Meet the Principal: Pauline Markey, East Primary Principal
By Alexandra Beukers, student intern in Communications and Marketing
From the moment I walked into her office for the interview, I understood why the choice for Primary School Principal had been Pauline Markey. She was practically buzzing when she started to talk of her passion for teaching, and described her arrival in Singapore and first impressions of the campus with equal enthusiasm. If qualifications are everything, Pauline’s speak for her. Despite her chipper Northern English accent, working in the UK for nine years was only the start of her teaching career, and she has since achieved a breadth of experience in schools across the Middle East and Europe. However, it was hearing Pauline talk about her views not just on how we teach, but how we learn, from Primary students, that show her to be a fantastic addition to UWCSEA.
When asked for her vision for the UWCSEA East Primary School, Pauline told me that the first step toward settling in was familiarising herself with the school’s “culture and terminology”. She is excited to join the College at a time when the UWCSEA-written concept-based curriculum will become fully embedded in the Primary School across all five elements of the learning programme. The curriculum articulation project, she says, and the resulting concept-based curriculum is the result of the most progressive forward-thinking philosophy of any school she’s worked in. To her, the curriculum offers the chance for an even stronger connection between education and the space in which it happens. She used the anecdote of her son’s experience at Google to show the importance of dynamism in the 21st century, be it in the classroom or the workspace, and adds that primary school is the perfect environment for it. This is true at UWCSEA in particular. In addition to praising the facilities and creative learning spaces available, she was also inspired by the wealth of green on campus. “The creative connection between space and learning,” Pauline enthuses, “inspires, encourages and facilitates collaborative interactions that allow children to work together, reflect on their learning, appreciate multiple perspectives and solve problems collectively; all vital skills for their future in education and the workplace.”
Just as Pauline spoke of her connection with the UWCSEA campus, it was apparent that she is also already incredibly aligned with its ethos. Another thing immediately visible in Pauline is her appreciation for all modes of learning, in and out of the classroom. I asked her what she thought about Singapore’s tuition-culture, and she compared UWCSEA to an embassy – positioning itself as a bold contradiction to a fixated mentality. Having been actively involved with the building of a €25 million sports complex in her previous school, it’s clear Pauline has always been firm on a balance between academics and activity. Her favourite aspect of UWCSEA’s learning programme? The importance of service. She spoke to me of being especially moved by a UWCSEA graduate describing in a video the impact 12 years of diverse community work had on him. The way in which UWCSEA sincerely values each aspect of its learning programme, be it learning in class, through outdoor education, the Arts or sports, is something that made joining the College an irresistible opportunity.
What stood out to me the most about Pauline was her prioritisation of engaging with each child. Working with children from a range of different backgrounds, from local youth centres and PRUs in England to international schools abroad, has impressed on Pauline the need for teachers to be adaptable in how they meet each individual’s needs. Getting to know students individually has always been significant to her - she emphasises that the relationship between teacher and child at such a formative time is invaluable. Pauline believes in recognising from early on “not just their needs, but their talents,” and that what makes her job the best in the world is “finding the thing that makes each child tick, and then nurturing that to let them flourish and grow.” Prizing individuality in the students in both their interests and ways of learning is fundamental to her view of education. What they all have in common at UWCSEA, which she noticed on her first visit, is a natural articulacy and insuppressible passion for learning. It’s the combination of these reasons that sparked her keenness to see the school in action.
It would be impossible to exaggerate Pauline’s limitless enthusiasm for teaching and learning, and how fully she can engage with whomever she meets, regardless of their age. To her, guiding a child in this stage of their learning journey is a real privilege and makes being a Primary teacher a very special vocation. Being able to experience that is why she has looked forward to UWCSEA’s start of term with such impatience – because, as she often told me, “the school’s not the same without the children around.”
Pauline Markey, Primary School Principal at UWCSEA East, and interviewer Alexandra Beukers.