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Faculty A-J

Samuel Bateman

University of Wollongong

Lower School Mandarin

I have taught in internationals schools previously in Bavaria, Germany; and Beijing, China, as well as in the UK and Australia. My undergraduate degree is in Primary Teaching, my postgraduate studies encompass Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language and Asian Studies. When not in class I enjoy continuing my personal study of Mandarin and Chinese culture. Other hobbies include train travel, I have traveled the Trans-Siberian twice, as well as London-Istanbul and many lines in between. In 2014 my students had the honor of meeting Chinese President Xi Jin Ping, having written persuasive letters to the president in both English and Mandarin explaining the benefits of a visit to southern Australia. We were not only surprised to have a personal reply, but also a personal invitation to meet him after the G20 summit in Australia that year.

Sonya Bob

University of Oklahoma & Northeastern State University

Grade 3 Teacher

I was born and raised on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation, which is in South Central New Mexico in the Rocky Mountains. I graduated from Ruidoso High School and worked as a Cosmetologist for six years. I got married and moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I have been living for the past 22 years. I worked with Native American Family Services helping parents and children in the foster care program. In 1998, I decided to go to college and become a teacher. I attended Northeastern State University and graduated in 2005. I started working at Hoover Elementary School, teaching 4th grade Language Arts. In 2007, I received a Fullbright/Hayes Grant to visit China and Korea. This was a great opportunity and an amazing experience. I fell in love with China. Also in 2007, Hoover Elementary joined with The First Experimental Primary School of the Central District in ChongQing. Hoover and Renhe have had a wonderful relationship for the past 11 years, exchanging teachers and students to share education, culture, and friendship. I returned to China in 2012 as part of this exchange program. I went back to college in 2007 and received a Master’s Degree in Administration and Curriculum. I continued to teach 4th grade Language Arts and, at the same time, worked with various other grade levels to develop curriculum, testing, and expectations, to ensure student success. I also worked with Tulsa Public Schools developing curriculum for Common Core and Aspirant Leadership Academy. I love doing arts and crafts, so I decided to move to a middle/high school to teach art. I have worked to develop curriculum, grants, and motivational lessons to promote “at risk” student achievement. I teach my students that they, too, can become successful leaders. I truly enjoy working with students, and I try to encourage them every step of the way. I love to travel and meet new people. This world has so many different places to discover and explore. I try to inspire students to pursue their goals, find their destiny, and enjoy life.

Danielle Bowers

Houghton College

US English & IB English A: Language and Literature

I grew up as an American “third-culture kid” in Mali and Senegal, so I have always had a passion for teaching international students, as I am one myself. I previously taught in Baltimore, Maryland in a public middle school and in Dakar, Senegal at an international school. As a teacher, I love challenging my students to see the world around them from different perspectives, through the lens of literature. When I am not busy teaching or grading essays, I enjoy catching up on my reading, trying to train for half-marathons, writing, baking, crocheting, and playing with my dog, Lucy. I’ve enjoyed teaching at HIS and living in Hangzhou this year.

Zach Brooks

University of North Dakota

Athletics & Activities Coordinator / Aquatics / Upper School PE

Greetings HIS Dragons! I was born and raised in North Dakota and graduated from the University of North Dakota. Outside of school, my passions include swimming, reading, exercising, and anything to do with sports. On winter weekends, you will find me watching Fighting Sioux hockey. I feel my job is the best there is because I get to see energetic learners with smiling faces every day. I believe every student should be celebrated in my classroom, as success isn’t measured by how far you have gone, rather how far you have come. I am fortunate to have a career I love that enables me to pursue my passion for travel.

Paige Brooks-Cook

Spelman College & Wheelock College


I am kindergarten teacher at HIS. I was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Teaching is a profession that has been in my family for many generations, currently, both of my parents are teachers. As such, a love and respect for the field has been instilled in me from a young age. As a young adult, I worked in schools whenever I had an opportunity, working in after school programs and summer programs. After I graduated from high school, I attended Spelman College where I received a Bachelors in Economics.  Soon after, I attended Wheelock College where I received a Master's in Early Childhood Education. I have had experience teaching in preschool, kindergarten and first grade classrooms. I enjoy teaching the younger grades and love the challenge of creating an academically rigorous classroom with hands on learning and play. I see each day as an opportunity to accomplish new goals, both for my students and for myself. Outside of work I enjoy West African dance, hiking, and spending time with friends and family.

Debra Cantrell

University of North Texas


I am a school counselor with many years of experience in the public school system in Texas, USA. I first began international travel as a college student, studying abroad in Europe and travelling through Mexico. This exposure to other cultures at a critical stage in my development as a young adult had a great impact on the adult professional that I’ve become, and is the impetus behind my motivation to come to China. As a school counselor I incorporate other interests such as art, literature, movement, yoga and humor. While my Master’s degree is in Counseling, I hold a Bachelor’s in Dance with a minor in Art and Psychology and a teacher certification in English Literature. I have obtained a license to practice counseling in a therapeutic setting outside of school and use my background in body-work and training as a Somatic Experiencing (SE) counselor to counteract the stress and possible trauma that all of us encounter from time to time in our world. I feel the most important aspect of positive growth for children and their parents lies in the building of healthy and safe relationships where communication is the key factor.

Marylou Casillas

Metropolitan State University of Denver Colorado

Pre-school Teacher

Hello, my name is Marylou Casillas.  I am currently a teacher here at HIS and am originally from the Golden State of California.  I received an Elementary Teacher License from Metropolitan State University of Denver in Colorado State. Previously I have taught in Honduras where I was a 1st grade teacher at an international school.  One of the many things I enjoy about being a teacher is witnessing those moments where my students are curious and completely engaged with the task at hand. I look forward to working with my students, meeting them where they are, and helping them reach their potential.

Alexandra Chebuhar

University of Kansas

Pre-school Teacher

As someone with great enthusiasm for education and exploring the unknown, I’m thrilled to be part of the learning adventure in Hangzhou. In the last few years I’ve taught in Eastern Europe while serving in the Peace Corps, in a school for children with special needs in Ecuador, and as a resource teacher for a middle school in Chicago. For me there is no greater desire and challenge than embracing a new culture while helping guide my students to be inquisitive, creative and critical thinkers. I love trying new things and will approach any new situation with a positive attitude and a smile. In my spare time I am usually camping, reading, backpacking, traveling, cooking, hiking, enjoying live music and cycling.

Amy Darden

Brooklyn College, NY/University of West Florida, FL

Grade 4 Teacher

Hello HIS Dragons! I am originally from Daytona Beach, Florida and have taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade previously. I love to travel, and my passion is the fine arts, especially theatre. During my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, and singing/dancing around my living room. I enjoy developing students' love of reading and teaching through the arts.

Justin Deerwester

Arizona State University/Grand Canyon University

MS & US Math Teacher

Hi! I come from Phoenix, Arizona. It comes as no surprise that I fit right in when I joined the Peace Corps, spending two years teaching in Malawi, Africa sweltering in a brick and tin roof schoolhouse. Far from having the traveling adventure end, I traded the heat for rain, moving to the Netherlands to teach. It's there where I found my love of cycling! After completing my fifth year, I feel more at home at HIS and in Hangzhou. I feel serenity in life comes from pushing oneself, both mentally and physically. I enjoy playing Ultimate Frisbee, an ASA that will take place in the first and fourth quarter. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and if you see me out on the streets of Hangzhou please say hi!

Michelle Dierker

Webster University

Grade 1 Teacher

Hello, Dragon Family! My name is Michelle Dierker and I am from St. Louis, Missouri, USA. I have a true passion for working and learning alongside little ones and I am grateful for the opportunity to do so in first grade in Hangzhou!  I attended graduate school at Webster University where I received my Masters in Early Childhood Education in 2014. In previous years, I have taught second grade and I first began my teaching journey in Special Education, which still holds a very special place in my heart. While HIS is my first experience teaching internationally, I have lived abroad on the beautiful island of Guam for three years. It is a place that truly became home in my time there, and I miss the warmth and beauty of island people on a daily basis. Learning about people and their traditions from around the world is one of my favorite things and I always look forward to getting to know my students and their families. When I am not in the classroom, I can often be found exploring my surroundings with a camera in hand., traveling, and trying new things! I’m looking forward to the many adventures in learning that are to come at HIS this year! 

Yolande du Plooy

University of Pretoria (Pretoria, South Africa)

MS Social Studies

Hangzhou has been my home for the last couple of years, but I am originally from Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa. I am the second eldest of four children, and the only teacher in my family. Prior to HIS, I taught at Wahaha Bilingual School here in Hangzhou and at various schools in South Africa. I have also spent some time in the corporate world as a User Acceptance/Quality Assurance Tester. I believe that the time spent in the corporate sector, has given me a fuller range of experiences and strategies to use as a teacher. It was at one of the schools in South Africa, that I taught students from abroad for the first time and it sparked my desire to teach internationally. I took a leap of faith and traveled to the United Kingdom where I worked at various high schools as a substitute teacher. This opportunity broadened my own perspective and understandings of the world. To have lived outside my comfort zone presented the opportunity for fascinating life experiences. Aside from teaching, my other great passion in the world is to travel to historical places of which I could only read about in books when I was a student. I also enjoy reading, going to the movies, the outdoors, any form of sport for enjoyment and spending time with family and friends. My motto in life is, “the person who gets the farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare” (Dale Carnegie).

Eda Go

De La Salle University & Wheelock College

Pre-kindergarten Teacher

I am Filipino-Chinese and just another explorer on this wonderful planet called Earth. I love to travel, explore, meet new people and try different food from different places.  I have played many roles as an early childhood educator: teacher, mentor, coordinator, artist, student support, entertainer, singer, photographer, and event-planner. Wearing all these hats in one job that makes teaching and learning exciting for me. I have my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from De La Salle University, Manila and my Masters in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College, Boston. As a teacher, I feel my little Earthling students have blessed me with unexpected lessons, interesting perspectives and remarks (usually funny ones) everyday. It’s great to be part of the HIS family!

Jacob Haag

Valley City State University, North Dakota

Upper School Science

Hello, my name is Jacob Haag and I am an upper school science teacher at Hangzhou International School. I’m originally from the state of Minnesota in the United States but have spent most of my time since completing high school in the state of North Dakota. Although at the start of my college journey I was most interested in scientific research I realized the impact my teachers and professors had on my life and aspired to make a similar impression on others. My first teaching position in a small school in rural North Dakota allowed me the opportunity to teach a large variety of science courses and the freedom to extend lessons beyond the normal classroom environment. My favorite aspect of education is the ability to design new programs and provide different opportunities to students. Outside of school I enjoy reading, lifting weights, running, sports, hiking, and many other activities.

Douglas Harder

Washington State University & Eastern Washington University


My name is Doug Harder and I teach Elementary Art and ESOL at HIS.  I have taught for more than 13 years overseas.  I have also taught in Kuwait, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Russia and my previous appointment was in Shanghai.  I was born and raised in Pullman, Washington, home of Washington State University, where I completed a B.A. in Fine Arts.  My next B.A. was in Education from Eastern Washington University.  Just before moving to Hangzhou, I was on sabbatical in North Idaho on Schweitzer Mountain.

Erika Huayanca

Universidad de Santa Maria & University of Phoenix

Pre-school Teacher

Hello. My name is Erika Huayanca. I am originally from Lima, Peru. When I was in high school, my family moved to Venezuela, where I lived for the next 10 years. I earned my degree in accounting and my first job was as the business manager for a small international school in Venezuela. While working there, I met my husband. Since we decided that we wanted to travel, I went back to school and earned my Masters in early childhood education. I am very happy with the decision because I absolutely love my job as a preschool teacher. I have since taught in Honduras, Macau, and Burkina Faso. I love to collaborate with my peers and to include the arts in my classes. My hobbies include dancing, exercising, traveling, baking, and eating chocolate. My husband Mike will also be teaching at HIS and we are joined by our 10 year old son.

Veronica Jenner

Francisco Gavidia University

Pre-school Teacher

Hola! I am from El Salvador but spent most of my childhood in the USA. Although my mother tongue is Spanish I generally sound American. I returned to El Salvador 10 years later in the midst of civil war. I completed high school and university in El Salvador, married and left the country again. I miss my hometown but I would miss living abroad even more, as do many third culture kids. I have taught everything from kindergarten to grade 12, but I am a lower elementary teacher at heart. I have always had a passion for art and crafts and I usually have a couple of projects on the go at any one time. I have an interest in Chinese craft techniques. My husband teaches science in secondary and our son studies at HIS. We enjoy traveling to different countries. I feel fortunate to have visited many authentic and unspoiled spots around the world like the Mosquitia region in Honduras, Sierra Nevada in Colombia and Lake Khovsgul in Mongolia. After we left El Salvador we taught for two years in Mongolia followed by five years teaching in Sudan. Both countries are well known for their extreme weather and barren landscapes, so my heart leapt when I heard that Hangzhou enjoys four seasons and is one of the most beautiful cities in China. It is exciting to be part of the HIS community and experiencing the rich Chinese culture.

Tom Jenner

Cardiff University

Upper School Science, Biology and Environmental Systems

I love my home city of Bristol in the UK, but the draw of other cultures and my passion for wildlife has kept me away for many years. I spent nine wonderful years in El Salvador, two more in Mongolia and five in Sudan. I teach Science with a specialism in Biology and Environmental Science, and I am a strong believer in a practical hands-on approach to science, as this builds skills and improves learning through inquiry, while also making the lessons much more fun and interesting. I have been a naturalist since I was six years old and it has remained a passion throughout my life. I work as an amateur ornithologist, and I try to conduct research on little-known bird species in any country where I live: something I hope to continue around Zhejiang province. I have been a keen amateur boxer on and off for more than 30 years, though I am now too old to compete. My son is a student in lower school and my wife Veronica teaches in lower school.

Tanya Jensen

University of New Brunswick

Grade 1 Teacher

Hello! My name is Tanya Jensen and I am from Nova Scotia, Canada. I have taught various grade levels since completing my Bachelor of Education degree in 2010 and my Bachelor of Science degree in 2009. Before coming to HIS, I had an opportunity to work for the Atlantic Provinces Special Education Authority, where I worked with students who were visually impaired or hard of hearing. The experience taught me that there are many lessons and experiences that we may very well take for granted as we move along our structured paths in life. It is important to also take advantage of the unplanned, yet teachable moments that may arise on a daily basis. Outside the classroom, I enjoy traveling, listening to music and taking photos. I continue to be excited about being immersed in a culture where you are continually being exposed to new people and experiences. I look forward to another rewarding year as a member of the HIS community! Go Dragons!


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