PMP243: Grace in the Journey with Jessica Wee

Jessica Wee is the Principal of Rainbow Centre Yishun Park  School in Singapore. She has previously served in the school  as Vice Principal before taking over principalship six years ago.  

Rainbow Centre School serves 400 students with autism and multiple disabilities.The school aims to nurture young persons with disabilities (aged 7-18) into adults who are able to live independently and interdependently, to grow continuously, and to engage in active participation and contribution to the community.

Her goal is to serve the underprivileged, but she realizing she is on the receiving end of much grace through this leadership journey. A firm believer that ‘everything rises and falls on leadership’, she continues a humble journey of self discovery as a leader.

WDP: Welcome to the Principal Matters podcast! Can you fill in the gaps on that  intro and tell us something listeners may be surprised to know about you? 

Jessica Wee: I did not start off to be an educator, in fact, my first career was in  marketing and product development. I did a mid-career switch to  education to spend more time with my family as my previous job  involved a great deal of travelling and time away from home. Since  then, there is no regrets entering education. I am grateful for my  experience in the commercial sector and I have incorporated some  of the best practises into the management of the school. 

WDP: Can you tell us more about your school? What do you find are the challenges  and opportunities of leading in your school? 

Jessica Wee: Rainbow Centre schools offer an education that goes beyond the disabilities of the students we serve. The outcomes-based functional  curriculum is facilitated by a teaching team and supported by an  interdisciplinary team of therapists, psychologists, and social workers  to enable students to access their educational goals.  

Each student gets an Individualised Education Plan – a customised  learning roadmap. Integrating co-curricular activities, therapy services,  the use of technology and character and citizenship education, our  students experience a well-rounded education experience. 

In leading a school of 400 with students from junior years to young  adults, it does present safety challenges. Family collaboration can  also present its challenges as much effort is still needed to  understand individual family dynamics to ensure success in this area.  

There are many possibilities as I believe in maximizing potential of a  child. I see providing accessible learning and participation as of  utmost importance for the students. With technological support,  creativity and the courage to challenge the status quo, we can  certainly develop innovative and personalized communicative and mobility solutions to break down barriers for the special needs  students. 

WDP: How has leading through a pandemic affected your own school community? 

Jessica Wee: The first case of COVID was confirmed on 23 January 2020. Early  cases were primarily imported until local transmission began to  develop in February and March. Thanks to the Singapore  government’s swift action with formation of COVID taskforce, the Ministry of Education worked closely with the Ministry of Health and  supported the school community with various safe management measures. The government announced school closure for about a  month in April to curb the spread of COVID-19. All schools shifted to full home-based learning until May 4.  With the announcement, we scrambled in a shortest time to  develop a HBL COVID ready plan for students, parents and staff.  

School wide Structure 

The school has put in place a structure for students to continue  learning at home, especially for the ASD population, to maintain as  much as possible a daily routine that can enable them to easily  transit back to school after the full HBL period. We have transformed  the School wide assembly programme which used to be held at the  auditorium into video lessons e.g. Exercises, Story-Reading, Time  with Principal. These resources become useful for  parents/caregivers to meaningfully engage the students at home. 

In addition, for students who have challenges accessing the online  platform, the school transport vendor would deliver HBL physical  resource packs to them. 

Communication to Parents 

For continued support to parents during the full HBL period,  teachers were also required to check in with their class parents  once a week on Mondays via ClassDojo to communicate on the  following: 

 ✔ HBL content that the teacher has shared for the current week;

✔ Invite parents to check in with the teacher anytime  during the week, if they have questions; 

✔ State clearly the timing of ‘live’ lessons with the child  during the current week; and

✔ Checking on the well beings of the parents. 

Professional Learning for full HBL  

Other useful supports which the school has put in place to support  our teachers include the HBL Drive in Google Drive and the ongoing  HBL PLT Sharing Sessions organized and conducted by the school  team comprising the teaching and learning specialist and subject  teacher in functional academics. 


COVID-19 has greatly changed the way the school works and the way  we will continue to work even after the full HBL period is over and  full school-based learning has resumed once again. Amazingly, many  of our students have surprised and delighted us with the ease and  enthusiasm they have taken to remote learning. Many of our  teachers and APs too remain excited and encouraged by the  possibilities and unexpected opportunities which have surfaced in  these challenging times.  

One of the most exciting possibilities that we see with HBL is that  school has begun to establish a structure in family collaboration,  with parents/caregivers playing a more active role in their child’s  education, which is crucial once our students exit the school system.  This area has always been a challenge to the school and we are  beginning to see positive changes at home with HBL, the Good Life  Goals which the school has envisioned are slowly becoming a reality.  

When students returned to school, intensive efforts were made to  put in safe management measures so as to ensure a safe learning  environments for the students.  

WDP: What has been one of your most challenging experiences in school  leadership? What lesson did you learn that may help other leaders to keep in mind? 

Jessica Wee: One of my most challenging experiences in school leadership is capacity building of my middle management. Many of the senior teachers and head of programme started off as teachers. They came into the special education  sector with a heart to serve. They are patient and compassionate in nature.  Therefore, as they move up the career ladder to take on management  position, it requires a new set of skills in people management and programme  management. It is no surprise that sometimes they struggle with balancing  care and candour.  

One lesson which I learned was the importance of people development.  Leaders need to be groomed and thus I allotted time to have leadership  conversation with my senior staff, and help them to develop a personal growth  plan.  

WDP: What lessons are you practicing in self-care (to pause, breathe, and flourish)? 

Jessica Wee: I practice self-care by pausing daily to be thankful for all the  blessings in my life through prayer, and daily reflection on my  personal and professional lives.  I breathe in fresh air daily through brisk walking, Pilate and  swimming. As I am a foodie, I enjoy hunting for new eating places  and enjoy a good meal with family or friends. Before, COVID,  travelling to new places also rejuvenate me. 

I flourish with renewal of God’s words daily from the bible. I am also an avid reader and enjoy listening to podcasts and TED Talk. 

Now It’s Your Turn

Are you able to identify areas in your leadership where you are still ‘incomplete’ as Jessica explains? In what ways are you investing in the care of your students and your staff so they are equally able to grow in the days ahead?

You can stay connected with Principal Wee’s work at the Rainbow Centre website.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker