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News > Alumni Spotlight Series > John and Carole Barker (Former Staff)

John and Carole Barker (Former Staff)

John and Carole were both teachers at GSIS in the Secondary and Primary department. Read below to learn what they have been up to since leaving GSIS.

Name: John Barker

Role at GSIS: Deputy Head of the English Secondary School

Years at GSIS: 6

University & Degree: Northumbria BA (Hons) English and History, Durham (PGCE), Leicester: MSc. Educational leadership

Current residence: China

Name: Carole Barker

Role at GSIS: Elementary School Teacher (Grades 1, 5, 4 and 2)

Years at GSIS: 6

University & Degree: Sunderland BA (Hons) Geography and Politics, Durham (PGCE), Liverpool MA Civic Design

Current residence: China

Could you introduce yourself briefly (background & profession)?

John and Carole: Carole and I met while studying at Durham University and then we went into teaching. We taught in Hartlepool (John) and Middlesbrough and Stockton-on Tees (Carole) in the north east of England for four years. Then we decided to explore the world of international education. It was a bit of a speculative venture, but we actually got hired at a school in Taipei, Taiwan.

Tell us about your work experience at GSIS. What were your roles? How long have you been at school?

John: In 2006 I was appointed Assistant Director of the English Secondary School and was also part of the English Student Council. I had the pleasure of working with some fantastic students and colleagues during my time at GSIS. GSIS is a really great school and I have very fond memories of my time there.

Carole: During my time at GSIS English Primary School, I worked on both the Peak and Pokfulam campuses. In the six years I took a career break since my second daughter, Kate, was born. I have been fortunate to work with many excellent teachers, including Janet Yates, Suzanne Haynes, Ms Franks, and Suzanne Thackery.

What was your most memorable moment at GSIS?

John: Too many to mention, but the best part were the experiences I had during the various Discovery Weeks (sailing with the wonderful Mr. Ellis and mixed martial arts in the mid-levels stand out). I was also lucky enough to play in the teacher rock band (Die Tension) in different locations around HK - but nowhere was it better than the Christmas bazaar. Memories to be cherished!

Carole: I also have a lot of great memories of working at GSIS. Some of my highlights are visiting Julia Donaldson during a literary festival in 1st grade, the trip to Ma On Shan with 4th grade, visiting the Olympic equestrian facilities with 5th grade, a trip to Cheung Chau and wonderful assemblies with 2nd class. I wonder if anyone remembers our swirling umbrellas and jokes ?!

What did you like best about working at GSIS?

John: The students were amazing and a pleasure to work with. I really loved my classes and they were always the highlight of my work week. I've had the opportunity to teach in both the English and German branches, and I've been fortunate to work with such a wide range of talented students. I also enjoyed working with my colleagues at school, and I fondly remember how we sat around the large table in the staff room and talked or discussed over lunch or coffee.

Carole: Working with the kids was fantastic and I learned a lot from them! They had such different interests outside of school and it was exciting to learn about their hobbies and talents beyond the classroom. I really appreciated the international character of GSIS. I've made some friends with teachers and parents. Apart from the students, teachers and parents, one of the highlights was the view from my classroom in Year 4, perhaps the best view in the world!

Where did you grow up and how was your own school days?

John: I grew up in Stockton-on-Tees in North East England. My school days were very different from those at GSIS. I went to a local comprehensive school and the quality could be improved (to say the least). I had some great individual teachers, but the training was tight, monocultural and not very challenging. It is always important to me to convey to the students that the international education they receive at schools like GSIS is a gift that should not be taken for granted. The value attached to education, internationality, languages, cultural exchange and lifelong friendships - we are all very fortunate to learn in such an environment.

Carole: I grew up in a small town in northwest England called Skelmersdale. The biggest city nearby is Liverpool, it has a huge impact on my love of football! I went to a small elementary school at the end of the street where I lived and the high school that was right next door! I loved going to school and was quite a favorite of the teachers! I remember looking at posters of far away places on the wall in geography class - maybe that influenced my travels around the world. My school days were certainly very different from those of international students, for example my eldest daughter Alice started school in first grade at GSIS and has since attended three other schools.

What have you been doing since you left GSIS?

John: After GSIS, I got my first job as headmaster in Copenhagen. After three years I moved to Munich to lead the Secondary School of the Bavarian International School and then after 6 years I moved to Beijing to become Deputy Director of Harrow Beijing. Next year I'm going back to Germany as I will take on the role of director at the International School of Hanover. I have continued the regular jog I started in HK and try to make music whenever possible and to practice my much-needed German and Chinese skills.

Carole: Like John, I have worked as a teacher in Copenhagen, Munich and Beijing since graduating from GSIS. In Munich, I particularly enjoyed working as a remedial teacher and EAL specialist. In each of the schools I have worked in since GSIS, my focus has been on environmental education. In Beijing I founded a Roots and Shoots group and had the honor of meeting my personal environmental hero, Jane Goodall. Now that my children are older, I have more time to do arts and crafts and other hobbies!

Which students or colleagues at GSIS have you stayed in contact with?

John: Facebook and social media certainly helped here and I stayed in touch with some of my former students, colleagues and parents. It was great to see how the students progressed in their academic studies and in their chosen professions. It's one of the unique rewards of a teaching career. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking to one of my former GSIS students (Vanessa Ho) about her move to international teaching, and three years ago we met Justin Wei, who was walking through the old town of Nuremberg Traveled Europe before going to Harvard. When we were in Munich, we also got into conversation with the students and teachers who took part in the annual Discovery Week trip to Bavaria.

Carole: I was able to keep in touch with some friends from GSIS and also with some parents. I was also lucky enough to meet three different groups during Discovery Week trips to Munich. It was amazing to see some of these little year 2 kids grow into lively and interesting teenagers.

Who was the biggest influence on you during your time at GSIS?

John: I learned a lot from my colleagues. I really enjoyed working with my surrogate Andrew Jones, whose wise advice I always appreciated, but if I had to name anyone, it would be Mary Peart, who was a great mentor and the epitome of calm under pressure (not that she thank me for naming it - modesty is another of her praiseworthy traits).

Carole: There are a lot of people I could identify as the greatest influence during my time at GSIS. I don't really want to single out individuals, but when I started my next door teacher, Janet Yates, was a great source of joy, energy, and advice. Coming to a new school is always a challenge and I am grateful that Janet gave me her time and expertise to help me back then. Janet retired after my first year. While we didn't work together directly, I'd also say that Suzanne (Hobin) Haynes has been a trusted friend, advisor, and great support during my GSIS years.

––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– –––––––––––––

Name: John Barker

Role at GSIS: Deputy Head of the English Secondary Department

Years at GSIS: 6

University College & Degree: Northumbria BA (Hons) English and History, Durham (PGCE), Leicester: MSc. Educational leadership

Current city of residence: China

Name: Carole Barker

Role at GSIS: Teacher in the Primary School (Years 1, 5, 4 and 2)

Years at GSIS: 6

University College & Degree: Sunderland BA (Hons) Geography and Politics, Durham (PGCE), Liverpool MA Civic Design

Current city of residence: China

Could you introduce yourself a bit (background & profession)?

John and Carole: Carole and I met whilst studying at Durham University and we then progressed into our teaching careers. We spent four years teaching in Hartlepool (John) and Middlesbrough and Stockton-on Tees (Carole) in the North East of England. We then decided that we would investigate the world of international education. It was a bit of a speculative venture but before we knew it, we were appointed to teaching roles in Taipei, Taiwan.

Tell us about your working experience at GSIS? What was your role? When did you start and when did you leave?

John: In 2006 I was appointed as the Deputy Head of the International Section and was also a member of the English Department. I had the pleasure of working with some fantastic students and colleagues throughout my time at GSIS. GSIS is a fantastic school and I have very fund memories of my time there.

Carole: I worked at both the Peak and Pokfulam campuses during my time in the International Primary Department at GSIS. There was a career break in the 6 years as my second daughter, Kate, was born. I was lucky to work alongside many excellent teachers including Janet Yates, Suzanne Haynes, Ms. Franks and Suzanne Thackery.

What was your most memorable GSIS moment?

John: Too many to mention but, if I had to narrow it down it would be the experiences that I had during the various Discovery Weeks (sailing with the wonderful Mr. Ellis, and mixed martial arts in Mid-Levels stand out). I also was lucky enough to play in the teacher rock band (Die Tension) at various venues in HK - but none better than the Christmas Bazaar. Memories to cherish!

Carole: I also have many great memories of working at GSIS. Some of my highlights include seeing Julia Donaldson during a Literary festival whilst in Year 1, outward bound in Ma On Shan with Year 4, the visit to the Olympic Equestrian facilities with Year 5 and a residential trip to Cheung Chau and wonderful assemblies with Year 2 . I wonder if anyone remembers our twirling umbrellas and jokes ?!

What did you like most about working at GSIS?

John: The students were amazing and a joy to work with. I loved the classes that I taught and invariably these were the highlights of my working week. I had the opportunity to teach in both the English Stream and the Abitur in the German Stream and I was lucky to work with such a broad range of talented students. I also enjoyed working with my colleagues at the school and have fund memories of sitting around the big table in the staff room chatting and debating over lunch or coffee.

Carole: The children were fantastic to work with and taught me a lot! They had such diverse interests outside of school and I enjoyed getting to learn about their hobbies and talents outside of the classroom. I really enjoyed the international nature of GSIS. I made some great friends with teachers and parents. Aside from the students, teachers and parents a highlight would also be the view from my Year 4 classroom, perhaps the best view in the world!

Where did you grow up and how was your schooling experience?

John: I grew up in Stockton-on-Tees in the North East of England. My schooling experience was very different from that of GSIS. I went to my local comprehensive school and the quality of the educational experience was patchy (to say the least). I did have some great individual teachers but the education was narrow, mono-cultural and there was little challenge or stretch. I am always keen to impress upon students that the international education that they receive at schools like GSIS is a gift not to be taken for granted. The value placed upon education, international mindedness, languages, cultural exchange and the lifelong friendships forged - we are all lucky to learn in such an environment.

Carole: I grew up in a small new town in the north west of England called Skelmersdale. The largest city nearby is Liverpool so that has a huge influence on my appreciation of football! I went to a small primary school at the end of the road I lived on and the secondary school that was next door! I remember enjoying school and being quite the teacher's pet! I recall looking at posters of far-away places on the wall in my Geography classroom, perhaps that has influenced my travel around the world. My education experiences were certainly very different to international students, indeed my eldest daughter Alice started at GSIS in Year 1 and has attended 3 further schools since then.

What have you been up to since leaving GSIS?

John: I took up my first Secondary Headship in Copenhagen after leaving GSIS. After three years I moved to Munich to lead the Secondary School of Bavarian International School and then, after 6 years, I moved to Beijing to become Deputy Head of Harrow Beijing. Next year we will move back to Germany as I will take up the role of Director at the International School of Hannover. I have continued the running habit that I developed in HK and I try, whenever possible, to play music and to engage in much needed practice of my German and Chinese skills.

Carole: Like John, I have had teaching jobs in Copenhagen, Munich and Beijing since leaving GSIS. I particularly enjoyed working as a learning support and EAL specialist when in Munich. I have also had a focus on environmental education in each of the schools I have worked in since GSIS. In Beijing I established a Roots and Shoots group and had the honor to meet my environmentalist hero Jane Goodall whilst in Beijing. As my children are now older I have more time to enjoy crafting and other hobbies!

Which students or staff members that you met at GSIS have you stayed in touch with?

John: Facebook and social media has certainly helped here and I have stayed in touch with quite a few of my ex-students, colleagues and parents. It has been great to see the students going from strength to strength in their academic studies and their chosen professions. That is one of the unique rewards of a teaching career. A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of having a chat with one of my former GSIS students (Vanessa Ho) about her move into the realm of international teaching and three years ago my family were wandering around the historic city of Nuremburg when we bumped into Justin Wei who was traveling around Europe before heading off to Harvard. When we were in Munich, we also got to catch up with the students and teachers who were attending the annual Discovery Week trip to Bavaria.

Carole: I have been able to keep in touch with some friends from GSIS and some parents too. I was also lucky enough to meet up with 3 separate groups during Discovery Week trips to Munich when we lived there. It was amazing to see how some of those little Year 2 children had grown up into lively and interesting teens.

Who had the greatest influence on you during your time at GSIS?

John: I learned a great deal from my colleagues at GSIS. I really enjoyed working with my fellow Deputy, Andrew Jones, whose sagely advice was always appreciated but, if you twisted my arm to single out one person, it would be Mary Peart who was a great mentor and the epitome of calm under pressure (not that she will thank me for this namecheck - modesty being another one of her laudable characteristics).

Carole: There are many people I could name as the greatest influence whilst I was at GSIS. I don't really want to pick individuals but when I first started my next-door teacher, Janet Yates, was a great source of fun, energy and advice. Starting a new school is always a challenge and I am grateful that Janet gave her time and expertise to help me at that time. Janet retired after my first year. Although we did not work directly together I would also say that Suzanne (Hobin) Haynes was a trusted friend, guide and great support during my GSIS years.

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