Embarking on a professional journey with the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) School Leadership Program in South Korea this past July was an exhilarating experience that broadened my understanding of global education dynamics and paved the way for enriching collaborations. I participated in this six-day program with NASSP’s 2023 National Principal of the Year, Donna Hayward, the principal of Haddam Killingworth High School in Higganum, CT.  Because we come from different parts of the U.S., we were able to share our diverse experiences but also spotlight what we—and our principal colleagues around the country—have in common as part of NASSP. 

NASSP President-Elect Raquel Martinez, left, with National Principal of the Year Donna Hayward in Daegu, South Korea.

During my time in Daegu, I had the privilege of connecting with principals from Australia, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and of course, South Korea. This unique opportunity not only opened doors for cross-cultural exchanges but also introduced me to international organizations such as the National Education Training Institute and APEC. Learning about initiatives for principal collaboration worldwide and my deep dive into education technology and AI left an indelible mark on my perspective as an educational leader. 

At the heart of my experience, which also included meeting officials from South Korea’s Ministry of Education, was the chance to interact with principals from all over the world. The exchange of ideas, best practices, and challenges provided invaluable insights into how various education systems operate. Learning from my international peers enriched my understanding of education’s multifaceted nature and helped me appreciate the nuances of each country’s approach as well as their similar struggles in educating students post-COVID. 

Martinez speaks at the APEC School Leadership Program. 

One of the most inspiring aspects of my trip was hearing from principals about their shared passion and belief that all students could achieve. Such a belief is indeed universal, and participants were excited to leave the conference with an action plan for how they would increase student knowledge, strengthen global education, and foster collaboration within their schools.  

Participating in professional development sessions focused on technology was undoubtedly a game-changer. The integration of edtech is reshaping the way students learn and how educators teach. Exploring innovative teaching methods, personalized learning, and the ethical implications of AI in schools was not only intellectually stimulating but also highly applicable to my role as a school principal. As I reflect on this trip, I am reminded of the profound impact that international collaboration and innovative education practices can have on shaping the leaders of tomorrow. 

Learn more about the NASSP Board of Directors here

About the Author

Raquel Martinez is the president-elect of NASSP and the planning principal for Comprehensive High School #3, which will open in fall 2025 in Pasco, WA. Previously, she was the principal of Isaac Stevens Middle School.  

1 Comment

  • Will Parker says:

    So proud of the great work of leaders like you Raquel and Donna for serving your own communities and expanding your reach to leaders across the nation and the world. Well done!!

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