Adaptive Change and Human Potential:
Building the New’ at NESA

2019 NESA Fall Leadership Conference — Bangkok, Thailand

NESA Exec. Director Maddy Hewitt welcomes delegates. Other speakers on stage: (l-r) David Gleason, Jamie Steckart, Bea Cameron - U.S. State Dept's Office of Overseas Schools, and NESA Board President Rose Puffer (ISOI-Islamabad).

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  — Socrates

The opening plenary of the 2019 Fall Leadership Conference at the Royal Orchid Sheraton in Bangkok, October 24-27, was dedicated to the memory of Dr Stefanos Gialamas, President of the American Community Schools of Athens, who suddenly passed away a few days before the conference. Dr Bea Cameron, NESA’s Regional Education Officer from the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools, gave a moving tribute to Dr Gialamas. (Read Dr Cameron’s remarks)

With a keynote theme of “The Role of Education in Developing Conscious World Citizens”, a film produced by ACS Athens was shown chronicling their approach to education.

ACS Athens Film: Education is about teaching values, developing mindsets that appreciate diversity, stimulating creativity and intellect, and eventually applying these to improve human life.

Jamie Steckart, Head of NESA member THINK Global School (TGS), spoke about his journey to the education profession and to leading TGS, a traveling high school where students study in 12 countries over three years.

Psychologist David Gleason, author of At What Cost?, described how, “Educating students in healthy, safe and balanced ways has lifelong implications. It is important to adopt developmentally empathic approaches to educating.”

Robert Kegan, William and Miriam Meehan Research Professor of Adult Learning and Professional Development, Harvard University Graduate School of Education on “The Deliberately Developmental Organization (DDO) – Messengers from the Future?”

Robert Kegan: If an organization so valued developing the capabilities of all its constituents that it would seek to create a work culture integrating the best of what neuroscience and Adult Development Theory teaches us, what would such an organization look (and feel) like?

Carolyn McKanders, Director Emeritus, Thinking Collaborative, and Ochan Powell, Executive Director, Education Across Frontiers on “Diversity as a Systems Driver – How can we unlock the potential of individuals and the community by embracing difference?”

Carolyn McKanders & Ochan Powell: In order to engage, people need to feel invited; and, to feel invited, the invitation needs to be perceived as authentic by the recipient. How do we communicate to others that they belong and are valued, especially when their cultures are so different from our own?

The Closing Plenary, “Making Sense of It All: Human Change – Deep Learning – System Impact” featured a panel of distinguished speakers who shared insights and connections among the conference themes to synthesize FLC learning. During this interactive session, school leaders were invited to engage in thought partnerships to crystallize their NESA learning experience.

The panel consisted of (l-r in photo above):

  • Jeff Clanon of Systems Perspectives, who gave us deep insight into how our schools work as systems, and how we can influence those systems to the benefit of our communities.
  • Michael Nachbar of Global Online Academy, who has developed a school of networked global learners that uses incredible instructional designs for building community and student engagement.
  • Ellen Mahony of Seachange, who amplified student voice and allowed leaders to positively elevate issues of identity and belonging.
  • Robert Kegan of Harvard University, who spoke about the power of an EVERYONE Culture and being deliberately developmental.

(Seated at far right is Maddy Hewitt, NESA Executive Director)

School leaders were asked to choose one of the following questions for the final reflection:

  • Heart: What touched you?
  • Head: What will endure?
  • Practical: What ideas do you have for moving forward?

Longtime NESA staffer Aristea Evangelou, who retired in December 2019, was honored at Saturday evening’s Soiree for her 18 years of service and contributions to the organization. Read Maddy Hewitt’s special tribute to Aristea.