Stephanie Feo Hughes: The Collaborative Teacher
Stephanie Feo Hughes


Some people realise their calling very early in life and work towards achieving their goal while also consistently trying to set a new benchmark. Such people work not only for fulfilling their passion but also for the benefit of others. This is truer in the field of education.

Stephanie Feo Hughes fits the bill and has made a significant difference in education. She is the IB Coordinator and Academic Dean at The American International School (TASIS) in England. She spent a remarkable 19 years working in education and came to international teaching quite early in her career.

In her first international school posting, she taught English in the IB Diploma Programme for the first time. This experience completely changed the way she saw teaching and it gave her a new understanding of her subject as one puzzle piece in a much larger jigsaw. It broadened her perspective and, she says, “I think I became a better, and more collaborative teacher as a result. I’ve worked in Cyprus, France, Germany, the Bahamas and in the UK, and each experience has provided a different perspective on how to approach teaching and how students learn”.

We, at The Knowledge Review, had the privilege to learn more about Stephanie’s journey and her views on education, in an interview.


What inspired you to step into the education sector?

I had some great teachers who opened up whole worlds through the study of languages and literature, and I wanted to do the same thing. At first, teaching seemed like a way to share the joys of reading, writing, and language with others. It quickly became apparent that teaching, when done right, is actually an incredibly hard job, but also one that gives you a great sense of purpose and can be so gratifying when you see students overcome an obstacle or respond to a challenge.

Who was your role model growing up? What was the greatest thing that you learned?

My parents and teachers were ideal role models, but if I had to choose one figure that stood out to me when I was growing up, I would say it was my grandfather. He lived in Italy during World War II and, finding that the fascist-controlled media was too restricted, he chose to stay informed by using a banned short-wave radio to access news broadcasts from the UK. He modelled how to trust your own judgment to do what is right, even when it comes at a risk. One day the Nazis even came looking for him at work, but he escaped thanks to a stroke of unexpected good fortune when his bicycle broke down, causing him to be late. The seemingly frustrating incident of a broken bicycle in fact, averted a crisis, serving as a reminder that a perceived obstacle can lead to a surprising opportunity.

Tell us about your institute/your association with the institute.

TASIS, The American School in England is a leading international day and boarding school in the UK for students aged three to 18. What is unique about our school is that we offer many educational pathways so that students can find the one that is right for them. There is a common belief at TASIS England that students have an innate capacity for learning that we can nurture. At TASIS, I have worked as an English teacher, IB coordinator, Academic Dean, and a member of the Curriculum Leadership Team. With these roles, I have been fortunate to be able to collaborate with colleagues across the school. At the core of each programme we offer, there is a shared focus on fostering curiosity, promoting international-mindedness, and engaging in service-learning.

What are your views regarding interactive, online educational content and how it is gradually becoming the need of the hour?

The pandemic has led to schools adapting quickly to a hybrid model of learning. This model has highlighted the flexibility of educators in finding new ways to reach students in new situations. We are learning more about the capabilities of online and hybrid models of learning and they will likely remain a part of the way we deliver education in a post-Covid world. We need to pay very careful attention to what these models can offer us and how they can enhance student learning. We also need to consider what online learning experiences have highlighted as important aspects of student welfare. The benefits of a physical campus, for example, are not easily replaced. Having a school as a physical and social space builds the sense of community and purpose that is key to students’ sense of well-being, and ensures that all students have the same resources, interactions, and opportunities to support their learning. Moving forward, we all need to find a way to maintain that sense of community and social-emotional well-being as we continue to incorporate hybrid learning into our programmes.

Education is considered as a tool of empowerment. What efforts do you and the institute take to make sure that education is provided to those who need it?

Helping students to feel confident and secure in their learning can happen on different scales. Recently, even simple steps such as lending resources to students who need them for home-based learning during the pandemic have ensured that students are able to access education effectively. At TASIS, providing student financial aid packages and scholarships have also helped open up the school to more students. Helping students be the drivers of their own learning journey is also part of our daily practice and how we run our inclusion program, so is helping students identify their needs and supporting them in individual ways. Perhaps the most empowering tool we have is teaching in a real-world context, whether local or global. When students have a sense of purpose in their learning and understand how their knowledge can be applied outside of one particular classroom, they are more confident and prepared for the next step in their learning.

What is the one thing that you would like to change in the country’s education system?

I would like to see a greater focus on transferable skills that have to do more with the students’ approach to learning and individual growth than with final examination results. As a secondary focus, I would hope to see a change in the way we view the teaching profession and highlight teachers’ roles as active members of a professional and collaborative community that is constantly growing and changing.

What advice would you give to those who want to step into the field of education?

I would say that if you are interested in education, you need to be ready to adapt and be flexible. While strong subject knowledge and an understanding of pedagogy are essential, working in education also means being able to work with each student as an individual. Learn to listen to students even if they have a small voice or do not know how to articulate exactly what they need. It is important to continue developing on your own professional learning journey, keeping in mind that each individual student may respond to a new methodology differently, and as a teacher, you will need to adapt your teaching to that.

Please share what lies ahead of you and the institute in the near future.

We are preparing for a post-Covid world in education, so we are looking to our own experiences and research to guide our next steps. We are focusing on a holistic education that includes the different approaches to learning skills, i.e., transferable skills. We are continuing to develop our curriculum in light of these changes and continue finding ways to help each individual learner acquire the skills they need within each content area. We also remain committed to providing our students with opportunities to engage with other cultures and perspectives as part of our mission to help them flourish as principled, open-minded, and compassionate members of a global community.

Recent Posts