International Blog

Welcome to the International Blog by Gerard Gonnella '89, Director of International Student Program. 

Greetings from China

Hello from the flight deck…

Yes, it is that time of year when I travel to China to visit with our current parents and have the opportunity to meet prospective families. I look forward to sharing in person the school news that has transpired since my last visit a year ago. Our young pioneering thinkers have been busy growing their minds, experiences and relationships in our community. The maturity and understanding of this generation makes me hopeful for the future. Put aside all the political wrangling and media commentary and what it boils down to is people caring and working collaboratively with one another. 

At Wardlaw+Hartridge, students and teachers work together, side by side, to dissect issues and learning to gain a better and deeper understanding of issues and community. It is that quintessential experience to allows everyone to rise above the fray. I see every day in our classrooms, in the hallways, on our stage and on the athletics fields – STUDENTS – not international, not domestic, but students. Their ability to learn from one another and to share their cultures so effortlessly is truly transformative. I guess this is one of the reasons I enjoy making this annual trip. The opportunity to meet new families and to share the hope and what a W+H education means and how it will uplift their child to unimaginable heights is a high in itself. Did I mention how much I enjoy the food? I digress.

Convening the Beijing and Shanghai WHISPAs (Wardlaw+Hartridge International Student Parent Association) is always a wonderful experience. Taking the time to listen besides sharing news from the school is so important. I sit in awe of their confidence in their children, our school and our country to take in their most precious possessions. I am humbled by them and take this responsibility seriously. Parents, whether domestic or international, want the finest education and learning environment for their child. I am proud to represent W+H year after year to families knowing that their investment in their children and in the school will reap benefits beyond their wildest imagination.

Post blog note:

I’m now continuing my blog from the highest library in the world. I just enjoyed a successful evening with our Shanghai parents. I was joined not only by current parents but recently by parents whose child graduated from W+H. It proves my thought that joining a community like Wardlaw+Hartridge is not merely for the duration of one’s education at the school but for a lifetime connection for both the graduate and the parents.

I leave China tomorrow with great pride in both countries, parents, students, and the educational experience for the coming year. Thank you for your wonderful hospitality and most importantly your friendship and trust.

Posted by ggonnella on Wednesday November 20, 2019 at 01:26PM
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E-Mentoring Empowers Global Engagement

The theme for this month’s blog is Global Engagement. I could spend a fair amount of time highlighting examples throughout the curriculum but I would like to turn the bully pulpit over to one of our pioneering and distinguished faculty members, Dr. Olga Pagieva, who is transforming long-distance learning here at W+H. Dr. Pagieva, ELL Support Instructor, explains the newly formed E-Mentoring program that we launched just a few weeks ago.

Take it away Dr. OP!

At Wardlaw+Hartridge, a multicultural community of life-long learners, we strive to keep abreast of innovative practical approaches to meaningful global engagement. As educators in a constantly changing global society, we seek responsible learning experiences for our students. We want them to better understand the continual transformations of the world we live in. This world - multifaceted and interconnected - is becoming more and more complex.

How can students learn to become globally engaged citizens? How do we teach a sense of personal and social responsibility in a shared world? 

Clearly, there’s no simple answer. Previous experiences and acquired knowledge differ from person to person, and traditional approaches may be inefficient to fully equip our diverse student body with the skills needed to become effective and responsible global citizens. 

The International Student Program at W+H has recently launched E-Mentoring, an online learning support project that aims at empowering students with their learning. And THEIR learning starts with THEIR heritage, cultural experiences, and THEIR awareness of differences in schooling and expectations worldwide. 

To some extent, our international students are acquiring a multitude of new skills across cultural contexts and beyond the limits of their native customs, habits, and traditions. The moment they enroll in our school, these students sign up for the social, cultural, and academic responsibilities unlike those of their home countries. 

Drawing on knowledge from traditional and non-traditional educational formats, we hope that E-Mentoring can become a useful part of the W+H school fabric, supported by faculty and staff. We view it as a timely expansion of the in-house international student services, a key additional platform for a continual, skillful, and careful guidance to the international students. E-Mentoring @ W+H is extra help for the international families who are prepared to enhance the well-being of the school community while trying to figure out and map out unique paths for their children’s academic successes, social accomplishments, and responsible global citizenship.                                            

Posted by ggonnella on Thursday February 14, 2019 at 08:13AM
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Guest Blog - It Takes a Village

This month, I have asked Dr. Olga Pagieva, our new English Language Learner instructor, to write a guest blog about the English Language Learner (ELL) Mentorship at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School. Please enjoy Dr. Pagieva’s wonderful prose:

Each year The Wardlaw-Hartridge School welcomes new international students. For many of them, getting to know W-H starts in the S.E.E.D. Program, a six-week summer adventure that aims at preparing newcomers from overseas to become an integral part of a vibrant W-H community and gain a strong sense of their own personal and academic potential.

With the focus on the “whole student” that includes attending to the social, emotional, cultural, academic, and linguistic needs of every learner, the ELL Mentorship is based on the school values that are carefully examined and meaningfully incorporated into all summer activities and throughout the academic year.

Please take a look

Engaging networking of the entire school community, tailored individualized tutorials, supportive peer culture, and patient guidance help create a low-stress environment for the ELLs’ gradual English language improvement. A large number of interactions among international and domestic students and faculty, ongoing collaboration of the ELL Mentor with the International Program Director and subject teachers, and varied school experiences help establish authentic and safe academic settings for the enhanced comprehension and active, skillful use of the English language on a daily basis.

Please take a listen

Undoubtedly, a clear progression in rich, yet balanced multi-cultural understanding and tolerance towards differences benefit all students, national and international. The “It takes a village” atmosphere on campus facilitates critical thinking and problem solving, encourages the use of diverse environments and expertise beyond the classroom, and adds to our appreciation of global citizenship and the needs of future citizens. At Wardlaw-Hartridge, we pride ourselves in teaching our students to own their learning while preparing them to lead and succeed.

This holiday season, I would like to wish the whole W-H community many years of health and happiness, and thank all of you for being a part of your school, my school, our school – The Wardlaw-Hartridge School!

Posted by ggonnella on Tuesday December 20, 2016 at 08:54AM
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Greetings from the flight deck… ah, back on a flight from a visit with our international families in China.

It has become an October tradition for me to journey to China for recruitment and to visit with our international families. While the journey is long and fast paced, it is certainly rewarding for me to bring news from the East. I greatly enjoy this annual opportunity to update our parents in person on how their children are doing and to share the many happenings around the W-H campus.

The trip is important for many reasons. One parent shared an appreciation for the commitment the school shows by sending me to China every autumn. There is a sense of connection and support that is conveyed during these trips. For me, one of the most important takeaways is cultural understanding, which allows us to provide a better experience for our students while truly living our mission statement.

So many of our families open their hearts and homes, going out of their way to make sure I feel welcomed and comfortable. I always appreciate the shared stories by parents about their city or province. There is such pride in these different areas of China and I enjoy the special meals that showcase the local fare.

One of the many highlights of this year’s trip was the G20 Ceremony on West Lake in Hangzhou. Check out this short video of the performance.

While the schedule is demanding, I have great pleasure in touring this beautiful country and meeting its wonderful people. Having the opportunity to share the W-H story is a pleasure and a passion of mine. Our school has so much to offer current and future families that it is easy to provide those insights into our community.

Thank you for extending yourselves during my visit and most importantly, thank you for entrusting W-H with educating your children. Let’s stay in touch and continue our open lines of communication.

Posted by ggonnella on Wednesday November 9, 2016
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Global Connections

As I reach the cruising altitude of 39,000 feet on my journey back from meeting with our W-H  parents in China, I quickly ascertain that they are no different from our domestic parents; they share the same concerns for their child. During my nine-day, three-city visit to China I was reminded time and time again that while there might be a language barrier, the conversations with parents focus on familiar topics:

What is going on with my child?

Have they prepared enough for the SAT, ACT, TOEFL and SSAT subject tests?

Have they completed their applications and submitted the necessary forms before the deadline?

It’s exhausting just typing these concerns, let alone thinking about them daily and not being able to sit in front of a child to have the necessary face-to-face discussion about it.

Here at Wardlaw-Hartridge, we do try to engage our students and parents through a series of college workshops. As part of my trip to visit with our international parents, I spoke in great detail about our college preparation and guidance.  Most notably, our new international student college guide provides great insight in navigating the college process and selection of the right program.

Trying to alleviate the concerns all senior parents face might seem monumental, but by opening the dialog and providing grounded guidance it is obtainable. I am often asked how to get a child into a top U.S. university.  Well, you should not be asking that question when your child starts his or her senior year. That question must be asked at the start of freshman year.

Acculturation is critical. It’s important for your child to join a few clubs or an athletic team and stay with these groups as they move through high school. Moreover, gaining a leadership role in the club or on the athletic team is also important. Meshing yourself into the fabric of the school is not only critical in one’s development but lays the foundation for a lifetime connection to that institution.

Wardlaw-Hartridge and its many clubs and athletic teams provide students with many opportunities to get involved.  W-H lives its mission statement every day by providing students a 21st century education in a globally interconnected world.  Our international students and United Nation families help complete us as a community and bind us together in our efforts to put forth a community of respect and understanding.

If you have not had an opportunity, I urge you to explore our website and course offerings to see for yourself how diverse a school we really are, and not only in skin color and race, but academic offerings that help us better understand issues facing humanity in the 21st century.

Gerard Gonnella
Director of the International Student Program
WeChat – gerardg70

Posted by ggonnella on Wednesday November 11, 2015 at 09:29PM
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1295 Inman Ave,
Edison, NJ 08820
(908) 754-1882
The Wardlaw + Hartridge School is a top private and college prep school in Edison, New Jersey, which provides an independent, pioneering educational experience at the early childhood, kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school levels.
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