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About » Head of School

Head of School

Letter of Introduction by Sue Ha

 

Dear HWIS Community,

 

Hello! 你好!¡Hola!

 

I am thrilled to be appointed as the Head of School for HudsonWay Immersion School to serve and continue to fulfill HWIS’ educational philosophy and mission. I have enjoyed over twenty years as an educator in both the United States and abroad. During my ten year span in the ever thriving and competitive international school systems in China, I held various administrative positions as the Deputy Head of School and Elementary Principal of a premier bilingual school in Beijing. Earlier in my career, I served in the public school sector as a teacher, instructional coach, and administrator, in Los Angeles, California.

 

As an educator who has spent my career advocating for bilingual education, I could not be more proud than to join a community who values the importance of preparing children for the future to be bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural. As I became more immersed in the mission and culture of HWIS throughout the search process, it became very clear that HWIS is a special place. I count it an honor and a privilege to be joining and leading one of the best private schools in NY and NJ – one that is providing the best bilingual education and a progressive learning environment for our learners today, tomorrow, and beyond.

 

I want to thank the Search Committee, Sharon, and Bill for leading such a thoughtful hiring process that allowed me the opportunity to meet many members of the HWIS community and gain a glimpse into HWIS’ program. I also have great appreciation for Elizabeth Willaum’s vision and commitment over the last five years in leading HWIS to become the school it is today. I look forward to further develop and build upon this strong foundation in partnership with students, faculty, staff, parents, and Sharon and Bill. Special thanks to the faculty, staff, and parents who gave generously of their time and energy throughout the process, which speaks to the care and commitment to ensuring the success of the school.

 

I am eager to my move back to the United States, where I will become part of the HWIS community and begin to get to know all of you. Over the coming months, my focus will be on working with the team to build relationships, partner with parents and learn more about the school so that I can hit the ground running. I am honored to be your new head of school and look forward to seeing you soon during my visit at the end of May.

 

Sincerely,

 

Sue Ha

Head of School

 

Sue Ha, Head of School at HudsonWay Immersion School
Sue Ha
 

An Interview with Sue Ha: HWIS' New Head of School


HWIS: Thanks for taking the time to chat. What made you want to become involved with education, and what was your first experience as an educator?

Sue Ha: If I look back in time to when I graduated from college and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, my mom made a statement and challenged me to reflect upon it. She said, “It seems like you’re searching for something to do, but if you look at all of your work experiences until now, the part-time jobs you've had were all in education.” I'd started, as a high school student, working as a Teacher’s Assistant in the local elementary, and throughout college. I worked as a TA as well. Additionally, my temporary full-time job after graduating was as a Preschool teacher. I decided to give education a try and soon enrolled in a teacher credentialing program. When I started attending the classes, I realized that it was something that was truly part of who I was, it was a passion that I had always had. I think what I enjoyed the most is the connections you have, the relationships you build with students. Even assisting as a high school student, I enjoyed being in the classroom and helping elementary kids learn and just being part of that journey with them. It didn’t seem like work because I enjoyed it so much—that I guess is the reason I had never considered it a profession until my mom brought it up.

HWIS: What do you feel are the greatest virtues of an immersion education?

SH: Well, one is, that in all of the research publicly available we see that when children start learning a second language at a very young age, it shapes how their brain works. And I’ve found that, over the years, working in education, and through my experiences with bilingual students, I’ve really seen children's minds come alive. And I've seen that immersion students do think differently and do interact with knowledge differently than monolingual students. Because at an early age, children do not have the same fears we have as adults when we try to learn something new: we don’t want to look a certain way to other people, we don’t want to feel embarrassed. But I think when the students learn two or more languages at a young age, they have more courage to take risks.

HWIS: Could you tell us, in your own words, what a Head of School does, and how Heads of School are different to principals.

An Interview with Sue Ha: HWIS' New Head of School

SH: Head of School is a term used in independent schools. In public schools, each campus is often dedicated to one division. But in independent schools, you will often find multiple divisions such as early childhood, elementary, middle school and high school. For schools that have multiple divisions, a Head of School will oversee the whole school, whereas principals/directors often are responsible for certain divisions. A head of school looks at the whole school in every aspect: not only academics, but non-academics. You’re looking at the operations and finances, the daily organization of the school in regard to all stakeholders and tying everything together so you can fulfill the vision of the school. This is the Head of School’s responsibility for the effective management of the School.

HWIS: What are some goals that you’ve set for yourself in this new role, and how do you see that “vision” coming to fruition?

SH: At this stage in the development of HWIS, I think we are ready to move into the next phase of what the founders wanted the school to be. I would like to not only learn more about the school’s history and how it’s operated in the past, but also to think about where we want to go in the next five years. So, the next few months will be a lot about getting to know the community of stakeholders—students, parents and staff—listening to their stories, learning what they’ve been doing, where they’re trying to go, and what their expectations are.

 

I see HWIS as a leader in immersion education, especially here on the east coast, and it’s important for us to start to put ourselves out there as a national leader, spreading the idea that multilingualism is going to be, in the very near future, very important in the United States, where we'll see the emergence of more and more immersion schools. As an institution that’s been doing this for so many years, I believe there’s a lot we can offer to this growing educational community, and I hope that in the next few years we will be able to form collaborative groups with other immersion schools, as well as partnerships with schools that want to become immersion schools, for whom we could be there to mentor them along the way.

HWIS: You’ve lived in many places—Brazil, where you were born, then the United States, then Beijing—how has this experience informed your view of multilingualism and language arts education?

SH: Coming from so many backgrounds has helped me understand what it means to be part of a new culture. When you learn a new language, it’s not just language-learning, it is cultural learning as well, and I think a lot of people are starting to understand that—with language comes an understanding of culture, and I think in the global economy in which we’re living, our students will need to be prepared to work anywhere, and to consider how we interact with European or South American or Asian societies. As someone who has lived in different countries on different continents of the world, I think it has given me that kind of perspective and helped me to better understand the global importance of multilingualism.

 

When it comes to language learning, as research has taught us, language acquisition takes time and is different for every individual. Although I learned Korean, Portuguese, English, and Spanish as a child, it was not easy. Back then, not enough research and strategies were available to teachers. I learned English through “Sink or Swim,” and because English was supposed to be more “important,” my Portuguese suffered. As an adult I learned Mandarin and was very fortunate to have teachers who had better understandings of language development and encouraged me each step of the way. I believe the model and strategies teachers use in immersion schools are keys to students’ language acquisition. This is why it is so important for me to support our staff’s professional development and ensure they are up-to-date with best practices.

 

Head of School is a term used in independent schools. In public schools, each campus is often dedicated to one division. But in independent schools, you will often find multiple divisions such as early childhood, elementary, middle school and high school. For schools that have multiple divisions, a Head of School will oversee the whole school, whereas principals/directors often are responsible for certain divisions. A head of school looks at the whole school in every aspect: not only academics, but non-academics. You’re looking at the operations and finances, the daily organization of the school in regard to all stakeholders and tying everything together so you can fulfill the vision of the school. This is the Head of School’s responsibility for the effective management of the School.

HWIS: What are some goals that you’ve set for yourself in this new role, and how do you see that “vision” coming to fruition?

SH: At this stage in the development of HWIS, I think we are ready to move into the next phase of what the founders wanted the school to be. I would like to not only learn more about the school’s history and how it’s operated in the past, but also to think about where we want to go in the next five years. So, the next few months will be a lot about getting to know the community of stakeholders—students, parents and staff—listening to their stories, learning what they’ve been doing, where they’re trying to go, and what their expectations are.

 

I see HWIS as a leader in immersion education, especially here on the east coast, and it’s important for us to start to put ourselves out there as a national leader, spreading the idea that multilingualism is going to be, in the very near future, very important in the United States, where we'll see the emergence of more and more immersion schools. As an institution that’s been doing this for so many years, I believe there’s a lot we can offer to this growing educational community, and I hope that in the next few years we will be able to form collaborative groups with other immersion schools, as well as partnerships with schools that want to become immersion schools, for whom we could be there to mentor them along the way.

HWIS: You’ve lived in many places—Brazil, where you were born, then the United States, then Beijing—how has this experience informed your view of multilingualism and language arts education?

SH: Coming from so many backgrounds has helped me understand what it means to be part of a new culture. When you learn a new language, it’s not just language-learning, it is cultural learning as well, and I think a lot of people are starting to understand that—with language comes an understanding of culture, and I think in the global economy in which we’re living, our students will need to be prepared to work anywhere, and to consider how we interact with European or South American or Asian societies. As someone who has lived in different countries on different continents of the world, I think it has given me that kind of perspective and helped me to better understand the global importance of multilingualism.

 

When it comes to language learning, as research has taught us, language acquisition takes time and is different for every individual. Although I learned Korean, Portuguese, English, and Spanish as a child, it was not easy. Back then, not enough research and strategies were available to teachers. I learned English through “Sink or Swim,” and because English was supposed to be more “important,” my Portuguese suffered. As an adult I learned Mandarin and was very fortunate to have teachers who had better understandings of language development and encouraged me each step of the way. I believe the model and strategies teachers use in immersion schools are keys to students’ language acquisition. This is why it is so important for me to support our staff’s professional development and ensure they are up-to-date with best practices.