Friday, 8th December 2017

Once again, we participated in the annual Angkor Wat International Half Marathon. Both students and teachers participated, with 42 students and ten teachers running. The event had a carnival atmosphere and attracted runners from 71 countries from all over the world to the world famous temple complex with most of the proceeds going towards the Angkor Hospital for Children.

Students prepared for the event by joining the afternoon running club through the first semester. Their goal was to increase the distance they ran gradually so that they would be ready to complete the race.

Soth, Grade 12, who finished 64th overall out of more than 2,700 runners, set a new JPA record of 1 hour, 35 minutes and 59 seconds. He said, “I had never run 21 km in a race before and my time was a real surprise. I trained twice a week for months with the running club, and I also put in extra training sessions at home. These were my long runs and I did a full race distance the week before the event in a time of 1 hour 46 minutes.

“At the start line, I was excited and couldn’t wait to get going. At the first time check, I was just trying to keep my pace constant. At the next time checks, I tried to gradually increase my pace. Towards the end, I got a stitch and wanted to stop pushing myself, but I thought, ‘the faster I finish, then the sooner I can stop.’ So, I sprinted the last part and was spurred on by all of the cheering JPA supporters. When I crossed the line and saw my time I was stunned but, at the same time, so proud. At school this week so many people have come up and congratulated me on my time. I am hoping that whatever college I go to has a great running team as I want to get better and better.”

Many people worked hard to make the event a success; thanks to Mr. Kahan and the other teachers in the running club, Ms. Sodom for organizing the refreshments and the admin team for making sure it all went smoothly.

We will rest our legs for a while, and we look forward to next year's event. Soth, you have set the bar high.


Monday, 4th December 2017

In cooperation with Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC), our high school students and staff donated blood this week in AHC’s Blood Drive organized at our school by careers counselor, Ms. Houston. AHC is a charitable trust providing excellent health care to the children of Cambodia, and we were pleased and proud to have a chance to contribute to their work.

The medics arrived in an ambulance with their equipment and set up a registration desk, and two beds for donors. Our students assisted by registering the donors and supervising the elementary students who came to watch the process.

The medics kindly explained what was happening and how they have to make sure all blood donations are clearly labeled, screened and properly stored to keep the process as safe as possible. Students learned how blood donations are so necessary for so many patients, not least of which are victims of traffic accidents.

Some donors were a little apprehensive about the needles, but all were happy to help raise awareness and, hopefully, the donations from our area.

Ms. Houston noted, “It’s great to help our community, and it’s beneficial for the younger students to watch and learn as many of our students would like to become health care professionals.”

AHC made it very easy for us to donate by coming to collect donations right here at school, but we are reminded that it’s always possible to volunteer to give blood at the hospital any time of year.

Thank you to AHC for the great work you do and thanks to all the donors.


Monday, 27th November 2017

This week, Grade 1 students visited high school’s state-of-the-art science laboratory to conduct scientific observations using compound light microscopes. Recently, they began to study the topic of Earth Science. Understanding the properties of rocks and minerals can be a little challenging for six-year-old students so, it helps to be able to touch, feel, and examine samples as well as reading about them and looking at pictures. Visiting the lab to hold, observe, and classify specimens of obsidian, quartz, jade, gravel, and halite under a microscope and with the naked eye provided the hands-on experience essential for a deeper understanding of the subject.

High school science teacher, Mr. Kahan, welcomed everyone with an announcement that upon entering the laboratory all the little scientists would be called, Doctor, as for this activity they would be known as super geologists prompting a cheer from the class. Inside, the students were wide-eyed as they had never seen such a place filled with microscopes, skeletons, periodic tables and so much fantastic equipment. Large samples of minerals were on display, and Grade 1 teacher, Ms. Tikhonova, and Mr. Kahan identified their properties, and ways to classify them. Working in teams, students examined and took notes about their observations of the rock and mineral samples. Moving to the microscopes, they observed the structure of salt crystals in detail and made inferences about how microscopes can help scientists to learn more about the world.

Nisa, Grade 1, said, “We learned that minerals could come from volcanos. Mr. Kahan showed us some concrete, and that is not a mineral. Minerals are natural and are not man-made. Minerals are not made of plants or animals. Minerals are non-living and natural. Sometimes they look like crystals under a microscope.

“We used adjectives to describe the properties of minerals identifying their color, shape, texture, and size. My favorite thing was using the microscope to see the salt crystals. There were all kinds of shapes: hexagons, triangles, and squares; it was amazing. I want to go back and use the microscope every day – I want to see what germs look like.”

As a finale to the lesson, students watched an experiment demonstrating how minerals could be hard or soft and are able to change form. Mr. Kahan smashed a large piece of calcium-carbonate he had found while fossicking locally. He crushed the broken pieces into a powder, poured it into a graduated cylinder and slowly added vinegar. The result was the creation of carbon dioxide which was captured in a balloon attached to the top. A transfixed class took turns holding the cylinder, watching as the balloon containing the newly created gas expanded.

The young scientists in Grade 1 were delighted by the experience of visiting one of the high school science labs and cannot wait to return to conduct more research. Thanks to Ms. Tikhanova and Mr. Kahan for providing a memorable learning opportunity and inspiring young minds.


Monday, 20th November 2017

It is that time of year when we acknowledge the outstanding performance of our honor roll students. The student council was in charge of events with members taking turns to emcee. They led the school pledge, introduced each guest and made sure everything ran smoothly. After wonderful student performances, the student council and teachers presented each class with one most-improved award, and B, A, and Straight A honor roll certificates. To end the assembly, teachers took part in a quick game with the students based on times when they had had to show courage as courage is the current character trait that students across the school are learning.

In classrooms, teachers gave a short presentation, updating parents about which topics are covered this year. Teachers made time to meet parents while the students showed and tried to explain their work to their parents. Teachers and parents discussed ways that parents could assist their child’s academic performance and study habits at home. Parents asked many questions and were eager for any tips that could improve their child’s progress.

In the early years we enjoyed some great performances, as children performed song and dance routines. Pre-Kindergarten classes joined together and, dressed as sharks, sang a song, Baby Shark, that had the audience jumping and laughing along to their energetic performance. Kindergarten dressed as happy suns and performed the song, I’m So Happy, which mirrored their parents’ mood as they stood, smartphones held aloft, with excitement to get a closer view.

In the Lower School assembly, the audience swayed to the singing and dancing of Grade 2 who performed a humorous song about dealing with emotions and overcoming problems, Sad, Bad, Terrible Day, accompanied by Grade 1 teacher, Ms. Tikhonova, on guitar. Students from Grade 5 sang, You Are My Sunshine, while enthusiastically playing their ukuleles, accompanied by music teacher, Ms. Chan.

High School listened to a wonderfully eloquent and heartfelt speech from Monita, Grade 11, who described her six-week work-experience internship with Camps International, sharing how the experience had helped her to grow as a person.

Monita said, “Camps International is a global organization dedicated to ethical and sustainable school expeditions. My time volunteering for them at Beng Mealea, outside Siem Reap, turned out to be one of the most memorable times in my life. I worked with a group of 29 Irish students, mainly as a translator. I am normally a shy person, and I do not like to talk much, so it took a lot of courage for me the first time I had to talk to the whole group. As I spent more time working with them, renovating the local village school, I found myself being able to communicate more fluently. I was also given the responsibility of supervising the group work-duties; I had to learn how to assign work in a fair manner, and this task presented me with my biggest challenge and learning opportunity. One day, I had assigned tasks for the morning and was surprised when my group completed them exceptionally early. As there was still quite a lot of time left, I assigned them more tasks to do. However, this caused agitation with the group’s leader, and he insisted that they head back to camp as they had completed their allotted duties. I was unsure how to handle his strong reaction but decided to request transport for them back to camp. Afterwards, I asked the camp director, Mr. Han, about the situation and why it had happened. He explained that unlike the Cambodian custom of people working steadily to complete as much work as possible in a given time, people in some countries can work as fast as possible to allow themselves more free time. This was something I had not understood, and it was a crucial lesson and taught me how quickly a misunderstanding could occur between people from different backgrounds. I learned how important it is to communicate carefully.

“Camps International changed me because I would have never imagined myself here, giving a speech, discussing an experience that has become significant in my life.”

Thanks to the student council for organizing four, very smoothly run assemblies.

Volunteering for World Vets Project

Monday, 13th November 2017
Clockwise from top-left: World Vets; Registration for Surgery with Sareth, Reun, Monita and Sopheak; The Recovery Ward; Operations in Progress

Last weekend, the World Vets organization held their Veterinary Field Project for small animals at Wat Bo Pagoda, Siem Reap. Each year, World Vets sends a skilled team of veterinarians and technicians to execute a community-wide spay/neuter campaign as well as health consultations for dogs and cats. The goal is to control the local animal population as well as treat and prevent zoonotic diseases (diseases that can pass from animals to humans).

World Vets offered JPA students the chance to participate, and twelve volunteers from Grade 10, 11 and 12 were selected. Overall, the entire project had 40 volunteers including seven veterinarians from the U.S. and Canada. Over the course of the three-day project, World Vets spayed/neutered hundreds of animals as well as administering the rabies vaccine to hundreds more. Although de-sexing animals was the primary aim of the project, another part of the campaign was to educate people about the benefits of rabies vaccinations, following on from September’s World Rabies Day.

Sopheak, Grade 10, said, “There were many tasks for us to do and all the JPA students dived into them and did our best. The jobs we were assigned included, registration, administrative paperwork, looking after the animals, identifying and organizing animal owners, and most importantly translation as the vets and other volunteers were unable to speak Khmer. I took charge of the registration and paperwork for vaccinations and consultations for the first day and surgery on the second day. Seeing and getting to experience the work the vets do, makes one appreciate the effort that was put in by every single person there. The work the vets did will help to control some of the issues with stray animals and rabies in Cambodia.”

Event organizer, Nicole Kramer, said, “A very big thank you to the twelve students from JPA who have gained nothing but praise for their work at registration as well as with translation and beyond. They were mind-blowing, super-efficient and organized. The school and the parents can be so proud, bringing up such wonderful young inspiring Khmers leading into Cambodia’s future.”

YorngChhieng, Grade 10, said, “It was my first time seeing surgery performed on dogs and cats, and it was confronting. We also had to cope with the owner’s emotions as they were worried about their pets being in surgery. We did the best we could, and I am so pleased that we were able to help the vets perform so many treatments over the weekend.”

Well done to all the JPA volunteers and many thanks to World Vets.

Clockwise from top-left: Soka and Chanmolis Promoting Vaccinations; Vanny, Somalita and YorngChhieng talking with a vet; Monita and YorngChhieng Working with Owners; A Monk with Strays

Friday, 27th October 2017

It’s Book Week! At JPA, we love books, and we love book week. We had a fun packed week with lots of ways to celebrate the joy of books, and we ended it with an assembly celebrating outstanding readers.

Monday - Door Decorations: Students decorated their classroom door in a theme based on a book they have been reading. The more colorful and fun the better! The winning classes, selected by Ms. Norton and Mr. Wass, were Kindergarten C, Grade 1B, and Grade 5B. As a prize, they now get to choose ten new books to be added to the school library. Judge, Mr. Wass, said, “The level of work presented was outstanding. We had some tough decisions to make when choosing the winners. Students are so proud of their doors and have been asking, ‘Who won?’ all week.”

Tuesday- Rock Path: Students painted their own, individually designed rocks and then added a word of their choosing that described or inspired them. All of these colorful rocks were laid outside the library to make a bright pathway.

Wednesday- Bookmark Challenge: This was a competition to design the best bookmark. Art teacher, Ms. Kannan, selected Sreynich, Grade 5, as the winner of the competition and copies of her bookmark will be printed and given to lower school students.

Thursday- Author Investigation: Lower School classes selected an author and investigated all about them. Authors included old favorite Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein (The Giving Tree), and Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking). Students then created displays showing all of the information that they had learned about their author.

Friday- Book Week Assembly: Students and teachers came to school dressed as their favorite character. During the day, students from junior and high school visited lower school classes and read stories. In the afternoon, at the Book Week Assembly, students celebrated their love of reading and a lucky few received prizes for winning competitions.

Thanks to all teachers for their hard work and flamboyant costumes. Now let’s go read, read, read!

Door Decorations
Painting the Rock Path. Bookmark Challenge Winner, Sreynich, Grade 5
Library Read Alouds
Author Investigation. Guessing the Teachers Favorite Book
Book Week Assembly


Monday, 23rd October 2017

At JPA, we are fortunate to have highly skilled and motivated teachers from all corners of the world, including right here in Cambodia. We sat and talked with math teacher, Mr. Sokcha, who teaches pre-calculus, analytical geometry, and AP Calculus, and consistently helps his students to achieve outstanding results.

Tell me about your background growing up in Cambodia.
“I was born in Cambodia while my family was fleeing the war and we still aren't sure about the date of my birth. My story is similar to most Cambodians who lived during the 70’s and 80’s. During those troubled times, my family became refugees so, during my younger years, I was living in Kampot, and then we fled to Thailand when I was seven. After things had settled down in Cambodia, we were finally able to make the treacherous journey home and settle in Siem Reap in 1992.

“I was at school in Siem Reap from Grade 6 until the end of high school when I graduated. Back then we had to teach ourselves or go to private tutoring outside of school to learn properly, and money was always a huge problem. However, I was fortunate that most of my teachers were so gracious and kind, never charging me a single riel to sit in on their tutoring – that was amazing. I worked really hard in mathematics and science and was able to excel. A group of my friends formed a study group so we could teach ourselves and we spent all our free time studying together, and this is where I learned the most.”

Your English is perfect, how did you learn to speak so well?
“I only started learning English in Grade 6 when I started school. However, I became more serious about studying English around Grade 9. Initially, I had nowhere to learn as I could not afford lessons. So, I would go anywhere I could to find someone who would teach me for free. I went to the pagodas, and I learned from the monks, and I also met another Cambodian English teacher who donated so much of his time to me. I was fortunate to end up with many fantastic role models.

“I just had to learn the hard way. We had no radio or TV at home so I would go to my friend’s places and listen to their radios. I would sit and listen to BBC broadcasts for hours – I did not understand anything for a long time but as I listened, the words, and gradually the sentences began to make sense. Hearing things over, and over, and over again, for months and years, helps you to understand.

“In 1998, I met an Australian family who was teaching English in Cambodia for free, and I became a sponge, absorbing their free English lessons, and they would also ask me if I would just like to hang out. They shared meals with me, and I learned how to speak English in a social setting. Soon, I found that I could sit down and talk with native English speakers with ease, in a relaxed manner.”

“It did not happen easily for me after I left school. I helped my Australian friend to build a business in Cambodia, from scratch. He could not find peanut butter here, so we decided to start a company to manufacture it (I had never even heard of peanut butter, let alone tasted it). I helped build it up for two years while I studied at night. It was lots of work, but that is how I was able to earn a scholarship to a university in Thailand to study math. (Incidentally, the company has grown a lot and was voted one of the top 10 brands in Cambodia by the Ministry of Commerce.)”

Why did you choose JPA?
“In 2012 I was working in an international school in Phnom Penh. I had a friend who was at the U.S. Embassy and worked for the Peace Corps helping young volunteers settle in with their host families. He said, ‘There is this great school in Siem Reap, you should look it up.’ However, I thought he was joking – a great school in Siem Reap, come on! Then at the end of 2013, our firstborn arrived, and we decided to move back to Siem Reap to be near my family, and I needed a place to work. I remembered something about this school that my friend had mentioned. I wanted to check it out, but I could not remember the name, it had something to do with ‘Jay.’ Then I found JPA online, it looked like a fantastic school, so I came to work here and am now in my fourth year.”

What do you like about being at JPA?
“I was surprised when I came. I was amazed by the level of support that teachers could get from the administration team. Especially the resources – whatever you request they already have it or will source it. Administration also provides so much professional development, both on and off campus, with seminars and conferences. These things are so helpful for the teacher. The environment itself – it is quiet, peaceful and that is beneficial for the students, helping them to focus on their studies. The student's thirst and hunger for knowledge – they want to learn, and that is just so amazing to see. These three aspects stand out for me.”

What do you hope to achieve at JPA?
“Ever since I was in third grade, I have always wanted to teach math, and I wanted to inspire more people to like math as I think it is fundamental to everything; science, engineering – the many fields where you can use math. The end goal for me would be that more students would like mathematics and they would then pursue it in the future. When they leave for college, they can do math or something related to math. Hopefully, more students will go off to schools in the U.S., Australia or wherever the education is outstanding. Then those students can come back and help to rebuild our country.”

Does being Cambodian help you with the students?
“I do not know how our non-Cambodian teachers relate to the students here, I can only comment on my experience. However, from the moment I first walked into that classroom on the first day in 2014, I think there was a natural bond that took place as soon as I introduced myself. ‘I am Cambodian and come from Siem Reap.’ I told the students my story, and they identified with me as one of them. So for me, the transition to a new school was comfortable in that sense. I know my students, and they know me, making communication and teaching much more comfortable. The connection with the students is just natural.”

Your students AP results are well inside the top 20%, globally – how do you do it?

“The students at JPA are incredibly motivated, and when you put them into an AP class, they know that it is an honor. It is their opportunity to excel so if they can do well now, they know they can do well in college. If you do AP Calculus, you either like mathematics or you want to study science, engineering or IT, and most of my students are into that.

“If you are passionate about the course that you teach students will see that, and that is how you draw them to you. If you are willing to put yourself in their shoes – recognize that sometimes they will stumble, you need the ability to give them the grace to forgive themselves and to forgive them when they stumble and to build them up. It is so beautiful that as human beings we can give them a 2nd or 3rd chance.

“In my first year, I taught about 14 students and almost all of them got a perfect 5 in the AP exams. I think that this shows that the teachers who taught them before me did an amazing job. As a calculus teacher, I am just adding to that prior learning. When you are teaching you should inspire students and help them realize it is not just about the numbers – I like to start by spending quality time on concepts from the real world, like understanding compound interest or examining company data to see if they are honest with people. Students may not remember the dividends or integrals five years from now, but they will retain those concepts and principals.

“Towards the end of each year I always remind students, much has been invested in you, and much is expected from you. You may score a 5 or 4, and I am so proud of you for that, but I hope you are willing to apply this learning, willing to say to other students, ‘Hey, you have a chance! You can do this too.’ It is not an easy class, and sometimes you have to burn the candle at both ends with late nights and hard work, but results will come.

“We set the students up for success. Before class, we inform students about what we need from them and what they need to do as an AP student. This is not just for my class but runs across the board for all of the AP classes. We meet with them 1-on-1 on a monthly basis as they have so much going on, many things going on in the village, many things going on in the classroom that are so subtle that you can miss it during a regular class. However, sitting down and talking with them about what is going on in their life is giving them the ability to channel their emotions, whether they are happy or sad, and I do this for my regular classes as well as my AP Calculus class.”

You left Cambodia to study overseas, and this is what your students are hoping to do. What do you tell them about it?
“One thing that the seniors keep asking me, particularly now, as it’s their time to apply and plan for the future, ‘How did it happen? How did you go to Thailand to study, what did you do?’

“I tell them my story. I did college prep and study for two years after high school in conjunction with working full-time. Through my hard work, I was awarded a scholarship by an NGO to go to university in Thailand. That is where I did my mathematics major, and then I came back to Cambodia in 2005. At JPA you are in a great place as you have such an advantage over students in local schools as you know how the western education system works. You know what you need to do in order to get there, for example, you understand your test scores, standardized test scores, GPA, have the communication and relationship skills that you need to develop to be successful. All of that will serve you in the future. I tell them if they do not get to go to the school of their choice, keep trying as that is what I did. Hard work will lead to more opportunities down the track. I remind them and give them a sense of hope that if you have the will, there is always a way for them to move forward with their education.”

Thank you to Mr. Sokcha for continuing to inspire your students every day.