In the corner room on the 4th floor of D-PREP International School, a tall man with jet-black hair sits on his desk. He has suits in different colors hung behind him, ready for any occasion that might happen. He often walks around the whole building floor, assisting the middle school and high school departments and ensuring classes run smoothly.
This man is Dr. David Fitzgerald, D-PREP’s new Head of Secondary, and his mission is to change the way education is taught.
Dr. Fitzgerald, also known as Dr. Fitz, has been an educator for 25 years. He taught in California and Argentina before moving to Thailand. Throughout his years of teaching, he has seen different educational systems, including the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.
“The problem with the IB diploma, as much as it says it tries to be well-rounded, is too focused on intellectual development and leaves little room for the development of other skills that will be needed in the future. The future is going to require more than just academic knowledge,” Dr. Fitz said.
As the dean of his previous school, Dr. Fitz witnessed many emotional and mental problems that students faced. He saw how schools focused on students’ scores and not on character and leadership development. Dr. Fitz started to lose hope in how schools were run and looked internationally at how schools worldwide, especially in Thailand, operated.
“I felt that education was going the wrong direction.”
After looking for schools internationally, he came across an opening at D-PREP International School. As luck would have it, D-PREP was also seeking an experienced and capable educator to lead the school’s budding high school department.
“When I talked to Ms. Lady, it was like she was saying everything I believed in, like Life Skills and character development. She really believes in it, and from being here since July, I can see her walk the talk.”
For Dr. Fitz, it was a refreshing way to view education. Ms. Lady’s vision gave him a renewed sense of purpose, knowing that education can be done differently- that they can build a model of how education should be.
“That’s how I got here when in fact, I was close to giving up on education altogether,” he shared.
When asked about his most fulfilling moment, Dr. Fitz explained that it was when he taught AP physics.
“Early in my career, I was teaching A.P. physics at a public school in Southern California.There were 45 kids in one class. There was nothing there, no equipment, none of that fancy stuff. It’s just a room, with kids sitting on the desk, on the floor. And there was me teaching one of the most difficult subjects in high school. However, when the scores came in, we got the highest scores on the AP exams. I was so proud of them. Those kids right now are your doctors or lawyers in California. I see them on Facebook living these huge lives where they are impacting other people in the society. I can’t be more proud.”
For Dr. Fitz, that class was more than just about physics, it was a lesson on perseverance and going after one’s goals in life. They developed a thriving character development program despite all the real-life issues teenagers face. For him, teaching is a very rewarding profession.
“Education needs to be more. It needs to feed the soul.”
What is your vision for D-PREP as a member of the leadership team?
“My philosophy of education is to empower the youth to be globally minded, ethically sound leaders who create an impact upon society.
First and foremost, there’s a higher purpose behind what we do. It’s more than just the academics. It’s about the process and through the process we can develop our character. I say that because I think a lot of schools stop short with the end goal of being academic critical thinkers. But what is next? What are you going to do with these critical thinking skills? Just better yourself? Well, I guess that’s fine. And that’s what people may want for their children to better themselves. But, I find that a little bit selfish. I think there’s a higher responsibility for us to make a difference, make an impact, and make life better for those around us, whether that be our own immediate community or the world at large.
It’s good to pass out food for the homeless, but what’s causing the homelessness? Is it a lack of services, governmental, or political issue? Get to the root cause. This is what I would like to bring to D-PREP eventually. Get to the real reason for injustice. It differs from country to country, but in the world, we’ve got to get to the root to solve the problems, not just patch them with a bandaid.”
What was your biggest culture shock in Thailand?
“The moment here so far that has struck me that I was in Thailand, the most significant moment, was the Mother’s Day celebration. Just the reverence displayed- you can’t imagine that in high school, or I would not have been able to do that six months ago.
That was the cultural moment that kickstarted this, “Wow, I’m now in Bangkok.” What an honor for me to serve D-PREP and the community here and then I realized this is the place I want to be for however long I could be, establishing the place up. We’ve got to bring it together, and that means working with parents, working with different constituencies, stakeholders, and then bringing people together so that there’s a shared ownership of D-PREP.”
What do you like about Thailand?
“I like the people. You could have the best people in the world, but if you don’t have the culture, the people, and the warmth of it… it has to come to that.”
What do you like doing during your free time?
“I love restaurants and cafes. I love to exercise. You’ll find me in a cafe on the weekend or hanging out with friends.”
Could you tell us an interesting fact about you?
“Going down to my own identity, I’m half Japanese. My mom is from Japan, and my dad is Irish. It’s a blend of both cultures. One of the things about being in Asia is tapping into the Asian culture more than what I’ve been exposed to before. I’ve always been in both worlds. I’m excited about my own personal adventure with that.
An interesting fact would be that my whole family is tied up in World War 2. Both my grandfathers during the WW2, they fought each other- one for the Japanese army and one for the American army in the battle of the Coral Sea.
My mom was in Hiroshima in 1945. My other family was in Pearl Harbor. It’s a dual nature that is historically opposing. My own identity is these two sides clashing. It’s interesting to explore that, being multiracial.”