ACS’s commitment to diversity is reflected both in its student body and its faculty.
This year, 135 new ACS students holding passports from 32 different countries, are joining the 1000-strong student body that includes students of 64 different nationalities.
Likewise, this year’s new group of 30 faculty members are split among Lebanese, Americans, and Latin Americans.
Despite their diverse backgrounds, the teachers all share a passion for education and praise for the ACS community and its “super-organized” Welcoming Committee, and for Lebanon’s rich and warm culture.
Newly hired High School Principal Rob Allison was stunned by the warmth and helpfulness of everyone he met in Lebanon. “Even military men carrying AK47 weapons at the airport were very helpful, friendly, and warm,” he said.
The ACS Welcoming Committee establishes contact with new hires as soon as they sign their contracts. The committee consists of an Academic Body and a Social Body whose missions are to answer the questions of new hires.
The committee also organizes a three-day orientation as soon as new hires start arriving on campus (on August 18, this year). Then throughout the year, new recruits have the opportunity to join fun activities and trips outside Beirut, such as a beach trip which took place the weekend of August 27, sight-seeing trips, wine-tasting trips etc …
Dyanne Stillman, a Grade 9-10 Drama Teacher and Grade 12 Honors English Teacher, said she was drawn to the friendly environment at ACS. “It is obvious that people enjoy their jobs,” she said.
“’If you need anything, just ask,’ has been a recurring greeting,” she added.
Stillman was also all-praise for the Welcoming Committee. “Being given an email account as soon as I was hired and being added to school mailing lists helped me understand the community more and allowed me to communicate with other members more easily,” she said. “What’s more, the committee was so thoughtful to schedule our first grocery shopping trip right after we received our first paycheck.”
The cherry on top for Stillman was when she went into her apartment for the first time and found her bed made and food in her fridge. “That was just amazing!”
What attracted Nour Arkadan, Elementary School Learning Support Teacher, to ACS was the fact that “it is a combination of the laid-back Lebanese way of life and US professionalism.”
She added that it was also “very interesting to realize that I am part of such a diverse teaching body.”
Like many others, the ACS community’s warmth captured Arkadan’s attention.
“People are very friendly,” she said. “Everyone wants to memorize your name. They say 'hi' to you in the hallways.”
Habiba Fathallah, KG1B Homeroom Teacher agreed. “You can feel the positivity everywhere, and it’s important to be working in a place where people are positive.”
Maura Sackett, a fourth grade homeroom teacher, is on her first stint outside the US. She chose ACS because she was fascinated by Lebanese culture.
“I would like to give a shout-out to the Welcoming Committee, which has been amazing and so helpful,” said Sackett. “Never once did they make us feel like it was a burden [for them to answer our questions]” she said.
Jeff Wenz, who is the school Band Director, is moving from Saudi Arabia, while his wife Lonnie Cameron, who will teach third grade, will be living abroad for the first time.
“My first thought was, ‘Beirut? No!’” he confessed. “But after coming here, I love the vibrancy of the people: Everyone is walking on the Corniche, eating, yelling, swimming, laughing … Our colleagues are very friendly, very worldly, and seemingly educationally-minded. And every meal we have had has been a new experience!”
Chilean Cristian Iga has a blood connection to the Middle East, and it is not just through his ankle tattoo that says "Free Palestine" in Arabic. “My father’s side is of Palestinian origin, and I have always wanted to come and explore my roots,” he said.
Iga will be teaching Early Years Physical Education, Middle School PE and will be a High School rugby coach.
“So far I am having a great great experience,” he said. “The school is very nice, people are very friendly. I cannot wait to meet the kids.”