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Interview with Dr Shirleen Chee, Principal ACJC

ACJC Leaders (3)

By Jovita

1)You were Principal of MGS for six years.  How do you feel about taking the helm at ACJC – in what ways do you think it will be similar or different?  

Both schools are mission schools established by the Methodist Church in Singapore with a strong Christian ethos.  The same God-centred focus drives all that we plan and do for our students.   I also see a similarity in the beliefs and attitudes of the staff at both schools.  They truly care for and nurture their charges with a commitment and passion that I truly admire.  That said, there will definitely be different challenges and opportunities that come with running a junior college compared to a secondary and primary school.

  2) What are your impressions about ACJC so far?

The first thing that struck me about ACJC is the caring culture that permeates the school. The students are really at the centre of everything the staff do. This concern for the students’ welfare echoes throughout the school.  This is evident from my conversations with our Vice-Principals. In addition, I observed in my first weeks how committed the teaching and non-teaching staff were – not only to their work, but also to go the extra mile for the sake of the students.  Whether it was in the preparations for the Open House or in the discussion of the plans for the year ahead, the staff focussed on what is important for the students. My colleagues were constantly engaged in discussing topics like how to improve standards, how to foster partnerships among internal departments and external parties, and how to bring about learning that is anchored in the real world for our students. I also noticed that positive and encouraging words constantly punctuated the conversations among the staff.

When it came to the students themselves, I had such positive impressions!  They are confident and motivated young men and women who aspire for the best and are eager to take on the world.  I am impressed by their energy, camaraderie, and love for ACJC! In fact, the testimony of our alumni speaks for itself.  In this short period, I met several alumni who shared with me how ACJC impacted them.  The two years they spent here were very short compared to the ten years spent in primary and secondary education. However these years brought the greatest transformation and extraordinary growth.  Here, they were nurtured and trained to take their place in the world.  The best thing is that many now return to the college to serve and in turn, help inspire and contribute to the growth of their juniors.

It is certainly a privilege to be here. I see students joining ACJC from all backgrounds and I am glad that I can contribute to this stage of their growth.

 3. What do you hope to achieve during your term here as Principal?

The Vision of ACJC is “Noble Ambition and Character, for the Service of God and nation”. I certainly want to continue this tradition of a value-based education at ACJC. The challenges facing the college in the 21st century are very different from that of the last century.  The challenges confronting our students are further exacerbated by the swift and tumultuous changes that we see in our global environment. In particular, the ubiquitous presence of digital technology and internet; globalisation, and consumerism are but some of the game changers affecting the economy, jobs and in turn, the competencies that we need to equip our students. While we will certainly harness the opportunities that abound and work with our alumni and parents to help our students navigate their future, the role of our college remains anchored in building that sense of noble ambition and character. At the same time, we must not be consumed by self-serving needs and goals but look towards serving God and our nation.

 4) What are some areas that you plan to focus on?

For the students – I want to help them develop their strengths and unlock that potential within them so that they can achieve beyond their dreams. I will do this while keeping them rooted to their core values of having godly character.  I would also like them to develop resilience. In life, there will always be disappointments, shattered dreams or unexpected failures. We should learn to move forward in spite and despite of setbacks.  We can choose to either dwell on our failures or sit up, learn from them and move on.  Even the worse storms will cease and likewise, the pain and hurt we suffer will also eventually subside. At this stage of their lives, they need to learn to overcome and not let setbacks erode their self-confidence or self-worth. Our response to failures and disappointments in life will determine how we can bounce back and move forward.  There is a promise in Deuteronomy 31:6 which I hold dear – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.”  My prayer is that every student will always carry the truth of these words in his or her heart.

For the staff – I hope to continue to nurture and encourage an innovative culture that will always be ready to adapt and grow with the needs of our students.  Innovation is critical for the future. It facilitates a growth mind-set and helps us to draw inspiration and cross-pollinate ideas. Steve Jobs, Founder of Apple Corporation, once said that “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.  We live in a dynamic environment – sometimes, we just need to do things differently to achieve our goals. In fact, finding ways to do things differently for the good of our students will be an iterative, emergent and cross-functional process for us. It is only then that we can keep on growing.  After all, the best is yet to be.

Image Source : Momento Pictures

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