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They’re scattering to places around the United States, Canada and England.

Some know exactly what career they want to pursue, while others still haven’t figured it out. For some, their time living in the Cayman Islands is coming to an end. Of the 25 graduates of the Cayman International School class of 2017 – the school’s largest graduating class to date – 24 are going to university in the fall, while the 25th will wait to start college until after a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy.

They will miss their friends, they will miss their family, but they are ready to embrace the next phase of their lives. Just hours before graduation, class valedictorian Camila Pantin was still trying to process in her mind what was about to happen.

“It still hasn’t hit me … that [Cayman] won’t be the place I’ll be living for the next few years,” she said. This autumn, Camila starts at the University of Notre Dame, where she’ll study liberal arts for the first year, with the idea of eventually entering the school’s College of Business.

Like eight of her classmates, Camila will enter university with college credits, thanks to the successful completion of Cayman International School’s IB (International Baccalaureate®) Diploma Programme, an optional, advanced curriculum. The rigorous IB Diploma Programme challenges high school students,“It was challenging and pretty hard, but it was manageable,” said class salutatorian Erik Bjerksholt. “It was stressful at times, but the teachers do a great job supporting us. They want you to do well.”

Originally from the Canary Islands, Erik is heading off to the U.K. – probably Bath – to study chemical engineering at university. He doesn’t see himself coming back to the Cayman Islands to live. “I hope to come back to visit,” he said.

Graduate Theo Nielsen will continue a family military tradition by joining the U.S. Navy. His great-grandfather fought in World War I, his grandfather in World War II and his father was a U.S. Army Ranger in the early 1980s. After spending four years in the Navy, Theo plans on attending university. He said that he thought attending CIS was a wonderful experience.

“The teachers were the best I’ve ever had,” he said. “I’ve never had such great teachers supporting me.”

Dani Scott is moving to New York City to attend The American Musical and Dramatic Academy, a college conservatory for the performing arts. Dani, who is the daughter of EY Regional Managing Partner Dan Scott, said she loves New York City and even though she grew up in a place as small as Grand Cayman, she is looking forward to living there.

In his congratulatory address to the graduates, CIS Director Jeremy Moore – known as Dr. Jeremy to his students – spoke about the tradition of the graduating class choosing a senior quote, which this year was from Louisa May Alcott: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

“This quote reflects confidence and I admire this confidence that you have as you move on to new adventures,” said Jeremy, then challenging the graduates to define their direction.

“You are not afraid of storms and you are learning to sail, but where are you steering your ship? What do you want to do?” he asked. “That may sound like a trite and tired question at first, but I don’t simply mean what profession do you want to enter into; I mean what do you want to spend your life doing? What is your purpose?”

Jeremy told the graduates that he hoped their goals were not as simple as personal wealth and he said a Harvard University survey surmised that the secret to happiness was achieved through four actions.

“Cherish your most important relationships,” he said, citing the first action. “Be a contribution – not make a contribution, but be a contribution. Remember that by helping others and helping our world, you are also helping yourself.

“Take care of yourself, your health and your well-being,” he continued. “And do more of what you’re good at and less of what you’re not so good at. You won’t be truly happy if you choose a career and a life path for the wrong reasons. You must realise your strengths and build on them and do what you enjoy.”

Whatever this very capable group of young men and women do in their future, they have already had a huge impact on the young students at CIS who look up to them as example and models. They will be missed by younger peers and teachers alike, and have set a high standard that will be hard to match.

 

Jon’s work commitments required him to be in Orlando for a week so they decided to take the opportunity to drive down as a family, celebrate the school year end and explore Disney World. It is a pretty daunting task for Nicole to attempt to manage three kids alone in the parks and pools so they invited me to come along as well. It was a wonderfully successful week largely due to Nicole’s organizational skills and attention to every little detail of the adventure. We stayed at a hotel with two pools, a lazy river and waterslide and alternated between full days in the parks and pool days at the hotel to get rested up.

The kids are at great ages for the parks with the ability and knowledge to appreciate the venues and rides and the stamina to keep on going for the entire fourteen hours we spent at the Magic Kingdom. Eli is tall enough for most rides and is fearless; never to be out-done by her brother and sister. Tower of Terror (which we did twice) and Space Mountain are joy rides for these guys. We all loved Soarin’, the 3D videos and the gentle rides through the woods of Snow White and the oceans of the Little Mermaid. You can never go wrong with a Frozen sing-along and a chance to do what snowmen do in summer.

With a full day at each of the Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, we experienced the dark side and the light side of all that Disney has to offer and it was great. We met princesses and storm troopers. Jon even managed to wrap up his work commitments in time to join us for the final day to see the kids train as young Jedi, conquer their fears and face the evil ones. What a wonderful week!

We debated long and hard about the wisdom of flying to Pasadena to attend our graduation ceremony, especially considering that the date coincided with the graduation of Steve’s CIS students. Although the grade twelves were moving on, Steve still needed to be back at work by Monday morning so it would need to be a very quick trip. In the end we decided that the ceremony represented a major accomplishment in our lives, many hours of hard work and commitment and a significant financial sacrifice so we decided to make the trip. We are glad that we did.

The 68th convocation ceremony was held in the main sanctuary of Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena with approximately 630 graduates from some thirty-six countries represented. Masters and PhD degrees were conferred on students from Fuller’s three schools, eight campuses and eighteen degree programs. It was a great joy to be able to share the day with many other grads and especially with five other members of our PACK cohort.

President Mark Labberton delivered the charge to the graduating class exhorting all in attendance the audience to live intentionally with “Ears to Hear and Eyes to See” reflecting on 2 Cor. 5:16-18 and the a vision of a new reality of who God is and our response to God’s grace and mercy. He challenged us with the need to see God and ourselves in a radically different way. How is your vision of God transformed and how will you going on gaining an ever renewed, clear, passionate understanding of this road to “utter newness” as ambassadors for Christ.

We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to stay at the guest house again and wonder the campus one more time and reflect on the ups and downs of this journey. Even managed to take a walk around the town center and a lovely dinner at our favourite Indian restaurant. By 6:15 Sunday morning we were headed back to the airport to go our separate ways: Steve back to Cayman and I to Orlando. It was well worth the trip.

 

 

Without a doubt, the last two years have been a precious gift to me. I have enjoyed the luxury of time to make the transition from SE Asia to the Caribbean and the freedom to travel and be with our kids and grandkids. Without this time to concentrate on my studies, I probably would still be at least a year away from completing my MA rather than heading off to convocation next month. This wass a demanding transition for Steve and it has been very helpful that I was free to handle things outside of work. However, that time has passed and it is time to move on.
Once the completion of my MA was in sight I began seriously praying about and exploring what that might be. I began making inquiries and submitting resumes in early October and long ago lost sight of just how many are out there. I looked at opportunities within TWR, paid positions here on the island and volunteer roles here and in other parts of the Caribbean. I even looked at taking some further education. I had some interviews but there are some unique challenges when it comes to obtaining a work permit on the island.
One of the first interviews was in October. It was a very promising one with Cayman International School but they were honest about the fact that it was a new, discretionary position and a decision to fill it would not be made until spring. It would be dependent on budget constraints, enrollment and whether there was a Caymanian candidate who could fill the position. This was always in the background but I still aggressively looked for other options in case it did not go well. It did go well, and I have been offered and accepted the position of Health Specialist at CIS.

This is a very exciting and also quite terrifying prospect. Along with the traditional school nurse responsibilities, I will be teaching Health to eight classes; three grade six, three grade seven and two grade eight. I readily admit that teaching is not something I ever envisioned myself choosing to attempt but have begun the process of shadowing some teachers, exploring curriculum and resources and planning for the school year. This will undoubtedly be the biggest learning curve I have ever faced but with God’s help, I have waded into deep waters before. I begin work on August 1st and like a teacher, I am looking forward to some summer travels before the new year starts.

Needless to say, we are  incredibly proud of all of our children and everyone of their accomplishments thrill our hearts. Over the past months we have watched in awe, but with very little actual understanding, of the work of our eldest son, Jonathan. It is best just to let him speak of this journey himself.

“The summer of Shelby is almost here. For the past 18 months Shelby has been coming together. It feels like a long time, but when you consider that this is a 1.0 product that wasn’t even imagined two years ago, and was only a crude prototype 6 months after that, its amazing how fast things have moved.

I’m in Germany this week, at Hannover Messe, the largest industry event of the year, where no less than 4 Shelby pre-release units are on the show floor, scattered among partner booths. Thanks to one of those partners, we even got a pretty cool video to show off with. We’re not quite done yet, but we’re getting close and its pretty exciting to see people’s reactions.

Shelby is something new in this space. It allows industrial automation users to bring
expectations from consumer products to their jobs. The equipment my company makes is built to last for decades — literally, 30 year old products are still running in manufacturing operations. But with all the focus on durability and reliability, there’s not much room for usability. Shelby, maybe for the first time, bends to meet the user’s needs, rather than the other way around. Its not perfect, and it has a lot of bending yet to do. But it delivers something to every customer within about 5 minutes of set-up, and it does it in a way that puts a smile on people’s faces.

But that’s not the thing I’m most proud of — Shelby is something new for its developers too. Shelby has personality, because the people who made it put some of themselves into it. This was not a top-down, Functional Specification driven product development cycle. This was a personal, iterative, lean project, designed by engineers, interface designers, and a product owner who spent his evenings writing code.

Someone once asked me “If there isn’t a requirements document, how will engineering know what to build?” Isn’t that a bizarre approach to inventing something new? Yet, that’s the norm: someone in marketing writes a requirements doc, throws it over the wall to engineering, who code what they think they’ve been asked for, throw that over the wall to QA, who test how they think its supposed to work, then someone in marketing tries to go sell the thing that’s been squeezed out of a machine like sausage. For most of that cycle, the customer is an abstract concept that the majority of the people in the process will never know, and the output is usually quite different than the person in marketing thought they had spec’ed out.

Our team is different: I’m “product management”, but I sit next to engineering and design, and “QA” is a developer on the team charged with ensuring tests can be automated and quality can be tracked through daily execution. We all sit together physically, and collaborate continuously. We’re constantly sharing what we’re doing with customers (maybe just a little bit too constantly!) who steer the direction of the development iteratively. Work is done in two week sprints that are discussed not more than two or three weeks in advance, so that we can constantly adapt to new information, better ideas, and input from the customer or the business. The approach is called “Lean Agile” and while we’re not the first development team to implement it, we’re among the early adopters in industrial automation.

To then take this very personal thing, which embodies the creativity and skill of every part of our (slightly too small) team, and deliver it to a marketing machine to be included in boilerplate messaging, with a name we didn’t get to choose (the actual name is 5 words that describe the product, but capture no one’s imagination) is more than a little frustrating. But even despite the efforts to normalize it, this thing has too much personality, and it explodes out of the box, with a cute logo and our code name getting used by customers when they ask when they can buy it, and partners making videos showing it off.

And suddenly, and finally, it has a life of its own, and it doesn’t matter that it was an uphill battle to get here, or that we had to fight the normal process, explaining over-and-over again why we were breaking so many rules or why doing something differently didn’t mean you were doing it wrong. Suddenly none of that matters, because people love it — and I don’t have to evangelize any more, because everyone wants to talk about it.
There’s work left to do before we ship our 1.0 product. Sometimes I’m not sure how we’re going to get it all done. And 1.0 is not the end of the journey — its literally the beginning. There’s a roadmap a mile long of things we wish we could have gotten done, and a vision that goes even further. But this way of doing things works: its bigger than marketing, bigger than product management, and bigger than me, because there’s a team of people who own it, and care about it, and want to make it better by listening to customers and doing the best work they can within our constraints.

This one took everything I know, and everything I’ve learned up to this point — and that wasn’t nearly enough. It needed a team of people who brought what they knew, and were willing to pour that into a little gray box that lets industrial automation customers feel like someone actually cares about making their jobs easier. It may not be a product that changes the world, but its a product that I’m awful proud of.”

We have known Matt and Kate for a number of years through music ministry and women’s retreats and early morning prayer at West London Alliance, our home church in Canada.  However over the last four or five years, we have had the joy of sharing a number of wonderful visits with them in Malaysia, Canada and even in Cambodia. We have watched them grow in their relationships with God, with each other and in parenting their children.

We rejoiced with them as they took steps of faith in serving in short-term missions and watch as God challenged their hearts more and more with an understanding of missions and service of others. They have faithfully and carefully made career and personal decisions intended to free themselves up to serve as God opens doors of opportunity. They have a very tender heart for overseas ministry but the reality is that for the time being their children still need them to be close to home.

However, God’s plans are perfect and this past December, they were offered an opportunity to take the next steps in their missions journey in the home office of SEND Canada, which is located just outside of London. In faith, Matt left his job to take on the role of Director of Operations, supervising and caring for the home office team, and overseeing the operations, technology and finances of the office. Matt’s career has prepared him well for the role and it is a great fit for Kate and the family as well.

After years of giving over their vacation time to short-terms missions, they finally were able to manage a week away and came to visit us here in Cayman. We thoroughly enjoyed hours of exploring the island, meals on the beach, a cruise across the sound, snorkeling and beach walks. Most of all, I think we enjoyed the long evening chats on our patio and leisurely breakfast visits as we shared our common passions, joys and heartaches. They even managed to experience a ten kilometer run in the tropics and Matt got in a couple of dives with our church friends. It was all good.

transcript-steve-b

The marks are in and the transcripts are out. The news is not hard to take. After four years and 18 courses, both Pam and I have our Master of Arts degrees in Global Leadership from the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary. We will not get the degree itself until convocation in June, but the transcripts came out over the weekend and we now know where we stand in regards to our results.

Yes we passed, in case you were in doubt. In my case, of the 18 courses we took I had two B pluses and one A minus. The rest were either As or A pluses. Both of those count as a 4.0 at Fuller. In sum I had a GPA of 3.87. If you were to average in the four external credit courses that we took in Malaysia It would come out to a 3.9. In percentage terms that is a 97%. I might suggest, if asked, that the B pluses had more to do with my attitude than my academics. I might have let slip on occasion that I thought the comments of teaching assistants had more to do with their obsession with border margins and pagination than intellectual content. Was their irritation evident in their assessments of my work? Possibly.

Some of you might be thinking, “What is that man on about? I would delighted with a 3.9 GPA.” However, I am a little disappointed in myself. I expected better. I would offer in defense of my grades that during these four years I held down a full time job, moving into two different and demanding full time positions over the last four years, once as head of CSR, and once into IB English, neither of which I had undertaken before. I also took and completed the Junior Admin qualifications at OISE. We also packed up and moved quite literally to the other side of the planet during this time. Then there was the small matter of supporting my wife who was gallivanting all over Southeast Asia at the time. I could go on.

But enough with the excuses. I have the degree, and some pretty decent marks in a very demanding program. There aren’t too many Master’s degrees that require 72 credit hours. We could have opted for an easier program. But easy has never really been our goal as a couple, and I am pleased with what we have accomplished in obtaining this degree. Oh yes, Pam’s grade? I should have mentioned it earlier. She had a GPA of 3.98. One A minus in 18 courses. All the rest As and A pluses. See what I am up against!

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