By Julia Wallace
Adapting to Changes
This year, BBS is adapting to a number of significant changes. With COVID-19 having prevented schools from returning to life as usual, schools are adopting a new hybrid model for the 2020-21 academic schoolyear. In light of these new adaptations and challenges, BBS has also had a shift in leadership as Alice Wazir, former co-principal of academics, has stepped up to take on the role of principal. To accompany the start of a new school year, LSESD sat down to chat with Alice Wazir.
Could you tell us a little bit about Beirut Baptist School’s mission?
Our school is about molding the lives of its students. We have the privilege of working with students for a span of 15 years, which are the most important years in the life of a human being. Can you imagine what impact you can have on a person’s life over 15 years if you are sincere and really committed to your mission and vision? What they learn now—good or bad—will impact them for the rest of their lives. That’s why we take a holistic approach to education that considers the student’s intellectual, emotional, spiritual, and psychological development.
If I’m not mistaken you were once a student at Beirut Baptist School (BBS). Could you tell us about your own journey through BBS and how that is an asset?
This school is really a part of my life. I started attending the church on campus when I was about three years old. Then, I joined BBS as a student, and a few years after graduation I joined the staff as the Assistant to the Academic Dean. I have since worked in different capacities as a teacher and in administration before assuming the role of principal this past September.
I’ve learned a lot along the way. I think the best thing about having so many different positions and tasks is that it has given me a unique perspective. It has helped me more now as a principal to see and understand the needs of people around me, whether they are teachers, employees, or counselors. Moreover, having grown up in this community has given me a rapport with local families.
“I think I have had a memory in every room at BBS, either as a student or as an employee here.”
This past year has been difficult with the economic crisis, COVID, etc. How do you see the role of the school evolving within the community?
There has been a significant increase in families applying for financial aid this year. I personally met with every family who applied. It really opened my eyes to see that these families don’t view BBS only as an institution that provides education for their children. They also see it as a place where they find community. Parents showed us pictures of their homes after the explosion, bank statements—they look to the school as a source of support. We have earned their trust.
Most of the students at BBS come from non-Christian backgrounds. Why are parents putting their kids in BBS and paying for it, when they can put their children in institutions of their own religious background?
Ninety-two percent of our student body is from a non-Christian background. Yet many would rather pay tuition fees at BBS than receive education at schools that their religious groups run. You can see this through the fact that we have second and third generation BBS students. Families want to send their children to BBS because of excellent academic standards, unconditional love, and strong values. Finally, the school lives out the values it teaches.
We are constantly developing our curriculum to meet the highest standards and enable students to be lifelong learners and responsible citizens.
Furthermore, BBS is an inclusive school–We have 82 special needs students who are integrated in the classroom and benefit from therapy and corrective sessions at our specialized ‘SMART’ center.
Parents have said, “You taught about love; you taught about forgiveness; you taught all of these values, but you also lived them out.” Parents have noticed how the school lives out the values it teaches. We try to do so in the way we teach but also in the way we interact with parents when it comes to tuition payments. We are modeling patience and love and are showing them in practical ways.
I believe that love is contagious. God is love. And no one can resist love. Parents and staff are touched by the love that has been shown them because they have seen that it is sincere.
“At BBS we want to be pioneers everywhere. We want to take these challenges and be a role model for all the schools in Lebanon. We want to be a lighthouse that everyone will look at and model.”
What do you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities this year?
This year we adopted the motto “Be responsible on campus, leaders online, and pioneers everywhere.” Our challenge going forward is to translate this to online and hybrid learning. Of course it will be a challenge to bring students on campus while maintaining a high responsibility for the people around us. We want to be responsible on the health level, but also on the academic level. It means having good safety policies on campus, but it also means addressing the trauma symptoms of our students and helping alleviate their fears of going on camera. Yet at the same time we want to ensure that we are being academically responsible and teaching what needs to be taught. But we especially need to support teachers so they can support their students.
This past year, BBS has endured a number of challenges including the uprising, the pandemic, and the port explosion. There are still many repairs that need to be performed on the school. Please consider helping BBS with its reconstruction efforts or providing tuition fees for a student whose family was adversely affected by the economic crisis.