Weekly Local Biography

  Ajarn Supaporn Yanasarn

The director of Chiang Mai International School (CMIS) is a small effervescent Thai lady, Supaporn Yanasarn. She is a woman who is proud of her achievements, but has a simple humility, having committed her life to her God. She speaks fervently of the love in her heart, the love of her Lord Jesus, and a love that she wants to spread to the children under her educational umbrella. I should also point out that the love she speaks of is non-sectarian.

That Supaporn should become a teacher would come as no shock for anyone who knows her family. Her grandparents were teachers, as were her parents. She has two siblings, and both are also teachers. Pedagogy runs in the genes.

However, something else runs in her genetic code. Both her grandparents were pastors in their church and her mother also taught in Sunday school. Supaporn would go with her and help with the lessons. “I though it was so-o-o-o much fun, especially the scriptures,” said Supaporn, eyes lighting up with the memories.

When she was 14 years old she said she experienced her Lord and decided to commit her life to her God. “The Lord touched me and has been there for every step to university and beyond,” she said simply. Committed people do not need to produce detailed explanations.

She finished her schooling at the Prince Royal’s College with grades good enough to take her on to university. She went to Chiang Mai University (CMU) and describes herself as a pioneer. “This was the first year of Education and I majored in English and minored in teaching Thai.” This took four years of her life, but there was no mistaking her enthusiasm that was still there for the undergraduate experience which culminated in her Bachelor of Arts (Education).

Her choice of English as her major was also interesting, stemming from classroom experiences with Christian Volunteer Teachers (CVT’s in the ed bizz). As a young teenager she was going through the usual self-doubts and introspection. The middle child in her family, she felt that she was the least loved, as all ‘Wednesday’s children’ do, as she put it. The CVT’s understood what she was going through and were supportive of this young teenager, and one day in Grade 10 she was invited to the front of the school room to explain an English phrase on the blackboard. She was warmly applauded by her school classmates (undoubtedly with the backing of the CVT) and made up her mind there and then on another future aspect of her life. “I wanted to be an English teacher!”

With her new degree and confidence from the love of her Lord in her heart, she returned to her alma mater, to join the teaching staff at Prince Royal’s College. There she taught both English and Thai for a period of 18 years, but with English predominating.

During this time at Prince Royal’s College she also took another very positive step forwards in the development of her own faith. She enrolled at McGilvary Faculty of Theology at Payap University. This was two years part-time and then she took a break from Prince Royal’s College to study Theology full time for another two years. This gave her a Master’s degree in Divinity, graduating in 1990, and she accepted the position as chaplain of the school, in addition to her becoming the assistant director for student affairs.

This was quite a commitment. She had become the minister for her Lord for 6,000 students and 300 teachers, of which the vast majority were non-Christians. After all, this is a predominantly Buddhist country. But for Supaporn, this did not matter. “I have love in my heart. Love means loyalty to the Lord. Love means an opportunity to share values. Love gives an opportunity to learn. I just work together with all people for God’s purpose.”

Supaporn certainly took the opportunity to learn herself, taking many training courses over the next few years, including attendance at the 11th biennial conference on the theme Counselling for Human Development in the 21st Century, going on an exchange program with the Hopkins Education Association in Minnesota, USA and completed the Christian Education study and visited churches in Korea, taking part in the Uniting Church in Australia’s South Australian Synod and even the Amsterdam conference of preaching evangelists run by the famous Billy Graham organization, in the year 2000. She was also the vice-president of the Christian Women’s department of the Church of Christ in Thailand, visiting Burma (Myanmar), USA, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Taiwan and Melbourne, Australia. Supaporn’s Lord has certainly given her a travel itinerary that any seasoned traveller would be proud of!

By the turn of the century, it looked as if Supaporn was a fixture at Prince Royal’s College, studying and receiving her Master of Arts degree in Education Administration in addition to all her other academic qualifications. However, that was not to be, as she was approached by CMIS to take over as director of the school. She agonized over this decision, and then did what would be expected of a committed Christian - she prayed to her God. She prayed for five months until she received her sign. Her ability to teach languages was her personal gift from her God, and she believed this was something she should take to CMIS and the decision was made. She went into training for one year and has now taken on the onerous task of director.

With CMIS celebrating 50 years, Supaporn wants to unite her students who come from 23 different countries. “You integrate 23 nationalities from the heart, not from the head,” said Supaporn. “To make this happen, I need the right teachers, be they Christian or Buddhist, but teachers who understand the mission of the school.”

She has six years before she retires, but I have the decided feeling that Supaporn, with the help from her God, will make an indelible mark at CMIS.