In this episode of MEP, Stephen Dexter shares his insights on education, with his unique perspective as a former Massachusetts public school teacher and administrator, and then as headmaster of an international boarding school in Switzerland, the Leysin American School.
Stephen Dexter is a graduate of McGill University (BA), Boston College (MEd), and UMass/Boston (CAGS). Prior to his career in education, he served in Togo, West Africa for three years (1988-91) as a Peace Corps Volunteer, where he worked with remote villages on projects such as building desks for local schools. It is also where he met his wife, Stephanie.
Stephen has just wrapped up tenure at the Leysin American School, an international boarding school in Switzerland, where he has been Principal since 2009. He previously served as an administrator and teacher in American public schools, in Massachusetts since 1995.
A native of New England, Stephen lives with his wife and children in the Swiss Alps.
(02:14) Stephen’s background
(09:29) I’m interested in the travel bug that you got when you were younger. Did your parents instill this in you or did you just got curious about in your reading or your experience in general? How did you develop that travel bug? What was your parents’ background?
(12:15) I wonder if it is something you get from your environment, from your parents or people you’re around with? Or can it be cultivated, like with kids from inner cities, in disadvantaged backgrounds? They don’t have that environment. Can you cultivate that as something that’s important, to show them that there are larger opportunities to learn outside the classroom?
(14:16) Let’s talk about your experience as a teacher and administrator at Quincy, in Westwood and in Massachusetts in general. What do you bring out of the experiences you had as administrator and as a teacher in Massachusetts?
(16:44) In your experience with the boarding school, is there anything that you think the public school system in Massachusetts or in the United States, should or could take away from what you have learned in the boarding school?
(18:02) Stephen: The biggest thing is really the freedom to innovate and try new things and at the same time, risk failure, and not have to worry about that as much.
(20:58) Moving on to your international school experience in Leysin. How did the opportunity come up? Did it come to you as your next step as you were looking in your administrative career? Or did you just reach a point where you were ready to move internationally?
(23:10) Can you talk about the learning model of the international school?
(28:19) What is the typical student demographic? From a socio-economic perspective, what sorts of students are coming in there? What sorts of issues do you consider when you have these students enrolled?
(31:42) One of the things I found fascinating in our conversation is the emerging big business of international schools; of private companies or private equity buying international schools and turning a profit from that. Can you talk about the business, and what is going on in international schools there?
(36:05) What book do you most often give to people you care about?
(38:44) Do you have any favorite documentary films?
(39:57) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?
Connect with Stephen: