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YIS Class of 2016 Part of History in Myanmar

By Jeff Johanson
YIS Class of 2016 Part of History in Myanmar

“If I advocate cautious optimism it is not because I do not have faith in the future, but because I do not want to encourage blind faith.” --Aung San Suu Kyi
Proud moments in careers in education will inevitably involve the successes of those we serve—the students we entered into the profession for in the first place, and whose talents and potential bring us back to our schools each day. I’m fortunate, indeed, to have shared such proud moments with two colleagues last spring, rejoicing in our students’ talents and potential, and celebrating the time in history for Myanmar and our students’ future roles in advancing their country’s status. Though Yangon International School (YIS) is not an entirely Myanmar student population, the majority of our Class of 2016 is—and they’re ready to succeed and lead.
The senior class at YIS embarked upon the school’s annual trip to Naypyitaw and Parliament on March 29, leaving school at 09:00. The six-hour bus ride is always a chance for the Grade 12’s to bond further in their senior year, but in this case with the purpose of being part of history—attendance at Parliament on inauguration day of the newly and democratically elected president of the country. Fellow chaperons, Bill Costello, Wendy Krakauer, and I got to be part of this great experience—the chance of a lifetime to witness history in the making, and to share that with our students.
For AP English teacher, Bill Costello, the experience went beyond the historical moment. “My students translated the language of the swearing in for me, but more significantly their enthusiasm and pride gave witness to the momentous nature of the event. Though only a symbolic ritual, it was hard not to feel great hope for the future of this proud, nascent democratic nation.”
Bill’s wife, Wendy Krakauer, our secondary school guidance counselor, had similar thoughts and feelings—especially as related to our interaction with Myanmar nationals who had come in celebration. Wendy states, “The other people in attendance were happy to translate to us three lone Westerners, we got to cheer when they cheered, and we basked in the glow of not only their camaraderie, but in the glow of history being made. It was an unforgettable experience.”
For me, final thoughts from one of our beloved 12th Grade students, Shwe Yi Aung, bring home not only the historical importance of the day, but that of the future for her beloved home country. Shwe says, “As a citizen who actively voted, I’m confident that the installation of the new president will bring about change for the better. I can’t possibly fathom whether there will be reforms in education, change in market economy, or other aspects of day to day life in Myanmar, but that thinking still brings to me a glimmer of hope for a Golden Age, of the Golden Land.”
What a time to be in Myanmar; what a time to be an educator!
Jeff Johanson is Secondary School Principal at Yangon International School,

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