​​Panthers of ISKL #97 – Julie Jonsson – The Jogger With A Cause

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This week we talk to Julie Jonsson , a Social Studies teacher who teaches 9th Grade World Studies and IB History. She is a woman on a mission – as she will be running a full 42km marathon fundraiser where the public gets to decide what cause they want her to run for!

Here is her story.


Tell us more about your Jonsson Runs For It!’ project.

Julie Jonsson-RunningOn the Sunday morning of April 24th, I’ll start running 7-kilometer loops around the ISKL neighborhood starting at 5:00 am. Usually, runners raise money for particular causes they care about. Of course, that is a fantastic thing to do. But I wanted to do it a bit differently. There are so many worthwhile causes globally, but almost everyone has just a few that are dear to their heart for personal reasons. I want to use my run to encourage people to donate to those causes they already care so much about! We put out a public call for nominations and our community answered! I’ll be running to support Planned Parenthood, UNICEF, UNHCR, Every Mother Counts, SPCA, Doctors Without Borders, the Breast Cancer Foundation, the National Kidney Foundation, Cambodia Education Fund, and the Chin Student Organization. My hope is that people will spread the word to raise as much money as possible. Then, I’ll be inviting people to go above and beyond by supporting me as I support their cause by asking them to show up for their adopted kilometer on the day I’m running to cheer me on! Or run with me! 

How will the money raised be channeled to the causes?

People can go to my fundraising page and select a cause from the list that they want to donate to. I’m using the SimplyGiving platform because they make raising donations a seamless and transparent process.  Additionally, you can go to this  Google Form where you can enter your Whatsapp number to receive real-time updates on my progress on the day of the run, see the route map, and see the estimated times I’ll be running each of the sponsored kilometers.

Why did you decide to do this project? Was there a single reason that motivated you to take action?

As 2021 drew to a close, I reflected on how my life had changed over the past three years due to COVID and the arrival of my two sons. As a runner since my days as a Middle School student, I saw a marathon as a challenge to see if I could reclaim the physical and mental health benefits of life “before” the pandemic and before children. Additionally, the original plan was to travel to Vietnam over Spring Break to do the marathon, as I was hoping to celebrate the return to freedom of travel. When that didn’t happen, the plan shifted to running the marathon by myself here in KL.

At that point, I realized that this was also an excellent opportunity to do something good for people beyond myself. 

Tell us about your love of jogging/running. When did you first start, how often do you run, and how did this become your hobby?

I’ve loved running since I started track in Middle School, and it’s been one of my favorite ways to explore and get to know new places. It’s been a practice that has supported my mental health in meaningful ways throughout my life. Through running, I’ve made some of my closest friendships.

When I decided to run this marathon, I also decided to do something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time: I hired a coach to advise and design a training program. I’ve been working with Jeff Ross of ‘Total Running Club’ here in KL (@jeffryross_runner), and I’ve learned much. Currently, I run five days a week, and those runs are a mix of speed work, easy runs, and long distances.

What are some challenges that you anticipate for that day?

The heat is always a big challenge in Malaysia. I’m used to running early in the morning, but for the marathon, I’ll be running later into the day than I typically do. Also, at some point in a marathon, everyone always gets to the point where they feel exhausted, and you just want to stop. So pushing beyond that is something I will need to do.

jonsson Makes a Run for it! poater

What do you hope the outcome of the fundraiser will be?

I want to raise at least RM 100 for each kilometer I run. I’m hoping to raise at least RM42,000  in total.

How can one ‘level’ up to be a 42km marathon runner like yourself!

The beauty of the marathon is that nearly anyone can do it, but not without some consistency and time. I’ve been training for this marathon since mid-November! If you can dedicate a small portion of your day to running consistently and for a long enough time, there’s no doubt that anyone can run a marathon.

What is your motivation for doing this – is there a mantra or thought that you repeat to yourself?

My biggest motivation will be knowing all the good work in the world that this effort is contributing to. And to be honest: when the running gets tough, the thought of what I’m going to eat when I’m done always gets me through!

Any specific message you’d like to share with the world, perhaps to others who also wish to do fundraising activities?

We tend to misjudge the value of actions that seem minor, simple, or easy. But the small things are not so small. As Tim Urban says, “A remarkable, glorious achievement is just what a long series of unremarkable, inglorious tasks looks like from far away.” Don’t be afraid or ashamed of starting with small, simple steps, even if you have big goals or dreams. Maybe it’s an email, a conversation, showing up for another practice, or checking out a book. It all counts. 

Getting to know Julie on a personal level

Julie Jonsson & HusbandCan you tell us more about yourself?

I am originally from Wyoming in the United States. My life took an unexpected turn when I met and eventually married a man from Sweden, and we have two boys (3 and 1 ½ years) who keep life “interesting” these days.

When and why did you join ISKL?

I joined ISKL in 2017. My husband has a business that facilitates student travel to various countries, but primarily Laos. This meant that we were always interested in moving to the Southeast Asia region, and we also knew that ISKL had an excellent reputation. He worked with ISKL’s Global Action Program (GAP) trip for many years, so he and I got to know quite a few teachers at ISKL. In particular, there was one trip where I had some really good chats with Drew Davis and Cheri Goodwin, and that convinced me that ISKL was a pretty good place to be.

Can you tell us more about your position as a Social Studies Teacher and your daily activities?

I teach 9th Grade World Studies and IB History. I love teaching both of these topics because, fundamentally, humans are fascinating. Whether we are looking at current issues or the past, Social Studies is always seeking to understand the big questions about why humans do what they do. On a day-to-day basis, I get to learn about the ideas and experiences of some pretty exciting students, and I get to go along with them as they learn about the important aspects of the world. 

Can you tell us something you are working on now that you are excited about?

In 9th Grade World Studies, our class is getting ready to have a series of debates about political and economic values and beliefs. I always look forward to this because students are starting to have strong opinions. The debate structure also encourages them to move beyond their opinions by backing their claims up with evidence. This means the debates are usually very entertaining and informative.

Can you tell us more about your hobbies and interests? What do you do after work?

Early in the morning, I’m usually hitting the streets or out at the track, getting a run in. I spend a lot of time hanging out with my two boys, which means I spend a lot of time playing in the pool and hanging out at parks and the (Jungle) gym. Recently, I’ve gotten a new recipe book that’s inspired me to get really into cooking all kinds of new stuff: homemade Nutella, granola, muffins, almond milk, and a killer spaghetti and meatball recipe are some of my favorites. 

Who or what inspires you?

Oh, this list could go on and on! Currently, this random list includes Minimalism, pretty much anyone who’s ever been a parent, people who care about gender equality, Des Linden, Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, nature, and the movie Encanto.

Julie Jonsson & nursesBest memory (or most memorable moment) so far working at ISKL?

My favorite memory is the “clap-out” that we used to have on the old campus. It was such a simple but beautiful way to come together to celebrate the huge sense of achievement, relief, and transition that comes at the end of a school year. 

What is one thing that we, the public, do not know about being a Social Studies Teacher?

Maybe it’s not very much about memorizing facts anymore. Social Studies is about using and honing analytical, research, and communication skills. Yes, we study the past or particular topics in the world today, but social studies skills are widely applicable to many other fields. 

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Grading. Hands down. Giving feedback in a way that students can understand AND that they can use to improve AND that doesn’t take me forever to do.

What does ‘Be All You Are’ mean to you?

It’s like the old Shakspeare line, “This, above all, to thine own self be true.” Knowing who you are, what you believe in, what your strengths are, what your weaknesses are, what fuels you, what depletes you. . . These are some of the essential pieces of knowledge that you can carry throughout your life. The extra challenge is that we have to revisit those questions repeatedly as the answers continually shift. But that’s only half of it. The other half is to “be true” to your essential self. Make the choices that align with who you are with self-awareness, courage, and intentionality.


Do you know a student, faculty, staff, or alumni with a story to tell? Nominate them to be featured in our Panthers of ISKL stories by sending in your submissions here.

To find out more inspiring stories of our community, read about The Sun Bear Patrol or ISKL parent and Board Chair Toshi Saito!