GET TO KNOW GESS – Welcome to GESS, Mr. Pauli

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Hi Mr Pauli, we are very excited to welcome you as our new principal! Could you tell us about yourself?

I am very happy to introduce myself as the new principal at GESS. Originally, I am from North Rhine-Westphalia, to be precise from Wittgenstein; the region in Germany that is known for having the most forests. I went to school there and got my Abitur (equivalent of high school diploma). I then studied social sciences and sports at the University of Cologne and the German Sport University Cologne. I completed my teacher training in Aachen, where I also subsequently studied economics alongside my work as a research assistant at the Sports University.

I took on my first teaching position at the Oberstufenzentrum Prignitz in Brandenburg. During this time, I met my wife and therefore transferred to the Kaufmännisches Oberstufenzentrum in Cottbus. Quite quickly, I became Head of Department there in 1997. In 2006, I went with my family to Hong Kong and headed the business college at the German-Swiss School for eight years. The way back to Germany led us to Karlsruhe in Baden-Württemberg. Since 2014, I have been in charge of the Walter-Eucken-Schule there; a commercial vocational school where students can earn vocational degrees as well as the Hauptschulabschluss, Realschulabschluss, Fachhochschulreife and a Bachelor Professional.

I have been married since 1996, so I will celebrate my silver wedding anniversary in Singapore. My wife Sabine is an architect. We have two children, a grown-up daughter and a mutual son. Our daughter is 39 years old and has two children. She is a chemist. Our son is 23 years old and is studying to be a primary school teacher.

Brilliant! We know you have a lot of experience as an educator and leader. Could you share about your professional journey with us?

That’s right, I have been working in schools since 1994, but my teaching career actually started earlier, in the field of sports, since I worked as a swimming and handball coach for youth and senior teams.

Since 1997, I have been active in leadership positions at schools, and usually at very large schools. In Cottbus, we had 2,900 students, and at my current school there are 1,600 students. I have taught all age groups from 9th grade onwards in all aspects of the subject economics, information processing and PE. In Karlsruhe, I have also taken on the role of managing principal for 12 vocational schools. My task is to coordinate the interests of the 12 vocational schools and to represent them in dealings with the administration and government.

In total, I have worked in three different German states and 8 years in Hong Kong and can look back on 24 years of management experience.

We can imagine free time is hard to come by when someone is in a role like yours! But when you do get some time off, what are you most likely to be doing?

You are right, sometimes I would like to have a little more free time, but I really enjoy my job and am happy to work hard for it.

As I mentioned earlier, I also studied physical education, so my free time is dominated by sports. I enjoy cycling very much and do so often together with my wife. In addition, we train for fun runs over 10 km. During winter we like to go cross-country skiing and we also like to go ballroom dancing together.

We are really keen to know: when did the first spark of desire to become an educator start?

I knew very early on that I wanted to become a teacher. In fact, this career aspiration surfaced in primary school, in the 4th grade, and has stayed with me ever since. My parents’ house was right next to my primary school. I went there voluntarily in the afternoons (at that time we only had classes in the mornings) and engaged in pretend play with my classmates.

My parents have always supported me, even though job market for teachers was very tough at the time I started my studies. However, I am truly glad that I have this profession. Even though I am older now, it is still fun to work together with young people and prepare them for their future tasks and life.

And throughout your long career as an educator, you must have had some really great memories. Can we hear about some of them?

As teachers and also as principals, we work with people. In this line of work, we can witness many beautiful things. I have fond memories of my time in Hong Kong and I am still in contact with many former students via LinkedIn and also in person. I follow their careers and some of them have become very successful and esteemed and I am also a little proud that I contributed a small part to their successful careers as head of the business college and also as a teacher. Another memory I would like to share is from my time in Hong Kong. Due to a long-term illness, a colleague at the school dropped out. Since we could not get a replacement at short notice, I as the Head of the School took over the lessons completely so that no classes had to be cancelled. In this emergency situation, I was absolutely impressed by my students. They all pulled together and worked with an amount of discipline that I had not seen before. It was proof again that I can absolutely rely on my students.

Do you have a personal philosophy as an educator that you live by?

My personal philosophy is actually quite simple: think positive! There are always difficult situations in life that you have to get through. When I then think about what is actually the worst thing that can happen, it often becomes clear very quickly that even the worst is not that bad.

We are really excited to welcome you and we would love to know what you are most looking forward to about joining GESS as our new Principal?

I am particularly looking forward to getting to know my new colleagues so that I can continue to develop GESS positively with them for as long as possible. In my long interview process, I have already had the opportunity to get to know some teachers and administrative staff through many conversations. This was one of the reasons why I was happy to say yes when the board offered me the job.

And now for a last question, you will be moving to a city with a really exciting food scene! Is there a dish you simply cannot wait to try?

There is no one dish I am looking forward to, but rather I am looking forward to trying out food in hawker centres in particular.

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