PANTHERS OF ISKL #27 – Dan Miles and Shawn Staley – The New Faculty Liasions

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This week we are pleased to introduce the New Faculty Liaisons, Dan Miles and Shawn Selby, current faculty members who hold the positions of HS Music Teacher and MS Humanities Teacher, respectively. As New Faculty Liaisons, their job is to welcome, coordinate and assist our new incoming Faculty into their new roles and their new home Malaysia.

Find out more about their roles, and Dan’s journey on making Malaysia his home, and how Shawn spent his early years in Saudi Arabia, coming from a family full of educators.

Here are their stories.

‘I view the position of ‘New Faculty Liason’ to be made up of a bunch of little parts. Mainly, it is the logistics, like helping new faculty figure out who they need to talk to for anything and what they need to know about Malaysia, KL, and ISKL. In part, it is also the social aspect where we help them feel welcome, meet new people, learn the values, attitudes, and beliefs that we hold here at ISKL in such high esteem.Dan Miles‘My wife is Malaysian, so I do have a unique take and look at what Malaysia is. I want to share this unbelievable country and school with everyone, and I am excited that I get to brag about the country I call home and the school I am making a career out of.

 “My first trip to Malaysia was in 2012. Upon arrival, I remember seeing the mini forest in the satellite terminal of KLIA and thinking, “I have to live here.” I walked from KL Sentral to KLCC in an absolute downpour because the trains weren’t running. I just kept looking at the towers and followed the light, and I was sold.

‘As an HS Music Teacher, I teach Songwriting, Rock Band, DJ Music, Jazz, and IBDP Music. I always keep in mind that the point of my teaching music is to show students how to love music.

‘My daily activities are anything from leading a rehearsal, fixing a broken instrument, soldering back together a broken amp, organizing the next trip, cleaning up the band room, gluing something back together, finding the next piece of music to play, or showing someone how to do a cool transition for DJ Music.

‘The list goes on, but what I like most about my job is that I have no idea what will happen from day to day, and I have fun rolling with whatever is thrown my direction.

‘My role is so diverse, and it is not merely teaching students to love music. Maybe leading a rehearsal is 10% of what my actual job is.

‘The logistics behind the scenes are immense. The work I do to put together a trip, concert, or even a class would blow anyone’s mind, but at the end of the day, this is what I love doing, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

‘I grew up in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Southwest Colorado. I went to the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wisconsin, and got a Bachelor of Music Degree. Then I went onto Ithaca College in New York, where I got my Master of Music Degree.

‘After being in the United States for a bit, I decided to move overseas. Ironically I was in a blizzard in Wisconsin, under one meter of snow overnight, and decided the next morning to sign a contract to work at the GEMS American Academy in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

‘After three years at GEMS, I went to work for Brighton College Abu Dhabi, where I was the Head of Instrumental Music. After I had time to warm up in the desert, I decided I needed to see green, so I moved to Malaysia and ISKL!

‘I find a lot of inspiration from my students. They ask such great questions, and they have such interesting personalities. They are fun to get to know, and they also remind me not to take life too seriously. They also challenge me to be even more creative, push the limits, and do more to push their boundaries. The Arts are all about pushing the limits.

‘Some wonderful moments of note were when I met with John Stupka, Rosemary Chin, and Emily – all extremely long-serving and original teachers at ISKL. I was trying to learn about the history and culture as I was commissioning the music for the Grand Opening Ceremony, and the stories they had were just hilarious.

‘Another moment was during the two musicals I have conducted here, ‘Beauty and the Beast’ and ‘Bring It On.’ Believe it or not, we had to literally play ‘under the weather’, so to speak, but we managed to do it!

‘I have a few hobbies to keep myself active. The Movement Control Order forced me to get back into many of my hobbies. Firstly, I have gotten back into building with legos, and I have had a great time making all sorts of sets. It is super relaxing and good for your spatial reasoning, and it is also something I get to do with my wife – we turn on Netflix and build with legos!

‘I have even gotten back into woodworking. This time around, I have also incorporated epoxy, so I make huge river tables, cheese boards, cutting boards, table centerpieces, and even drink coasters. It has been such great fun! I am also a PADI dive instructor, so I go diving as much as possible and love teaching a class.”

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

“‘Be All You Are’ is such an essential aspect of being a human. I always lecture my students when they say, “I’ll try my best.” I don’t want them to try; I want them to do. It is a mindset that they must learn, you must always do your best, and your best is on a spectrum compared to everyone else. I think to Be All You Are is precisely the same, students need to be who they are, and not who they think they should be, and I can’t imagine the pressure they experience with social media to be someone different. So be all that you are and nothing else!”

“Being the ‘New Faculty Liaison’ is something that I feel genuinely suits who I am as a person.

‘The kind and empathetic nature of the role always excited me about this position, and it has exceeded my expectations. Having a difficult transition to a new school can taint one’s outlook, and if I can help prevent that from happening to any other individuals, then that is a measurement for success.

‘There is a lot of personal enjoyment, seeing new faculty arrive here to our wonderful school and feel valued along the way.

‘As I have gotten older, I now find additional inspiration from my students, from my colleagues, from my children, and the whole world around me. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and there is nothing better than to open oneself up to those possibilities because when it hits you, it is incredible.

‘My father has always inspired me. He was a much-beloved teacher in our community, and he brought great pride to me over the years. The remarkable part is that he also inspired both my brother and sister to even go into education because we all saw how fulfilling a life it is to teach.

‘My hobby is being a Dad. My daughters are young and full of wonder, and it is so special to see their eyes grow large with excitement when I get home from school each day. Playing with them always makes me smile and reminds me of what truly is important in life.

Shawn with family

‘Each year brings fantastic memories, but having my daughter start in Prep Reception two years ago was pretty special. I am so proud to be a part of ISKL, so to see her also proud is a beautiful memory.

‘Additionally, this past year, a few of the Seniors were some of the first students that I taught here five years ago, and even though the graduation was virtual, it was a great moment to see them complete HS in such a fantastic manner!”

‘My story however begins in Pontiac, Michigan where I was born. But at the age of three, my family and me moved to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, where my parents lived for 20 years working for the Aramco Schools.

‘There was no High School (HS) offered for expats in Saudi, so everyone went to boarding school, and I went to The Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. After graduating, I attended Florida State University and then started teaching in Plantation, Florida. After four years, I moved to Hermosa Beach, California, and taught for a year and then took off to get my Masters Degree at California State University.

Next, I moved to London and taught at TASIS, England. This is where I have lived the longest in my adult life – a total of eight years.

‘My wife, an Elementary School Prep Junior teacher, and I moved here to Malaysia five years ago in 2015, and we have had both our daughters right here in Kuala Lumpur. We have loved working at ISKL,  as we wanted a top-tier school that values an international environment and invests in the growth of its faculty. ISKL does that and so much more.

‘As a 7th Grade Humanities teacher here in the Middle School (MS), I have the privilege of working with fantastic students and helping them develop into lifelong learners. MS is a special place where scaffolds are put into place to create an environment where students feel safe to take risks, and it is an honor to be a part of this journey.

Shawn with MS students

‘I also teach ‘The Director’s Chair’ in MS, and our class was responsible for filming all the MS dancers for their final show at various locations around the school.

‘One of my favorite aspects throughout the year is the Malaysia Week trip that I have led for the past three years, where we take students to Pulau Perhentian and introduce them to diving for the first time.

‘Beyond this, I have coached quite a few sports at different levels throughout my time here at ISKL, ranging from MS sports to varsity in HS.

‘Each day is a new adventure, and my wife and I feel fortunate to be a part of such a school.

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

“The lens through how I like to see this motto for ISKL is one of a philosophical view. To ‘Be’ is where I start, and in order to, ‘Be,’ one needs to be truly seen, and that is what I love about ISKL. All students are ‘seen’ at our school! Individuals are not seen for merely what they do, but rather teachers invest the time into finding out who each student is, and then we help to foster them into being the best version of themselves.

‘It is the theory of being a master gardener when they only want each plant to grow into the best version of themselves. The gardener doesn’t want a rose to grow into the sunflower, and ISKL doesn’t want students to grow into anything better than who they are because each plant is special. And with the right guidance will be magnificent in their own right.”