Howard Stribbell is Head of The International School of Macao (TIS). With a lifelong passion for education and a desire to make the world a better place, Stribbell believes that “Great teachers inspire students to go far beyond the minimum standards.” He speaks English.
Born 18 February 1974, in a trailer park in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, Stribbell comes from humble beginnings. Stribbell has 2 younger brothers. “There were hard times when we lived on hand-me-down clothes, food kitchens, social services and the welfare system,” he recalls. By the time he was 18 years old, he and his family had moved 22 times. “Moving became the metaphor of my life. I was constantly switching schools. Luckily, I excelled at school, but making friends was really hard.”
At the age of 14, he started living on his own for periods at a time. “Sometimes, I insisted that I finish the school year before moving again, so I stayed behind while they moved on.” Even as a child, Stribbell’s passion for education was evident, despite his very disjointed upbringing. He credits his teachers for inspiring and caring about him beyond the textbooks and homework.
In 1998, he got a bachelor’s degree in English Language Arts from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, where he also received a Masters of Education and Education Leadership. “At one point, I wanted to be a doctor or work in international emergency relief. But since I accelerated through high school and finished early, I didn’t take enough science classes, which precluded me from going to medical school.”
As a result, he returned to his passion for teaching. Upon graduating, Stribbell taught at a small school in Southern Alberta for eight years was passionately involved in sports, robotics and leadership.
One day, he came upon an advertisement looking for local principals to oversee Alberta’s first overseas school. “I was hoping that Macau was somewhere in the Caribbean, but in August 2006, I found out that it definitely was not,” he laughs.
Four years later after moving to Macau to work at TIS, Stribbell accepted the challenge of heading The International School of Macao. “I was in my 30s when I accepted this role. I guess people expected to see a principal with white hair,” he jokes.
Stribbell is the founder of the Canadian Overseas Schools Association. He has also served as the Supervisor for the Canadian International School of Phnom Penh in Cambodia since 2014 and has been the President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Macau since 2013. He is also owner of Warrior Fitness, a combat gym in Macau. “It’s a hobby that started three years ago and has become an obsession. I started losing weight and joined boxing and MMA fights. Sometimes I even come to school with a black eye,” he laughs.
.The TIS principal is also passionate about social media, communications and marketing. He is particularly interested in strategically using these platforms to provide education with a greater voice. He would “love to establish a network of private schools that could partner with a parallel system of non-profit schools to support and service low-income families to give back to the community.”
Having spent a decade in Macau, Stribbell sees Asia as the place to be, not only in terms of economic potential but also academic. “Parents here are willing to invest everything in their kids’ education.” With that kind of regional and cultural commitment to education and future generations, Stribbell has no plans of returning to Canada anytime soon.