Meet the Dover High School Principal, Rebecca Butterworth
By Giole Trabucchi, Grade 11, Dover Campus
Only a single word can describe my first impression of Rebecca Butterworth: approachable. Upon entering her office, we quickly started a conversation about the student art hanging in her office. There was barely any hesitation in her manner and throughout the interview it became clear how interested she was in the thoughts and opinions of the student body; a deep sense of care that is one of her most incisive and impressive character traits.
When discussing her goals for High School students, Rebecca talked about the importance of creating an environment that both simultaneously challenges and supports. Rebecca’s pursuit of ‘excellence’ for students is not simply focused on academics but is an overarching aim for all facets of a UWCSEA student’s life. She is keen on providing each and every student with a network of connections that create a ‘safety net’, especially by “fostering the student’s voice”. To Rebecca, it is all about bringing existing connections between individuals at UWCSEA to the next level and amplifying their effect. Counsellors, Heads of Grade, Principals, teachers all make up a support network for students that can be readily accessed.
Of particular interest was our discussion about the Student Council, and the support and representation they provide on behalf of students to the College leadership. One of Rebecca’s strategies is to challenge the mode in which the Student Council operates and how it interacts with the rest of the student body. She emphasised the need to move the Council away from a hierarchical and operational mindset to a more collaborative approach in order to allow the Student Council to have a bigger impact. It is imperative that students see how impactful the Council could be if student engagement increased; thus helping the Council to articulate its visions for the future.
As our conversation continued, we delved deeper into subjects that lie close to Rebecca’s heart—the preservation of core skills and standards for every student while staying flexible in light of the role that technology will play in shaping the way future generations will learn. For High School students, educators need to be aware of “the changing dynamic of universities”. As the High School curriculum is examination based, the challenge that excites her the most is to strive for the perfect balance between the practicality of such exam-focused structures and “cultivating energy and the efficacy of students to move out into a workforce that’s changing rapidly”. At this point our conversation naturally moved to discussing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how the computerisation of labour challenges traditional high school programmes to shift and adapt. Striving for balance between what a high school is required to do and what a high school should do (in terms of preparing students for the future) is an evolving challenge that will surely be one of our new principal’s main targets during her tenure.
When asked what attracted her to UWCSEA in particular, Rebecca draws upon the ethos of the College as her main source of inspiration. The UWCSEA ‘habitat’ engages her. She is particularly impressed by the College’s ability to create an environment for all kinds of personalities and cultures, a trait that she described as rather rare for a school of this size. Rebecca praises how “joyful” the majority of our community is, which makes working here a wonderful experience due to the fact that the enthusiasm of the student body reverberates throughout the school and its influence on the adult staff is substantial. What astonished me the most about Rebecca was her deep understanding of the school and how it functions despite being here for only a few weeks. She is extremely capable of inserting herself into a community and appreciating each and every individual, all incredible qualities for a Principal of the High School to possess.
For Rebecca, the very opportunity of guiding students from their final years of secondary education to prepare them for future challenges is what fuels her everyday passion to do right by the student body. It is undeniable that being an educator is a true vocation for Rebecca Butterworth and her determination to find efficient solutions to High School’s biggest problems is ultimately what will make her a fantastic leader for all High School students.
Rebecca Butterworth joined UWCSEA in January 2018 after five and half years in Zurich, Switzerland. Rebecca holds a Masters of International Education from Australia and has 15 years of experience in international schools. Rebecca is joined in Singapore by her husband and their eight year old son.