Want to know more about Chatsworth International School? Head of Schools Tyler Sherwood is his students’ biggest fan; here’s what makes him tick (and what makes Chatsworth special)
A student’s experience at school often begins with the tone set by the Head of School. We chat with Tyler Sherwood, Principal and Head of Schools at Chatsworth International School, to find out more about his background and what makes Chatsworth such a special place (spoiler alert: he’s incredibly proud of its students and strong sense of community!).
What is your background and training?
I grew up in Canada and all of my degrees, thus far, are from Canada. My Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts degrees are from the University of New Brunswick, my International Reading Specialist certification was done through Queen’s University and my Masters in Education is from the University of British Columbia.
I am an early years teacher at heart, so it was fitting that this was where I started my career. After working for a short time in Canada, I moved overseas to work with two different Canadian school programmes in China (Beijing and Suzhou). I moved to Singapore in 2004 and have proudly been at Chatsworth ever since. During my time at Chatsworth, I’ve been very fortunate to take part in a wide range of professional development opportunities, such as my completion of the Principal’s Training Center (PTC) certificate in London and, in 2015, I was awarded a fully funded fellowship to the Klingenstein Heads of School Programme at Columbia University, New York, along with 19 other heads from around the globe — it was truly a remarkable experience. So while my formal schooling comes from Canada, I am ‘Internationally educated’ in terms of my experience.
What sets the Chatsworth Schools apart from other international schools in Singapore?
Parents and students are spoiled for choice in Singapore with so many excellent schools to choose from. I grew up in smaller cities that felt focused on the spirit of the community and I believe this is what sets Chatsworth apart from many schools: that similar focus on spirit and community. I’ve often described Chatsworth as a ‘real’ school – a strong community school that you would hope to find in any city your family might relocate to. We don’t pretend to make claims that we will create children who are the next Elon Musk or Lionel Messi. Instead, we work on bringing out the potential that is already inside of every child; we really believe this.
Our students come to us already filled with a variety of skills and passions. What we aim to do is provide them with a guiding hand and opportunities to help them realise their dreams. In truth, if you want to see what sets us apart, come spend some time with us and meet our students — they’re the secret that makes Chatsworth who we are.
You’ve been at Chatsworth for 14 years, what changes have you seen it undergo in that time? What changes do you hope to see going forward?
I arrived at Chatsworth in 2004 and in that time I have seen incredible growth and development. We have expanded to four campuses in Singapore; two international campuses and two locally registered preschools. We have been an IB World School since 2004 and offer all three programmes of IBPYP, IBMYP and IBDP.
In August 2018, we will open a new K-12 campus in Bukit Timah with full facilities and increased opportunities for our students. We have recently expanded to Hong Kong where we are partnered with a local education group and opened our first joint-venture kindergarten. We continue to receive accolades from our accrediting bodies and we continue to do all of this, and more, while keeping our campuses small and our tuition fees some of the lowest in Singapore – not an easy feat with the continued rising costs here.
As more families in Singapore lose expatriate packages and find themselves paying their own school fees, we feel we are going to continue to see strong enrollment at Chatsworth as parents realise that you don’t need to pay a fortune to have an academically strong school with an emphasis on character development.
Is there a typical Chatsworth student? What makes your students special?
Our students are fantastic young people and are very grounded members of our community. They have heart. Due to the smaller size of the school, there are some years we barely have enough students to make up certain sporting teams but they continue to win medals because of determination, hard work and spirit.
We often have other school coaches email us to tell us how our players handled themselves with good sportsmanship during a game. We receive emails from the public to tell us that a student in uniform helped older people onto a public bus, or stood up to offer them their seat on public transport. There is a very well known story about a tree branch that fell across Orchard Road during a rainstorm and photos were posted online of our students (in uniform) dragging it out of the roadway. We are really proud of these moments. If there is a ‘typical’ Chatsworth student, it is a student who is not defined by a grade or number.
We accept all students, and we are focused on working with them to find their individual passions and personal drive, whatever that may be. Our students organise local events to raise awareness for charities, have been invited to sing at Carnegie Hall, won local film festival competitions, win regional motorsport championships, are published authors, play for top local sporting teams, and enjoy hanging out on weekends with their friends. There really isn’t anything ‘typical’ when it comes to Chatsworth students.
What made you want to become a principal?
In all honesty, the path of principal found me, not the other way around. I was happy in the classroom and working with my students. Opportunities presented themselves and my school principals and directors continued to encourage me to move forward in leadership roles as I suppose they felt my style of doing things should be shared in a way that could impact more than just the kids in my classroom.
In the classroom I had an opportunity to impact the lives of my students but as a principal I have an opportunity to impact the entire community. My strength is not my knowledge as a principal but in leveraging the knowledge, skill and experience of our community to provide the best for our students.
What has been your most memorable experience at Chatsworth so far?
I’ll tell you a story that I tell when we are recruiting and presenting to candidates at job fairs. A few years ago a teacher at our East Campus sent me a photo of my son, Myles (he was in K2 at the time) speaking to our Maintenance Supervisor, Mr. Manan. Mr. Manan was sitting on the ground so that he was eye-level with my son. I’ve no idea what they were talking about and the teacher sent me the photo because she thought it was a nice photo of my son, and while it is a lovely photo, to me it’s so much more than that.
This photo sums up what we work so hard to create and maintain at our Chatsworth campuses. Our students do not see separation and we, as a school, encourage community. As far as the students are concerned, Mr. Manan, or anyone working within the school, is a teacher and a learner. We encourage all staff to interact with students and expect them to take the time to enter into discussion, ask students how and what they are doing, or stop for five minutes and play foursquare. When was the last time you were in a school where you saw the maintenance supervisor, guard, cleaner or office clerk engaged in conversation with the students? This is our norm. This is one of the many things that makes Chatsworth special.
What is one fun fact about you?
A fun fact about me? I work hard but when I get home and it’s time to relax, the kids are in bed, and I can put my feet up for a little while, I turn on one of my many gaming systems. I grew up with videogames and I don’t see myself ever ‘growing out’ of them anytime soon. I am fortunate enough to have an XBox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch so I get to play all of the gaming exclusives when I have time. Students are always surprised to learn that I play videogames, and if you stop by my office, you might recognise a few gaming references on my desk or hanging on my walls. My reflexes have slowed a little over the years but the puzzles and quick thinking strategies of today’s games still keep me on my toes. It’s also a great way to connect with students.
Thank you for your time, Tyler! Families can now enjoy a waiver of the application fee and 25% off the confirmation fee for enrolling into Chatsworth Bukit Timah! This enrolment offer ends 31 July 2018. To sign up for a campus tour on Saturday 9 June, contact the admissions office.