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The Totem


Canadian International School of Hong Kong

Alumni Magazine November 2017

EVENTS Summer Homecoming 2017 We were pleased to see so many alumni returning to CDNIS for our Summer Homecoming event, which was a lovely occasion. Former students and their families enjoyed a casual BBQ by Big Bite while listening to talks by alumni, current teachers and staff. Many alumni enjoyed a tour of the school, allowing everyone to see the new features of the campus. There was also friendly Bubble Soccer, 5 a side football and volleyball matches played throughout the day. Some alumni were having so much fun that they didn’t want to leave! Many thanks to Denise and Claudia Chan ‘06 who are featured alumni in this issue, for providing the lucky draw prizes through Chubby Charlie. The help of Benjamin Li ’17, with producing the video recap of the event was also much appreciated.

Watch the highlights from Summer Homecoming

You are invited to

WINTER HOMECOMING 2017 6:30-9:30pm, December 21, 2017 (Thursday) Billidart, 7-8/F, Kwan Chart Tower, 6 Tonnochy Road, Wan Chai

Alan Dick Memorial Day 2018

Volunteer at CDNIS Higher Education Fair

Please save the date for Alan Dick Memorial Day, which will be on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. We would love to see any alumni who would like to commemorate the life of our former Principal of the Lower School. Remember to wear pink!

Our annual CDNIS Higher Education Fair will be held on Friday, March 16, 2018. If you would like to represent the university you went to in an alumni capacity, chatting to current students and parents about your experiences there, please get in touch with the Guidance Office.

Edinburgh Alumni Dinner Upper School Principal Mr. Tim Kaiser and Guidance Counsellor Ms. Maegan Robichaud hosted a dinner for CDNIS alumni in Edinburgh, Scotland, while attending the CIS Forum on International Admissions. They enjoyed catching up with members of the classes of ’10 and ‘14 in the rich baroque surroundings of Witchery by Edinburgh Castle. Alumni flying their CDNIS flags are: Rachel Lee ‘14, Christella Cheng ‘14, Chloe Chan ‘10, Ruby Chow ‘10

Alumni Mentorship Many thanks to the alumni who have mentored current CDNIS students through our Transitions programme. They have included Tim Lam ’12, who has shared his experiences in the legal field, and Chris Shum ‘13, who talked about his time at Brown studying computer science. If you are interested in sharing your experiences with current students, please contact our Guidance Office.


Interim Head of School Mr. David Baird will be in London in mid-January, and will be hosting a dinner for alumni on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.

nner Januar y 2 n Alumni Di 018 Londo

For further details and to RSVP, please look out for updates on the CDNIS alumni Facebook page, or email the alumni team.

Interim Head of School David Baird’s Experience with Alumni

It is my great pleasure to introduce to you this issue of The Totem. We are privileged to have such a thriving group of former students, and I do hope that you will enjoy reading our features. From Sherman Mak’s exploits in the film industry, to Raz Gal-or and Tyler Schamlenberg’s adventures in China and Claudia and Denise Chan’s confectionary business, these are just a few of the success stories of our alumni which you will read about.

In June, the CDNIS alumni family got a little bit bigger as we welcomed 136 members from the Class of 2017. It was wonderful to celebrate these graduates as they embarked on their next journey. It was also fantastic to welcome back so many alumni at our Summer Homecoming event, which was a resounding success. I was honoured to show many of our former students around the campus and show off the many changes which have taken place over the last few years, including the Science and Innovation Lab and 3/F Science Corridor. During the campus tour, we also explored the Leo Lee Arts Centre, Green Roof and swimming pool, areas of the campus which have been in use for some time, but were not around when some of our alumni were students. I was also able to provide a sneak peek at other planned campus improvements which will happen over the coming months. Something else that is sure to be a huge hit with our alumni is the bespoke CDNIS Monopoly game. This limited edition game includes special CDNIS tokens including a totem pole and Timba, and features various campus facilities. If you would like to buy a game, please visit this link to make your purchase as they are sure to sell out quickly! Further details can be found on Page 5. I’m always keen to have CDNIS alumni who are not plugged into the school community to reconnect with us. There are so many ways to get involved – from joining us as we celebrate Alan Dick Day, to offering to share your university experience with a soon-to-be CDNIS graduate, to hosting even a small alumni gathering in your current city of residence – reach out to us and ask how you can get involved. I love to hear how our alumni are doing, so please stay in touch and share your stories. I also hope that many of you will also be able to join our Winter Homecoming event on Thursday, December 21. You will find all the details on Page 1 of this magazine. I am going to be in London for a staff recruiting fair in mid-January. I plan to host a dinner for alumni on Wednesday, January 17, and would love to meet alumni who are studying or working in London. Sincerely,

David Baird Interim Head of School

What are they up to now? Many thanks to the alumni that have returned to serve at CDNIS in various capacities. We are grateful that they contribute to good governance at our school.

Jeffrey Ng ‘00 - BoG, member of F&A Committee, Governance Committee, Parent Liaison Committee & Premises Committee

Evan Thorpe ‘00 - BoG, Chairperson of Premises Committee, member of Audit Committee & Development Committee


Bessie Dai ‘02 - member of F&A Committee & Premises Committee

Malcolm Chan ‘02 - member of F&A Committee

Karen Mak ‘00 - member of Premises Committee

ur Sto o Y ry re a h The alumni newsletter is seen by more than just alumni. Students, parents and staff read it. Share what you are doing with them; you never know what contacts and opportunities could come your way. Send your story and pictures to the alumni office.

Announcements Project Innovate Project Innovate is a new initiative which builds on the existing culture of innovation at our school, providing an exciting vision for future-reading learning. Please do take the time to browse the tenets of Project Innovate on our school website. Alumni Involvement in Project Innovate We would like to thank Sherman Mak, Class of ’07, and Rachel Wong, Class of ’17, for all their hard work on the Project Innovate video and logo. Check out the Project Innovate video to see our vision for future-ready learning

Campus Renovations Recent additions to our campus include a Science and Innovation Lab, and a renovation of the 3/F Science corridor.

Congratulations to the CDNIS Class of 2017 for their stellar results in the IB Diploma Exam! In addition to exceeding the IB diploma worldwide average, our graduates also gained entrance to a variety of universities worldwide. Special mention to Nicole Hon (Top) and Kelly Wing (Bottom) for achieving a perfect score of 45.

CDNIS Monopoly Game Order your unique CDNIS monopoly game for $400. Details at

Alumni Profile Sherman Mak ‘07 When Sherman Mak, Class of ’07, looks back at his time at CDNIS, one particular moment sticks out. “Our band had been practicing this piece for a competition all year long. The French horn player, unfortunately had consistently struggled with his part”. Come the big day, Sherman remembers the nerves which wracked him as he prepared to start playing. “To the utter amazement of everyone in the band, Andrew nailed his part on the French horn, playing it flawlessly”. Sherman still recalls the surge of emotion, and several of his bandmates were moved to tears. Sherman’s name came up when the school was deciding on who best to craft a video for Project Innovate. Sherman revealed that it was Mr. Tim Kaiser, Upper School Principal, who approached him with the idea of shooting the video on behalf of the school. Even though Sherman was completely new to the idea of Project Innovate, he was glad to come across an opportunity to give back to CDNIS in a tangible way. After shooting a wonderful video showcasing the features of Project Innovate, Sherman was able to grasp how it fits in with the school’s vision, remarking that this kind of forward thinking project would equip children for the future. He jokingly remarked that he wished that he had had the same opportunities when he was a student at CDNIS! After graduating from CDNIS, Sherman pursued an Arts and Business degree at the University of Waterloo. However, after two years, he mustered up the courage to pursue his passion for film, and transferred to the BFA film programme at the University of York. He thoroughly enjoyed his time in Toronto, staying on after graduating to do an apprenticeship with director Sean Cisterna. This included working on a documentary on exorcists and paranormal activity.

supported his decision to take all art electives in his final high school years, a decision which he feels formed him as an artist. “I’d also like to give a shoutout to Mr. Rob Dacho, my high school music teacher, who really stoked my passion for music.” As Sherman has mentioned, music and the arts is a theme which runs through his experiences at CDNIS. “I still remember the liberating feeling I got in my first photography class, when we were given cameras and told to shoot interesting things around school. This was really a place where I was given the resources to explore my interests.” The strength of the music programme during Sherman’s time gave him and his peers a strong sense of school pride. Mr. Harris Lo took the Music Department to new highs, and Sherman recalls opening the Hermes fashion show with the jazz band, and playing in the Hong Kong stadium during the Rugby 7’s. “What was remarkable was that our strength lay not in the brilliance of a couple of individuals, but in the sum of our parts. Our year group was a great collection of artsy kids, and we felt the support of our teachers for our endavours. I can honestly say that my life was changed by my experiences through the arts, and I still play the saxophone today.”

Sherman continued his career back in Hong Kong, where he currently runs his own production company. They produce branding shorts for companies, as well as making some films for NGO’s. As well as this, Sherman has had the opportunity to work on feature films, including a role as a writer and extra in a local film which won best picture at the Hong Kong Film Awards. He also had the honour of assisting Oliver Stone when Looking ahead, Sherman is bullish on the future of the he was in town shooting Snowden. film industry in Hong Kong. Even though he agrees that there isn’t a large variety of films being made in Hong When considering his passion for film, Sherman credits the guidance that he received from his teachers, Kong at present, he thinks that change is around the in particular Mr. Kaiser. “I remember that I got into quite corner. “I see my peers and younger classmates a bit of trouble in high school, so I would often be in Mr. studying at the top film schools around the world. Kaiser’s office! I wasn’t a bad kid, but I just had a lot of Hopefully they will return to Hong Kong after their studies with different perspectives, so that they can tell questions.” Sherman is still grateful that Mr. Kaiser the many stories waiting to be told here.”

Alumni Profile Raz Gal-or & Tyler Schmalenberg ‘12 Raz Gal-or and Tyler Schmalenberg, both Class of ’12, have reunited after leaving CDNIS to work on a media company founded by Raz. They have achieved runaway success on their channel YChina in a year, racking up more than five million subscribers and 300 million views on their videos, which showcase foreigners in China speaking fluent Mandarin and speaking about local culture. The Totem spoke to them about their success, their experiences at CDNIS, and where they see the company going forward.

new China that foreigners who are coming to China and people in the west don’t know about. People already know about the political situation, the human rights issues and so on. However, we want to provide a new perspective, with a balanced view. We focus on issues like how China is making advances in technology, and promoting Chinese pop culture. What’s been your most heartwarming piece of feedback?

Not many of your peers will have embarked on their RG: At our height, we were receiving around 2,000 undergraduate studies in China. Can you explain the messages a day. Chinese people were astounded at the reasons behind this decision? level of Mandarin proficiency of some foreigners, and also their grasp of local culture. Lots of viewers wrote RG: Part of the reason was because I wanted to do in asking how to make foreigner friends! One thing we something different and go against the current. Even were really happy about was that people wrote in though I wanted to attend university in the west, I knew saying how their perspective of foreigners in China had that studying in China would be a unique experience. changed, which was part of our goal. Also, my dad encouraged me to explore this opportunity. One thing that I needed to do was We’ve been told that some Mandarin teachers in China drastically improve my Mandarin, and I am proud of show our videos to their foreign students, in order to how fluent I am now. I’m one of the first Israelis to study inspire them to greater heights, and this is something as an undergraduate at Peking University, and also one else which is cool. of the first CDNIS alumni to study here. I’m also happy to have started my own company before Which teacher made the largest impact on you at graduating too. CDNIS? Lots of Chinese people find that the Western media’s portrayal of China is negative. Was it a conscious decision for you to challenge that with your channel?

TS: I liked both of the Dachos. Ms. Barb Dacho was a great Geography teacher, and I ended up majoring in the subject in large part due to her influence. Mr. Robert Dacho also fostered my love of music.

TS: Some of the upcoming projects will definitely challenge this. I would say that our videos show foreigners who have a good grasp of local Chinese culture, something which is very novel to Chinese people.

RG: I’d like to honour my basketball coach, Mr. Bob Bate, who tragically passed away from cancer last year. He truly was an inspiration to me, and the level of support he gave me to lead the team was invaluable. I’ll never forget the example that he set for our team, which included Tyler. He was more than just a coach, he RG: We operate with a simple attitude, to promote the was my friend too. What advice would you give current G12 students? TS: If you’re an international student, don’t forget to take back to your country the best parts of Hong Kong culture. There’s so much rich history to learn from in the city. RG: This may sound cheesy, but don’t be afraid to fail and always challenge yourself. If you don’t step out of your comfort zone, it’s impossible to grow. Try and find something meaningful and great to do. You can view their videos at:

Alumni Profile Claudia Chan ‘03 & Denise Chan ‘06 that isn’t available in Hong Kong and offer a unique personalised service in the gifting industry while at the same time creating a profitable business. We felt that in Hong Kong’s climate of competitive retail and sky high rents, it was important to build a business that was scalable and where we’d sell in high quantity.” An idea for this came in the form of wedding table gifts and corporate gifts. “We started to market our products as a bundle for wedding table gifts, which was a success and is still a big part of our business today. Now we supply not only directly to wedding clients but also to luxury hotels such as The Shangri-La. Throughout these four years of being in business, we have also built great relationships with various companies and supply their corporate gifts for festive occasions throughout the year.” One common question the sisters are asked is how they came up with the name Chubby Charlie. They both laugh as they recall brainstorming names for the new business. By then, Claudia and Denise already knew that this would involve importing chocolate from Canada at an initial stage, but they also did not want to pigeonhole themselves. Their first dog was named Charlie, and since he was quite chubby, they decided to Like many CDNIS alumni, Claudia Chan Class of ’03 honour his memory by naming their business after him. and Denise Chan Class of ’06 emerged from CDNIS The additional connotation to Charlie and the more confident than they entered, something that they Chocolate Factory was also a plus, and so Chubby Charlie was born. attribute to the friendly nature of the school. They remember CDNIS as an inclusive community, unlike other schools, where their friends told them that cliques When reflecting on their experiences with customers so far, Claudia and Denise are grateful that they haven’t formed quickly and it was difficult to make friends outside of them. “Everyone got along well with each had to deal with any Bridezillas. “We are really thankful other when we were at CDNIS, and up till today, this for our loyal customers. In terms of weird requests, we get a lot of people asking us to put pictures of means that we aren’t nervous when we meet new people. We really feel that the Canadian spirit allows us themselves onto chocolate! One nice story was a customer who was so inspired by our example that she to be respectful of others.” took the plunge to start her own wedding photography business.” The Chan sisters have fond memories of celebrating Halloween at school. “We remember the elaborate haunted mazes we would have to go through. For school standards, it was actually quite spooky”. The sisters also recall other fun experiences at CDNIS such as lunch time basketball and overseas excursions. The sisters combined their love for chocolate with their business acumen to start their own business. The idea for their company Chubby Charlie came when Denise was visiting Hong Kong for Christmas. Having stayed in Toronto to work after college, she would often bring back Canadian treats. A big hit was a chocolate caramel brittle, which was even enjoyed by friends and family who didn’t like sweets. Then a business idea was To order your treats, visit: born. “The original idea was to source confectionary

Staff Profile Gil Little & Val Little Lower School Teacher & Educational Asssistant When did you start at CDNIS, and what were you hired to do? GL: 1997, I started off as a Grade 1 educational assistant. VL: 1997, I started off as a Preparatory teaching assistant. This was back in the old campus on Kennedy Road! Where were you before CDNIS, and what were you doing? GL: I was at Victoria Kindergarten as a K2 teacher. VL: I was at Victoria Kindergarten as a K1 teacher. Can you name students from your first CDNIS class? GL,VL: Oh that’s a tough one. We remember Henry Hurren, and we still see his mother from time to time. Christopher Chan and Tomofumi Nasuno were also in our class.

Val Little

Gil Little

What profession other than teaching would you have liked to attempt? GL: Either a ballroom dancer or a criminal lawyer. VL: A social worker for disadvantaged children.

What’s been the biggest change at CDNIS that you’ve witnessed? GL: The massive change when we moved to the new campus where we are at currently. VL: The switch to the IB throughout the school was a welcome change. Even at Reception level, it involves a lot more enquiry, exploration and critical thinking for the students.

What industry would you least like to be in? GL: The medical industry. VL: Finance

What’s your favourite local food? GL: We enjoy dim sum a lot, especially har gao. VL: Peking Duck at The China Club.

Favourite memory with an alumni? GL: We have so many fond memories, it wouldn’t be fair to single out one. It’s always lovely when old students come to visit us though. VL: Once I received a letter from an American international school informing me that a former student of mine had nominated me as the best teacher they had ever had!

Where are you most content in Hong Kong? Gl, VL: Our favourite hike is from Discovery Bay to Mui Wo. Near the top of the mountain, we have a favourite rock where we sit and pray together.

Which celebrity would you like to be stuck on a deserted island with? GL: Rod Stewart VL: George Clooney

What is your happiest memory at CDNIS? GL: The 20th Anniversary Ball was a nice occasion, where the whole community gathered together and made merry. VL: Moving into this building here was very special. Bear in mind we were catching water in buckets previously. What’s the best thing about working with your sister? GL: We can plan lessons at home instead of at school. VL: It does mean that we’re talking about work non-stop though.

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The Totem (November 2017)  
The Totem (November 2017)  

A semi-annual alumni newsletter