Stribbell able to take education abroad

As a teacher, Howard Stribbell (BA/BEd '98, MEd '04) understands you can only make true assessments by comparing apples to apples. Now that he has the perspective of an administrator, he's able to do just that.

Stribbell, the Head of Schools at the International School of Macao (TIS) in China, says he always knew he was getting ahead of the competition by earning his teaching degree at the U of L, but he never really understood by how much.

"When you're in it and you're going to school, you don't realize what you have compared to other places," says Stribbell. "When I was in the program, I got to build great relationships with my professors, both in and outside of class. But I was fairly naïve, I didn't know that wasn't common."

Howard Stribbell
Alumnus Howard Stribbell is the Head of Schools at the International School of Macao. He's back at the U of L for the Faculty of Education Teacher Job Fair.

When he began teaching, he quickly realized other differences between his U of L Faculty of Education experience and the experiences of those who studied elsewhere.

"The structure of the program, with so many practical hours and how they have us in the field, doing the work, all reinforced by workshops and support from the faculty and teacher mentors, makes all the difference," he says. "I didn't realize this until I became a teacher and started to see the differences between student teachers. When I became an administrator and would look at graduates coming out of the universities, then I could really see a difference."

Stribbell will be back at the U of L for the Jan. 19 Faculty of Education Teacher Job Fair (9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in the UHall Atrium). His administrative role in Macao is not only a testament to the value of his U of L education, but it also provides him a platform to recruit new teachers for his school. The fact he comes home to bring U of L grads on board speaks to his faith in the program.

"We notice it over here, we've had student teachers from other institutions and we've also had a U of L student teacher, and our second one has just joined us," says Stribbell. "The quality between them is very different, and it comes down to the amount of hours they are able to spend doing the practical teaching."

Stribbell started his teaching career at Erle Rivers High School in Milk River, shortly after earning his BA/BEd degree. He spent eight years there, working his way up from a rookie teacher to vice principal. An Alberta Teachers' Association advertisement trumpeting the establishment of a new international school that was going to implement the Alberta educational curriculum led Stribbell and his family to Macao.

"It's been a world of opportunity," he says. "The whole world of international teaching was opened up for me, and you realize how big the demand is for Canadian teachers."
The school was established in 2002 to provide a Canadian curriculum and accreditation to local and expatriate students. With English as the primary language of instruction, students graduate with an Alberta High School diploma. Located on the campus of Macau University of Science and Technology, close to 900 students from pre-K to Grade 12 currently attend.

Stribbell says parents had to take a leap of faith to trust the teaching methods they introduced.

"Originally, parents just had to trust us," he says. "They really had to suspend their disbelief and trust us when we told them that the Alberta curriculum will be world recognized and that students would be able to get into universities around the world."

Two graduating classes later, and a host of success stories to tell, have solidified the approach. Emphasizing critical thinking, collaborative working, the ability to formulate an independent opinion and defend it both in written work and orally, are new concepts to traditional Chinese education but they have been embraced. So to has the community atmosphere cultivated by the school, something Stribbell recalls from his time at the U of L.

"The ability to take risks has always been encouraged at the
U of L, as well as the importance of building relationships," he says. "When we live over here, we're a community. Teachers work together, socialize together, play together and you really build a different kind of relationship with your co-workers. The U of L helped instill that sense of community that I hope to try and reflect here at the school."

· Stribbell earned his Masters degree from the U of L in 2004, while still teaching at Erle Rivers High School. He combined online courses with on campus and independent study work.

· Macao is situated 60km southwest of Hong Kong, and, along with Hong Kong, is one of two special administrative regions of the People's Republic of China.

· The International School of Macao (TIS) has students representing 42 different nationalities, with about 40 per cent of the student population from the local area.

· Stribbell says he's looking for a special kind of teacher at the Job Fair. "I'm looking for students who are interested in adventure, are open to new things and who can demonstrate they have taken the initiative. We're a young school, so we're always looking for new ways to do things. The status quo is what happened yesterday."

· Stribbell is married to Doreen, and his children Timothy (13) and Rebecca (10) both attend TIS.

· The Teacher Job Fair began in 2000 and currently sees about 40 school boards from across Canada and overseas represented.

This story originally appeared in the January issue of the Legend.