Serve GOD” and the Subject Advisor role is one of the ways by which I can live with this belief.

Can you give an example of growth you’ve experienced or seen in a colleague as a result of your mentoring?

Ms. Burger: I find great pleasure in connecting with other drama teachers and sharing what they have done through the year. Since becoming the SAD I can’t wait to meet or connect with teachers, something that I didn’t think I would like. Many new teachers feel very unsure of what to do at first when they start at BASIS International Schools, with continued support during the first few weeks of the school year, it is a good feeling if you stop hearing from them. That means they have acquired all the necessary skills and information to continue without you. Then, I just need to check in every now and then to make sure they don’t have anything on their hearts.

Ms. Gould: My biggest interaction with advisees is during Summer Institute, but I love watching the new teachers learn the knowledge and apply what they learn into their own planning and preparations for the school year! I also like to check in with the teachers along the way and see how they are doing on an individual level.

Ms. Lareau: Creating applicable newsletters each month is a challenge when trying to address new topics and concerns. I started a weekly Zoom session call Art Table Convos. It’s like a round table discussion where we all can support and advise each other. It’s humbling to know I can’t fix everything but if we work together we can build and make something even greater with our combined talents and experience.

Ms. Rosenthal: Every year during the Summer Institute I share with the teachers all of the Saxon Math resources and show them what a Saxon math lesson looks like a BASIS school.

Mr. Singhal: Over the last three years of mentoring, I can see myself as a more mature individual with enhanced leadership skills, which doesn’t mean to lead the group, but to collaborate, to exchange ideas, and respect everyone’s opinion and suggestions.

What are the most common areas you work with other teachers on improving?

Ms. Burger: Curriculum time management is something that most people struggle with, even me. In Performing Arts not one year is the same, and you could be performing a different show each semester. This makes time management difficult because we are dealing with a hard deadline and an audience with expectations.

Ms. Gould: When working with the new teachers, I like to help point out the ways to make a general BASIS lesson ELL friendly, rather than adding more preparations to the lesson. Including parts of the lesson that are language based and that involved many different learning styles.

Teacher collaboration during the BASIS International Schools Summer Institute

Ms. Lareau: Common issues that come up are:

  • Roles of the art teacher within the school environment
  • How to provide age appropriate assessments in the art classroom
  • Collaboration and cross-curricular curriculum development

And of course, later last school year, how to teach art online…

Ms. Rosenthal: One of the main things I work with teachers on is making sure that they stay on track teaching the lessons and that they teach small incremental parts of a math concept following the Saxon book. Another area that I work with some of my advisees that might be new to teaching abroad is the differences that I have encountered between teaching in the U.S.A. vs. China.

Mr. Singhal: I provide all support to teachers within my capacity. I provide them all resources which help them to provide a wonderful classroom experience to their students, communicate with them about important updates, suggestions, and recommendations via monthly emails, make the syllabus ready in BeLA (internal system) for them to use it as a template. It is more of a collaboration than one way communication.

How long have you been with BASIS International Schools and what grade level/subject do you teach/advise?

Ms. Burger: I have been with BASIS International Schools for four years, and have been a SAD for one. To date, I have taught all Performing Arts grades in the BASIS International Schools system from Pre-K to Grade 11, but the 2019-20 school year I taught Grade 4 and upper school. I also advise Pre-K through Grade 12.

Ms. Gould: I have been at BASIS International School Guangzhou since 2017. I have mainly taught Grade 1 Humanities at BASIS International School Guangzhou, however there was a year I also taught Grade 6, as well as English Language Learners. I am the ELL (Primary) Humanities SAD for Grades 1-3. It’s a lot of fun to be the ELL SAD for these grades because I am properly certified in these grades.

Ms. Lareau: I have been with BASIS International Schools for three years. This is my second year as Subject Advisor for Visual Arts, Pre-K – 12. I currently advise both BASIS International and Independent Schools. I have re-signed on as Subject Advisor for the 2020-21 school year.

Ms. Rosenthal: I have been with BASIS International Schools and I have been with BASIS Charter Schools for 4 years. I have taught Grades 5-8, Intro to Pre-Algebra, Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. I have been a Subject Advisor for 5 years; I am currently the Subject Advisor for Pre-Algebra, Algebra 1, and Algebra 2.

Mr. Singhal: I have been with BASIS International School Shenzhen since the beginning in 2015. Before that I was teaching at BASIS Independent Silicon Valley in California, U.S.A. At present, I teacher AP Physics to high school students and also am the Subject Advisor of AP Physics for all BASIS Independent Schools in the U.S. and BASIS International Schools.

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