Weekly Local Biography

  Terry Gamble

The new principal of the Chiang Mai International School (CMIS) is a Canadian, Terry Gamble. He is a man who initially wanted to be a professional ice hockey player but now has as one of his aims, “To be the best grandpa ever”!

Terry was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, in Canada, and he seemed surprised that I had actually heard of the place. Since I had a friend who worked in Kamloops in Canada, the name of Moose Jaw is relatively normal!

His father was a Navy veteran and his mother worked as a public servant for the Canadian government, so neither was a teacher to be a role model for his future profession. (It is interesting to note that his elder sister also became a teacher, so there is something in the Gamble genetic make-up.)

However, in his high school years he showed that he had a natural sporting ability and so harbored this desire to be a professional ice hockey player when he left school, but a high school counselor, a person whom Terry considered to be something of a mentor, pointed Terry in another direction. “He made me think I was a person who could make a difference in a kid’s life, as he had done with mine.”

With this in his mind, young Terry decided that teaching should be his future direction and enrolled at the University of Alberta in the Faculty of Education. Four years later he emerged with his Bachelor’s degree in Education and felt he was ready to set the schooling system on fire. He also emerged with a wife! He met Nicki, his life’s inseparable partner, who was doing an Arts program. They married and began their family.

Now needing to begin his working life, Terry took a job teaching high school in a county school. However, like most university-trained professionals he found that academia and reality do not always overlap. “I learned more in one month than I learned in four years at university,” said Terry.

After two years he could sense that he needed further experience in different levels of education and moved into the elementary school. He then continued gaining experience, and coincidentally moving up the teaching ladder, rising to principal in nine years.

He acknowledges the fact that he has had many mentors over the years who have guided him in the right direction. He was by now quite sure that being an influence of good in a child’s life was his calling, he began to think outside the confines of a one-on-one teaching situation. “I knew my path was to be a school administrator. With a classroom teacher the scope is very narrow, but as a school administrator you can have an influence over many teachers, who in turn can influence more children.”

Terry Gamble was prepared to discuss his feelings about his ability in this arena without any ‘ego’ or embarrassment. “I know this career is the place for me. I have a gift with children and can provide them with a solid role model,” he said. I asked him if he felt that this ‘gift’ was ‘God-given’ and he concurred, his religion obviously being an important part in his (and Nicki’s) life.

In his career, his advancement continued, enrolling in a Master’s program, once again through the University of Alberta. This was a very practical application of teaching skills and Terry appreciated the hands-on aspect of the program. I got the feeling that he had not forgotten the lesson that he received in his first job, where one month of hands-on was worth more than four years of lectures!

Following his Master’s he was seconded by the Alberta government to an assessment project to look at an overview of the teaching programs being used in the state, and to advise on the best curricula and changes to them. This he did for the next four years, exerting an (unseen) influence over the lives of thousands of children going through the Alberta education system.

At the conclusion of the secondment it was time for Terry and Nicki to take an overview of their own lives. Their family had grown up, Terry did not want to return to ordinary teaching, and they both liked the idea of travel. They found they had friends who had been working in an international school in Bangkok, and they suggested Terry go to the international job fair in Iowa and talk to the Bangkok people.

Despite the Bangkok school deciding not to attend the fair, Terry went anyway. He found that people with his credentials were needed in the international arena and he was given five job offers. He discussed them with Nicki over the phone and they accepted a post with the American International School in Cairo.

The overseas adventure now began in the year 2000 and Terry returned to classroom teaching for the next two years. “It was back to square one again,” said Terry, “but it was necessary for the international experience.” At the end of his contract he was asked to extend for another two years, but this time as the assistant principal.

Now ‘seasoned’ internationals, they looked around for a post in SE Asia, and Thailand was on the top of the list of preferred options. Being internet experienced, Terry began looking via the ‘net and found CMIS. He came for an interview in January and could see that this was a placement that fitted in with his own personal mores. And so he is here!

The once ice hockey player is still very involved in exercise, be that baseball, running (he’s done the Vancouver marathon), gymnasium work or golf. He aims to remain fit.

His professional aim is simple. “I strive to be the best principal I can be, with a daily impact on the school community, developing personally as an educational mentor.”

Has CMIS taken a gamble with Terry? I somehow doubt it. Welcome to Chiang Mai, Terry (and Nicki) Gamble.