Panthers Of ISKL #25 - Laurence Myers - The Green Sustainable Practitioner
This week we caught up with Laurence Myers, an Alumni faculty who worked at ISKL from 2002 to 2016. Laurence started his career at ISKL as a High School Physical Education & Health teacher with his last four years spent in the Sustainability & Service Learning Coordinator role. He is now working at the American School of Dubai as a K-12 Service Learning Coordinator.
Laurence was a pioneer of the Green Initiatives program, leading to ISKL becoming the first recipient of the Green Flag Award of the Eco-Schools Programme Malaysia.
Here is his story.
'We were at ISKL for 14 years, and at that time, we certainly had our fair share of ups and downs. Our ISKL chapter was filled with great joy, and it would be difficult for me to pick one specific moment, given just how many wonderful ones there were. But perhaps the one that stands out to me is when I introduced my oldest daughter - then just a few days old - to the Girls' Varsity Basketball team, which I was coaching at the time. I remember the feeling of overwhelming joy that I had as my two worlds - family and work - intertwined and connected. It was everything that ISKL represents - an educational environment that celebrates life, community, and the family that we all become.
"I am originally from Athens, Greece, and still proud to call it 'home.' I grew up in Athens until I went to university in the United States. After a bit of back and forth between Greece and the US for work and attaining a Master's degree, I ended up getting a job at Colegio Nueva Granada in Bogota, Colombia.
'My beautiful wife, Natalia, who also worked at ISKL, is also from Colombia. After Colombia, we moved to Kuala Lumpur for 14 glorious years as Panthers from 2002 to 2016! We have two awesome daughters, both born at Gleneagles Hospital just down the street from ISKL, who, even after four years away, still proudly sing the Melawati school song!
'I always loved the fact that ISKL felt like being in a family. The school was always happy to celebrate the many individual stories of its members and positively contribute to creating a shared collective history. An extension of our own family, ISKL will always have it's special space reserved in our hearts and has done much to etch its place in our identity."
'ISKL has a long history of environmental awareness and involvement. When I got to ISKL, I was involved in what was then called 'The Green Team,' a volunteer assortment of faculty, staff, and parents. While I was there, we were able to develop a more systematic plan for sustainability.
'The initial K-12 Environmental Education Coordinator position, which was ably filled by my predecessor Angus Charmichael, was later renamed to Sustainability & Service Learning Coordinator and was created with the Green Team's guidance and support of our administration. Once the post was created, there was a more purposeful move toward generating a systemic 'ethos' of service and sustainability at ISKL. It seemed that ideas and new initiatives were popping up all over.
'In my position as coordinator, I was thrilled to support and document the great work being done by so many people at the school. I remember distinctly helping the introduction of the learning gardens in the Early Childhood section of the school. I also worked with the Earth Club, expanded the community recycling program, and happily supported the HS Gardening club's introduction.
‘Additionally, I was involved in creating ISKL's Eco-Schools membership and programs that led to the first Green Flag award in Malaysia. I remember the energy in the air on the day when the Executive Director of WWF Malaysia presented the Green Flag to ISKL in 2013. I was also involved in the generation of a partnership with the Fugee School, supporting the learning of refugee children and other similar service-related programs and was able to focus our interactions with them around the concept of sustainability as well.
'While I was at ISKL, I was also involved in some experimental approaches to learning that offered a slightly different twist to 'green' education at both the Melawati and Ampang campuses. I remember our multi-year biodigester project, the hydroponics program, the metering of air quality, the inventory of our trees, and multiple tree planting activities around KL and Malaysia.
‘Some of these doubled up as evidence for the Eco-Schools Green Flag program as well. Likewise, as we became a leader in the Eco-Schools Malaysia program, we also became a base for Eco-Schools Mini Conferences and trained our students to facilitate meetings and workshops with other students related to sustainability.
'Likewise, we decided, at the time, that both the old campuses and the new campus would be a concrete example of sustainability. We created learning spaces on the Ampang campus, and organized meetings between our Grade 5 Social Changemakers service-learning unit and the architects and mechanics of the new campus in Ampang Hilir. We also introduced the farmer's market adjacent to the community recycling and created 'best practices' for our school's paper and plastic usage etc.
'On the curricular side, I worked closely with teachers at all divisions to support the infusion of sustainability into learning. From IB SL English to Economics to establishing the Global Issues Local Solutions course and creating the Education for Sustainable Development standards and benchmarks to supporting learning through partnerships with several external organizations, it was so much fun to see sustainability spreading throughout the educational structures of the school.
'I should also add that it was a great pleasure to work with the many ISKL faculty and staff who were eager to do good in the community. I remember the very early days of conversations related to supporting learning center teachers through professional development opportunities, which were put into place after my departure.
'I love being outside, ideally in a water-based environment. Being from Greece, of course, one of my favorite things is to snorkel and swim. I also love team sports and do a fair share of coaching, primarily of volleyball and basketball. At ISKL, I spent many years coaching these two sports in MS and HS and loved doing so.
'These days, I spend my time after work being with my family as much as possible. Travel with them is great, although not as simple as it used to be in KL. Even a simple cup of coffee, a chat with friends or some people watching isn't so bad either! I also focus a good deal on developing and facilitating workshops on sustainability, service-learning, and systems thinking around the world. Lots of great learning is still to be had!
'The biggest inspiration to me is what it always was - a child who decides that changing the world for the better is worth pursuing. There is something wonderful in finding value and taking such pride in the success of another.”
What does 'Be All You Are' mean to you?
"What is that thing, your thing, that gives you wings? Live and learn to the fullest, celebrate your successes, and learn from your mistakes. Grow with every passing moment and be proud of who you are becoming!"