Friday, July 12, 2024

JFK, the American School of Querétaro: where passionate teachers shine

I first arrived to Querétaro, Mexico, in 1990 from London, England. Though Querétaro is now one of the fastest-growing and modern cities in the country, at the time it was still a quite a small state capital. I initially worked in some other schools, but after a few yearsand on the recommendation of some friends, I applied for a job at the local American school, John. F. Kennedy, and was hired to teach Ecology and Geography in the high school section.

From the beginning, I could tell something was different about this place. While I’d found other private schools I taught at in the area to focus extensively on earnings and customer-satisfaction, JFK kept its focus squarely on the children: their learning and development were clearly the most important outcomes.

My colleagues’ enthusiasm for building a strong school full of happy children was clear, and I was delighted to have been accepted as part of the team. At JFK, I found the perfect balance between the ability to use my creativity in the classroom and a well-balanced, structured curriculum. While permitting teachers to “do their own thing” in the classroom always seems like a good idea and is quite popular, without a solid framework based on researched best practices, the enthusiasm and popularity of it doesn’t usually result in great academic improvement. 

JFK had clearly struck the right balance, and the success of many of our students – among them, doctors, engineers, scientists, artists, athletes, politicians, architects, and many other professionals – is a testament to our success as educators.

At JFK, I grew professionally and was honored to be a part of a community that truly cared about education. I also got to work on a beautiful open and green campus with well-behaved, respectful students and a supportive staff. The community was both supportive and international with a good mix of staff and students from both the Americas as well as other countries around the world. Our cultural differences enriched us, and I have been enjoying that companionship ever since.

That was 22 years ago, and I’ve never looked back. Now the director, I am prouder and more enthusiastic than ever about the quality of our school. JFK has grown significantly since then and is now one of the most prestigious K-12 schools in the country.

What makes JFK so special? We are an IB (International Baccalaureate) School that provides high-quality instruction from K1 to Grade 12. We are also fully bilingual and truly international (24% of our students are from outside of Mexico), well–known among schools in Mexico as the best of the best. We are dedicated to helping newly-arrived international students with special programs like “School Within a School” that help them to quickly reach the levels of English and Spanish as their peers.

To accomplish all of this, we have a unique mix of local and foreign teachers, exposing students to a myriad of ideas and ways of seeing the world and their place in it. We challenge our staff to truly the embody the adage to think global and act locally to make a positive impact on our students and our communities.

That’s the reason foreign teachers – like me – have always had a special place at JFK. As the school has grown, so has our international teaching staff. To ensure that we are able to continue attracting the best teachers, we offer housing and utilities, a travel allowance, worldwide health and life insurance, immigration, and professional development and support in addition to their regular full-time salaries.

Generations of teachers have now taught at JFK while exploring Querétaro, a fascinating combination of Mexican tradition and modern city in which you can walk in the colonial downtown to witness centuries-old traditions and nightly cumbias before taking an Uber to pop into Costco, as well as its surroundings.

Among those surroundings are San Miguel de Allende with its American Expat community, artisans and great restaurants, Tequisquiapan with its local crafts and leisurely strolls, and Bernal with its 3rd largest granite monolith in the world. México City, south of Querétaro, offers a quite long list of shopping, museums, art exhibitions, and theatre productions. To the north is the Sierra Gorda, a magical mountain range that starts in Texas and ends in southern Mexico and offers unique camping spots, beautiful lakes, and breathtaking waterfalls.

Some teachers have fallen so much in love that they’ve become locals themselves (like me!), sending their children to our school to give them the opportunity to discover and achieve the extraordinary through a world-class international education.

The mission of our school? To lead, serve and create beauty. If you would like to do us the honor of helping to carry that mission out, we would love to hear from you; please contact Dulce Rojas at [email protected].

Adrian Leece is general director of John F. Kennedy, the American School of Quéretaro.

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