The first lay head of Seisen International School discusses new developments on campus.
Nuns from the order of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus first came to Japan in 1934, and founded what would become Seisen International School in 1949. The school moved out to the neighborhood of Yoga in Setagaya in 1972, and throughout their history, the Sisters who have lived and worked on campus are a part of Seisen’s lifeblood. Five sisters still live on campus, including the 94-year-old Sister Asunción, who was instrumental in founding the new Yoga campus some four decades earlier.
So how does Colette Rogers, the new Head of School at Seisen—and the first layperson to hold the position—feel? “Absolutely no pressure,” Rogers says, laughing. She is taking up the role held for the last three years by Sister Margaret Scott, who had overseen the institution of a Day of Service project and a new house system. Rogers herself has been with Seisen for many years: this is her second stint with the school, and she has held many positions over the years. She has been an English teacher, a school counselor, and assistant principal before taking the head position at Seisen this year.
Weekender had the chance last month to visit Rogers to talk about the many changes she has seen at the school during her time at the school and what she is hoping to achieve with Seisen in the years to come. One of the things that she has found remarkable to witness since she has been there is an impressive diversification in the school’s demographics, for both students and teachers: “We’re not just the European and American population, and we’re embracing more and more cultures. On the teaching side, this year alone we have brought in new faculty members from places like Uganda, Mauritius, the Philippines, and New Zealand, who are bringing in new perspectives, a lot of experience from other schools, and are enriching the education.”
These days, Rogers says, the Seisen community is benefiting from a learning community that involves the active participation of parents, and a thriving alumni association. One of Rogers’ former students, a Swedish graduate who is now a heart surgeon, gave a group of high-schoolers an object lesson in the idea that career success doesn’t always need to follow a clear path. This particular alumna’s road to becoming a physician included time in the Swedish armed forces and Russian studies. In addition to introducing girls to a variety of career paths, Rogers hopes that this growing alumni network can also serve as an informal support system for Seisen grads who go to university overseas.
The school is excited to be building from recent developments—like the Day of Service, which is held in honor of St. Raphaela, the founder of the Handmaids Order, and the house system (yes, a bit like “Harry Potter”)—but the core of the school’s mission is to provide girls with a quality education. The curriculum is based on the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP) in high school and the Primary Years Programme in elementary school, but given Seisen’s religious background, a prominent aspect of education at the school focuses on compassion and inspiring students to look out at the world as a place they can try to change for the better.
The student body is only about 25 percent Catholic, but Rogers believes that the traditions and teachings offered at Seisen are ones that “give the girls a voice and an awareness that there is a moral compass in life to guide them—whether it’s the Catholic one, or the Buddhist tradition or any other—there are guidelines out there that you can choose from in order to lead your life.”
As the school year steps into full swing at Seisen, Rogers acknowledges that it will be a busy year, filled with new developments and celebrations of what gives the school its unique identity: “Steeped in tradition that guides us as we move the school forward.”
Seisen International School
A Catholic school located in Setagaya
Offers all-girls’ education for Grades 1–12 (co-ed kindergarten, ages 2–6)
Inspires girls to develop a strong sense of self-respect, dignity, and compassion
For more information please visit the official website: www.seisen.com