The Leadership Series with Dr Angela Romney

“Teacher wellbeing starts by having a school culture that is respectful, collaborative and supportive.

Dr Angela Romney – The International School of Azerbaijan

We leave the UAE this week to catch up with Dr Angela Romney at The International School of Azerbaijan in Baku. Dr Romney has been an educational leader for over 20 years and has shared her views and insights with Ralph Recruitment on new educational trends we see emerging since the pandemic and how we can promote teacher wellbeing in our schools.

What is life like as an expat in Baku?
Baku is Azerbaijan’s capital and is the largest city in the country. Its population now stands approximately 3 million, including about 12,000 expatriates. In general it is a very safe city and expats travel comfortably
throughout the city and late into the night. Popular activities include walking along the Caspian Sea, enjoying a cup of tea at one of many cafes or restaurants, touring the historical sites, or catching a cultural event. The Formula One race is also a well known event that has taken place in Baku over the last several years. Azerbaijan is a growing tourist destination with many high quality resorts and restaurants in Baku but also in the outlying regions. Two ski resorts are within a three hour drive of Baku and are popular in the winter time. Hiking and eco-tourism is a burgeoning industry. Baku has an interesting mix of Asian and European influences making it a unique and fun place to live.

Tell us a little about your school and its values.
TISA offers a wide range of academic and non-academic experiences designed to help students explore their interests, develop relevant skills, and challenge themselves in a safe and supportive learning environment. TISA provides the full International Baccalaureate curriculum with an emphasis on learning and applying the skills and characteristics within the IB Learner Profile. Our students demonstrate their learning in a variety of ways including design projects, theatre productions, athletic competitions and traditional assessments. TISA students achieve a high level of success on IB exams, earning college credit and gaining acceptance into competitive universities throughout the world. Our diverse student body representing more than 50 nations—ages 2 to 18—provides students and teachers the opportunity to learn from one another, share different perspectives, and develop a deeper respect and understanding of our global society. The TISA campus is located in a secured residential complex just twenty minutes from the heart of Baku. In addition to well resourced classrooms, TISA houses a new athletic field and complex to support our high interest in athletic programs and competitions.

How would you describe your leadership style?
As the Director/CEO of the school, I lead and guide many different aspects of the school’s operations which requires using different leadership approaches depending on the situation. However, I value servant leadership as I believe that one of the core purposes of my role is to serve the community and the school.

What do you look for when hiring new teachers and leaders?
We seek out caring and competent teachers and leaders who build strong relationships with students and help them make progress. Our teachers can collaboratively design engaging lessons that meet the needs of all the students in the class. They value inclusivity and diversity. We also want teachers who are excited about moving to Azerbaijan and interested in learning about new cultures.

What advice do you have for someone interviewing for an international teaching position?

Share your strengths but also acknowledge the areas for growth. Do some background research so that you know about the school or country where you are applying. While salary is important, pay attention to the entire package and consider how much you may be able to save.

What are the new trends in the education sector that have emerged since the pandemic?

One of the biggest issues that has emerged since the pandemic is the need for increased social and emotional support for students. We continue to adjust our response to support students with depression, anxiety, or less developed social skills due to extended time online.

Where do you see the future of education headed?
Technology has enabled our world to become ever more customized and we will see this impacting education as the demand for personalized learning experiences increases. Schools will need to adjust and provide students with the varied learning experiences both inside and outside of the school building walls that will support their personal goals. The challenge will be to personalize learning while also humanizing it so we do not simply rely on technology.

How do you promote teacher wellbeing in your school?
Teacher wellbeing starts by having a school culture that is respectful, collaborative and supportive. We provide time for teachers to collaboratively plan and participate in school wide decision-making through our School Improvement Teams. Time is key! In addition to culture, we create a fun school climate with additional activities sponsored by our staff Social Club.

What advice would you give to new teachers moving abroad?
Embrace the culture of the new country. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to a new job, new location, and new friends. Take risks and be bold, but also make time to do some familiar activities.