Education

Meet Raffles American School's First Superintendent

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I recently had the great pleasure of meeting Dr. Rob Mockrish and had an enlightening and robust discussion with him. Throughout our interview, I realised he is one of the most impressive educators I’ve ever met. Dr. Rob has a wonderfully engaging manner, with a broad scope of knowledge and educational experience. His genuine enthusiasm working with students shines through everything he says.

Dr. Rob, an American, has combined his passions for brain research and special needs children into formidable and successful curriculums. He has introduced them very successfully over the years heading several diverse international schools in the Southern USA, Cairo, Delhi, Cambodia, Ivory Coast, and Kobe, Japan. He is married to another highly renowned educator, Kerstin, who is the Director of Admissions at RAS. They have two daughters who both attended American International Schools globally and are now at university.

Dr. Rob, as he is fondly known, is the first Superintendent of Raffles American School in Nusajaya, Johor. He was appointed by one of the largest and most prestigious education groups in East Asia, the Singapore-based Raffles Education Corp, to head their first venture in the international school market. Their partner is the Princeton, New Jersey-based International Schools Services. He arrived at RAS’s temporary location in 2011 able to lend his expertise by working with the developers building the new and permanent campus which will open in September 2014 as their flagship international school.

It was his background in working with children of all academic levels, including gifted and talented, which formed the core and progression of his career. A New York native, Dr. Rob received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology, but after his first year of teaching, he realized he wanted to improve the educational outcomes of all children, not just the ones who could cope well. He had a firm belief that every child can learn and excel. He went on to receive a Master’s of Special Education from Furman University and then did doctoral and post-doctoral work at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia and Columbia University’s prestigious Teacher’s College School of Education.

He believes that all children can learn and that all children, no matter their culture, location, class tier, or ethnic identity, can be successful and feel good about themselves and learning. The curriculum developed for RAS in partnership with ISS is based on four specific “21st Century” Learning Outcomes for all students at all levels; it is the RAS expectation that students will actively demonstrate mastery of these principles. They are, one, Problem Solving and Thinking Skills; two, Character and Interpersonal Skills; three, Organizational and Research Skills; and four, Communications Skills.  However, RAS is also rooted in rigour content standards, Dr. Rob explains. RAS offers the Advanced Placement (AP), which recognizes that information is accessible to all children and will be throughout their life. The AP is a rigorous academic program with focus on turning out a fully developed, fully dimensional student.

“The key to student success is a nurturing environment of trust and understanding about the child and how they learn.  Students are born with a spark for learning, a desire to explore the world around them.  They need to understand that taking risks and making mistakes is part of learning, and this fosters trust and further exploration.  When children don’t fit into the traditional classroom model or are not motivated by a specific type of teaching, like the common memorization and rote learning method, and instead are made to feel bad or insecure about their learning capabilities, the child’s spark gets easily extinguished. This is at the core of the curriculum I develop and have refined over the years,” Dr. Rob explains.

“The key is to achieving success with children is an environment of trust, taking responsible risks to learn and modelling ongoing learning. Therefore our highly trained faculty are supported with the relevant resources, tools, and continuing education so they can facilitate the process to have a child feel more confident that they too can build skills and special strengths. They strive on many levels to ensure the child is learning to the best of their abilities including learning moral and ethical values.

Dr. Rob continues, “As a school we must also be a model employer to gain the full trust of the parents since we want them to be a full partner with us in the child’s learning and growth experience. This transfers to support staff and facilities as well.  For example, the new campus will have many events open to the community such as plays, workshops, and competitions as well as many different sporting events.”

“We have an exciting and stimulating culture of learning at RAS that demonstrates these concepts work. They are extremely successful in guiding students and helping them keep their natural joy in learning new things as well as the confidence to search themselves for new ways to learn so to become life-long learners who can function and excel as adults,” Dr. Rob says. RAS is open for grades one to eight at a temporary location in the Anjung neighbourhood centre in Nusajaya, Iskandar. The school’s permanent campus will be built on a sprawling 45-acre piece of land for Kindergarten through Grade 12, with full boarding capacity in the 2014-2015 school year.

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Source: The Expat October 2013

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