This week we catch up with High School Counselor, Shaun McElroy, who has been working at ISKL since August 2019. Shaun is the recipient of the Peggy Templeton Strong Award (2019), an accolade awarded by the Council of International Schools, which recognizes a high school or college counselor for their contributions and achievements to international education.
Having worked for 14 years in Shanghai, Shaun holds an M.Ed from The College of New Jersey, a BA (Child & Youth Care), University of Victoria, and a Certificate in College Counseling from Harvard University.
Here is his story.
“My international career or journey started as a ‘lets see how the next one year will be like’ – I figured I could leave if things were not up to my expectations.
‘I started off working in Bangkok, as a friend in Thailand had reached out to me as they were looking for a counselor and I thought, well hey I’m a counselor, so I’ll try that.
‘I met Ms. Jane Lowry, a former faculty member of ISKL – and from my meeting with her, I understood that there were many international schools out there, and I was curious to learn more.
‘I went on to work in Latin America for seven years, returned to Shanghai and during that time I had a chance to come to KL for an East Asia Regional Council of Schools (EARCOS) conference.
I had to do a workshop for them at the old ISKL campus – that was my first time seeing ISKL properly. Conferences are like a family reunion; they are a chance to catch up with acquaintances.
‘ISKL was attractive to me because of the school’s diversity – and it wasn’t just on paper that it had over 60 nationalities. You can see it in so many authentic ways, which, to me, was very intriguing.
‘For example, ISKL is an IB school that offers a unique IB Scholarship program to two Malaysian students every year.
‘Also, High School here is from Year 9 to Year 12 – so one gets the chance to get to know the students and play a role in their lives. For me, this helps me understand the students and their motivations – to get a chance to connect with their families and understand better who they are.
‘These are the small things that speak to something bigger, and that intrigued me.
‘Many students are doing things for themselves here at ISKL. A lot of students here are also excellent conversationalists, and they enjoy talking about life, the universe, and so forth.
‘That’s a marvelous life skill, regardless of whatever career they are going to pursue, they can bring it with them into adulthood.
‘I always think schools pick up part of their host country, and what I noticed here at ISKL is that there is happiness and a general playfulness both within and beyond the school gates.
‘During the HS theatre production of “Bring it On” – I thought to myself, wow, they pulled it off! And two weeks before that, “E.sperimenti”, the Italian dance show, took place. I love how ISKL works hard to open doors to the outside world.
‘I also love what they do after school with different refugee groups. One afternoon, I was hanging out at the Science labs, just observing and noticed a group of our High school students teaching refugee student groups. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
‘My philosophy in life is – if you want to know something – teach it. When I get excited about something, I do a deep dive and figure out how to do a workshop on it. This has led to other things within the counseling community, where I’m known for being available and for sharing and having ideas.
‘I’ve just been very blessed that a lot of counselors view it as an open-source idea. They are willing to share whether it’s a document, a presentation, or an idea rather than a very possessive copyright sort of approach. That was a big part of the recognition. I have been very available and active in that way.”
What does ‘Be All You Are’ mean to you?
“To me, to ‘be all you are’ is being your best self. When everything is going well, when those elements that are uniquely you come shining through, well, that’s probably the best version of you.”