Peter Lee, Middle School principal of The American International School of Muscat (TAISM), was selected as one of two international school educators for the 2022 National Distinguished Principals Award. Instrumental in setting high standards for instruction, student welfare, and all-round facilitation of the learning process, Lee hopes to continue steadfastly in his task with a forward-looking vision
The American International School of Muscat (TAISM) received a great honour recently when Peter Lee, its Middle School principal, was selected by the US-based National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) for the 2022 National Distinguished Principals Award. The award is not just a prestigious credential in Lee’s career as an educator, it also catapults TAISM to new heights among the best Overseas Schools of the United States Department of State.
The award programme had been established in 1984 to recognise and celebrate elementary and middle-level (K-8) principals in the United States, who set high standards for instruction, student achievement, character, and climate for the students, families, and staff in their learning communities.
Outstanding principals have been selected for this award from the international schools that are assisted by the Office of Overseas Schools of the United States Department of State. And Lee’s nomination was supported by the director of the school, Kevin Schafer, and selected from among several nominees.
“The TAISM community is ecstatic about this well-deserved award for Peter,” says Schafer. “Only two educators outside of the USA, and one from each US state, win this prestigious award annually. We’re proud that Peter’s consistent leadership and his care for TAISM students is being recognised publicly and globally.”
In a tete-e-tete with Muscat Daily, the erudite educator, known for his comely disposition and the great rapport he enjoys with staff as well as students, shares some insights about his career and vision for TAISM. Excerpts:
What provides you the fuel to keep you going on in full steam as an educator?
My educational career started in 1993, as a sixth grade teacher in public school in the Minneapolis, Minnesota area (USA). My family and I moved to TAISM in 2006, where I continued my teaching career. I taught for 19 years before transitioning to being the Middle School Principal, at TAISM, in 2012. Throughout all of these experiences, and now in my 30th year in education, what keeps me going is the satisfaction of serving students and families and working to put them, along with our staff, in the best possible position to be successful.
What does this award mean to you, and what paved the way for your selection?
Receiving the NDP award is quite an honour. In the US, only one principal from each state is selected and I was one of two international school principals to receive it. It is an honour for me individually, but I am more excited to receive the award on behalf of the school. I also feel like I am receiving this award for our staff, students, and school community. It is a testament to the great work we are doing with students at TAISM. Working with very talented educators is very inspiring and makes being a good leader that much easier.
Heading TAISM during one of the most difficult times in education (in view of the pandemic), how did you equip yourself to stay afloat?
I am naturally a pretty optimistic and solutions-oriented person. That was certainly put to the test during the pandemic. I have been a part of the TAISM community for 17 years and I think what kept me going during that time was a strong commitment and sense of duty to serve our community and our students, specifically, to the best of my ability. It wasn’t easy for any of us during those years, and having a dedicated and talented group of professionals working along side of me, and having the partnership of the parents in our school community was really important to our success in serving students. It is really all about providing the highest quality of learning opportunities to our students, no matter what the circumstances.
In view of the pandemic, how prepared is TAISM to take on similar challenges in future.
The sense of community that permeates our school – from staff to students to parents – equips us well to meet any challenges. We genuinely care about one another and are united in a common purpose. When you have positive and productive relationships established with all stakeholders in your community, challenges don’t seem quite as daunting. You realise that you can collaborate with others to find solutions.
We are an adaptive organisation, meaning we will learn, change, and modify our approach when necessary to meet the needs of students and families. I think all of us at TAISM reflect on the ability to adapt our instructional approach, the increased focus on student, parent and staff wellness, and the commitment to providing the best educational experiences during the pandemic as a point of pride. It was hard work that stretched everyone pretty thin, but at the end of the day, our school kept moving forward. I am proud of that.
As an educator, due you foresee anything that might revolutionise the approach, curricula as well as goals and outcomes of education globally?
Education should be an ever-changing industry. The needs of the future are dynamic and jobs and careers that we are preparing students for may not even exist yet. With that in mind, it is important that we are preparing students to be critical and creative thinkers, collaborators, and problem-solvers.
Students need to learn to approach problems with a spirit of inquiry and innovation. It is our job, as educators, to provide opportunities for students to develop these skills. I see a greater importance in the coming years of providing students opportunities to set their own learning pathways, be creative problem solvers, and have opportunities for design thinking.
Towards a common goal
To me, education is… fuelled by relationships
I am inspired by… working towards a common purpose
My favourite book… Fall of Giants, Ken Follett (Book I, in his 20th century trilogy)
My favourite author… Ken Follett
My most memorable moment… The high school graduations of my three children from TAISM
I hope…to make a difference
‘You belong here, I value you’
Peter Lee, who earned his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Gustavus Adolphus College in St Peter, Minnesota, later did his Master’s in Education from St Mary’s University in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and his Ed S in Education Leadership from Capella University in Minneapolis.
He served in a variety of schools in the United States before joining TAISM in 2006 wherein he created a school climate that promotes a feeling of community and wellness.
As noted by one of the school’s Middle School teachers, “The culture that Peter has cultivated in the Middle School at TAISM is one that is welcoming and inclusive. Every morning Peter can be seen strolling the hallways to greet each and every staff member and as many students as he can. This routine sends a clear message of ‘you belong here and I value you’ which contributes greatly to the culture of our school.”