I interviewed Dr. Gonzalez on the 26th of August in his new role as the principal of Global Prodigy Academy. Dr. Gonzalez was the school’s previous counselor for three years after leaving for one year and now coming back as the school’s principal, and this was my interview with him.
Q: What are your goals for this semester?
A: My goals for this semester is to ensure that we (as a school) maintain a high level of morale, because I believe that the school has undergone ‘traumatic’ times and now it is time to heal. I also believe that the school is standing on the right foot to move forward and go to the next level.
Q: What is your teaching philosophy?
A: As far as my teaching philosophy is concerned, we need to do two things; emphasize student engagement. If students are engaged in their learning, then chances are the material they’re learning is going to be absorbed more easily. In other words, to not just stand in front of a class and lecture. Unless I am a fantastic lecturer, I am going to lose the students. Also, if the students are engaged, they are going to retain the material longer, past the exam, because we are not teaching to the exam. If we are teaching to the exam then we are doing the wrong thing. This is a life long learning that we hope the students are participating in. The second piece is to recognize the fact that students come to school with different learning styles. Some people are visual learners, others are auditory learners and still others are kinesthetic or active learners, and teachers need to recognize that and organize their lesson plans accordingly. Teachers need to know their students really well. I know it takes a few weeks to know what skills and deficiencies they come with, but then they need to go a step further and recognize their mode of learning. Then, they need to organize their lesson plans around the different learning styles so that every student in the class has a chance to absorb and retain the information. For example, if I am a teacher and I have a student in class who is an active learner and I’m constantly giving that student visual learning opportunities, that’s not going to maximize his or her academic potential.
Q: If there was something to learn about the school, what do you hope to learn more of?
A: I think we need to learn how to get out of the ‘survival mode’ that we are in. In other words, we need to ‘blossom’ as a school, so what I want to learn is: “How can we attract more students to GPA?” More students and more quality students. We do not have endless resources. We really need to continue to scrutinize the students who apply to GPA and ensure that they fit into the school environment so that we are able to help them reach their academic potential and move to the next level whether it is to transition from the ESL program or to apply to major universities. First of all, we need to get out of the survival mode and then move into a mode where we are thriving. I want GPA to thrive as a school so that kids in other schools can look at the achievements of GPA and say, ‘That’s a great school, I wish I could be there.’ There are other schools in Korea that have tremendous facilities and resources; they have their own football fields, courts and school cafeterias. We do not have that luxury, we need to collaborate with the university to be able to use university facilities. I believe we are starting to move on that path.
As a counselor at GPA I promoted the idea of creating innovative curriculum that would set the school apart from the other international schools in Korea. In the last year, thanks to Mr. Snowberger, we implemented new curriculum like Robotics, Graphic Design and AP Computer Science. Creating innovative curriculum will expose students to disciplines they may not have considered and it will help them reach their academic goals. This is something I support wholeheartedly. I want GPA to stand out as a school. I don’t want GPA to be an average school in Korea, Therefore, I promoted the technology courses that have now been implement. It is also important for GPA to strengthen its AP program–offer more AP courses. Research has shown that students who are exposed to in-depth studies in areas like science, mathematics, social sciences, fine arts and world languages, perform better at university. Taking the AP exam and receiving a score of 4 or 5 will enable students to receive both high school and university credit for those classes. But the key is for students to be exposed to the AP curriculum. Taking the AP test and earning a score of 4 or 5 is icing on the cake.,
After the interview, I thanked him for his time and we parted ways. Dr. Gonzalez used to teach me Spanish for two years when he was here, thus making this interview much easier and fun to do with the former Counselor and now Principal of Global Prodigy Academy.