Farewell Mr. Hieser (Summer 2016)

Thank you Mr. Hieser Banner 1
Each issue of Cultural Soundings invites the Sturgis community to weigh in on various topics. For the Summer 2016 issue,  Soundings invited the Sturgis community and international colleagues to reflect on Eric Hieser’s retirement at the end of June and contribute public messages of thanks and tributes for this article. We also invited faculty, students and colleagues to contribute personal handwritten notes and cards for the Captain’s Log we created for Eric’s retirement gift.

A Career in Education for 45 Years

Eric Hieser - Graduation 2013

Eric Hieser – Graduation 2013

Prior to joining Sturgis in 2004, Eric Hieser held leadership positions in four American international schools that offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme: International School of Stavanger, Norway (1976-78); American School in Japan (1978-90); Zurich International School, Switzerland (1990-98); and Escola Graduada (the American School of Sao Paulo), Brazil, (1998-2002).

When Mr. Hieser arrived at Sturgis in 2004,  “enrollment stood at a little more than 300 students, and there was no waiting list for new arrivals. That year, the school first received its formal authorization in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP), a college prep curriculum developed in Geneva, Switzerland, during the 1960s. The program was established to provide guidelines for the education of young students living abroad. From the start, the IBDP had a global focus, which makes it especially relevant for students today, as they prepare for lives and careers in the 21st century. Since Hieser’s arrival, enrollment at Sturgis has grown quickly. In the fall of 2013, it will admit 800 students, with nearly 600 applicants for 180 ninth-grade entry slots. In the coveted U.S. News and World Report school ratings for 2013, it was named third best charter school in America, and first in Massachusetts. (Terry Ward Libby, A Conversation with Eric Hieser, Cape Cod View, March/April 2013: p.16-17.)

These trends in enrollment, wait lists and rankings continue. However, the outward signs of success are not nearly as important as the collaborative work of shaping school culture and encouraging students and faculty to “be all you can be.” Mr. Hieser spoke about the evolution of Sturgis in his “Farewell Address” at Sturgis Graduation on June 4: “You know, we have learned a great deal from our students and faculty over the past 12 years of my time at Sturgis.  Some people may have thought that the Sturgis of today came from some grand design that we have worked toward since 2004, but to the contrary, we are only now able to put labels and descriptors on what has evolved from the outstanding collaborative work of students and faculty with a vision of what might be.  We have also learned a great deal from the many visitors who have spent one or several days observing Sturgis over the past 12 years.  One of the key takeaways that we gained from Dr. Jal Mehta and his team from the Harvard Graduate School of Education after their 10-day visit was his observation that School Culture Can Have a Significant Impact on Deeper Learning.”

In addition to his leadership at Sturgis, Mr. Hieser has presented numerous workshops on IB access, college readiness, and redesigning the American high school at regional, state, national, and international conferences. He is the past President of the Board of the Massachusetts Center for Charter Public School Excellence, was a board member and Vice President of the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, and has been an IB Consultant and Site Visitor for many years. In March 2016, he was interviewed by Jethro Jones for Transformative Principal.  To listen to the podcast, see: Top Ranked and Still Improving with Eric Hieser Transformative Principal

Eric speaks to Sturgis faculty and trustees at retirement party

Eric speaks to Sturgis faculty and trustees at retirement party

Eric Hieser’s  final farewell message to the Sturgis community was published in the June 2016 Executive Director’s Newsletter:

Final Farewell

As my days at Sturgis Charter are coming to an end in a couple of weeks, I just wanted to bring my time with you to a close with a very fond farewell. I viewed my role at Sturgis not as a job but more of a calling. I could not have asked for a better way of ending my work with students, parents, and faculty than the past twelve years with all of you. I have the utmost confidence in the Sturgis faculty, school leaders, and board in continuing to enhance the Sturgis IB for All experience and take it to new heights in what is best for helping students reach their potential. Thanks so much for the honor of serving you!!


Abel - Cropped version 2

One of many drawings and messages contributed to the Captain’s Log

A Captain’s Log created for Eric Hieser includes 125 letters, notes and tributes from students, parents and colleagues near and far

In early February, we invited Sturgis students, alumni, current and former faculty and trustees as well as Eric’s international colleagues to contribute messages for this article and also for a Captain’s Log bound like a traditional ship’s log by Talin Bookbindery, a hand bookbinding business in Yarmouthport. The Captain’s Log was presented to Mr. Hieser during his retirement party on June 8. 

 Captain's Log Cover


Anonymous Students

Parker - cropped


Harvey Auerbach, Sturgis Founder and Former Chair of Board of Trustees

Dr. Auerbach gave the following speech at Eric Hieser’s retirement party.

Harvey Auerbach

Harvey Auerbach

Hello, my name is Harvey Auerbach.  You might have seen an infinitely younger version of me in that wonderful documentary we just had the pleasure of watching.

I was one of founders of Sturgis and have been asked to briefly speak about those early years.  Before I do, I would like to take a moment to commend Eric Hieser on his masterful leadership of the school, guiding it to the esteemed position it now holds in the education world.  I’m sorry I never had the pleasure of actually working with him.  I have the sense that our lives would have been much easier with him early at the helm.  On the other hand, for those of you who remember those early years, who would wish that for such a fine gentleman?

Harvey Auerbach

Harvey Auerbach speaks to guests at retirement party

There is no way to adequately describe the special excitement one feels when one is involved in a creative adventure; the surge of energy that races through you when presented with an opportunity to build something new, novel, and hopefully important for your community and, most of all, for your kids.  No matter how difficult those formative years of Sturgis might have been, I will always fondly remember that energy we early founders shared.  I remember coming upon a description of this odd IB program in an esoteric book, and immediately wanting to establish it as the sole curriculum in a school we had yet to figure out.  Why can’t you set a high bar for all students, and supply adequate help to get them through?  Why let the fact that no other school in the US had ever experimented with this idea stop you?  Wouldn’t it be preferable to the dumbing down and tracking system used in so many schools across the country?  That consistent notion cried out to us throughout the insanity of those early years.  It made our discussions in our homes and at Caffee e Dolce vibrant and lasting long into the night.  We were totally committed to this experiment.  Our fervent belief in this seemingly simple ideal made us fight back when many tried to upend our plans, and led us to spend countless hours driving back and forth to Boston for meetings to hone this idea into reality, beg for funding, and hold our heads up despite repeated setbacks.  Even at the lowest moments, like that horrid meeting that still shakes me that you saw in the documentary, when I was forced to announce, with more than a tear in my eye, that after months of haggling with school committees, bond managers, construction companies, state senators and representatives, and numerous banks, that Sturgis must close.  We, who were slowly becoming the community of Sturgis without our realizing it, somehow found the will to raise this phoenix from the ashes.

So, when all is said and done, I think those of us involved with the early years of Sturgis were privileged to participate in a creative moment that will forever impact our lives.  I am proud to have helped create this marvelous school, prouder still that our sons and daughters benefit from our work, and now marvel at the even greater achievements of Eric Hieser and those now involved with the school.     

Carrie Brummer, Art – East

Carrie Brummer Hanna



I can’t thank you enough for hiring me at Sturgis, your belief in my ability as a teacher is why I am still teaching today. I found an ad in a local paper while I was staying with my sister. It read “internship for art teacher.” As soon as I read that ad I knew it was my job! Of course, I still had to convince you. Thankfully, Colgate helped me a little bit with that, too. 🙂

As if my time at Sturgis wasn’t formative enough, you and other faculty encouraged me to take my experience “overseas.” Well, I’m still overseas 9 years later! Being at Sturgis truly set me on the path I’m on today.

I’m still in touch with the first students I taught at Sturgis. And discovering just how passionate I feel about teaching and the arts was because of you choosing to hire me. So, thank you. Your work finding the right teachers and building the vision of Sturgis you had has impacted countless lives.

I hope your retirement is filled with joy, laughter, rest, and relaxation.

With Gratitude,

Carrie Brummer (now Carrie Hanna)

IB-world school logoPaul Campbell, Head of Outreach Services and Regional Development, International Baccalaureate Organization

“From your friends at the International Baccalaureate Organization”


From the moment that Sturgis opened its doors, you have helped us all open our minds. And our hearts. You have proven beyond doubt that all students, regardless of their personal circumstances, can benefit by involvement with the IB Diploma Program. We have recognized and celebrated your school in ways too many to mention. The impact of your message and your mission have resonated far beyond the walls of your school. As we write this, students in your school and other schools are writing IB exams. Many of these students would never have received the opportunity to step onto the global stage if it had not been for your vision of Sturgis Charter School as an “IB for All” institution where the IB Diploma is at the core of what every student at Sturgis experiences.

We wish you well in all your future endeavors and know that many times we will be working together to educate and inspire schools around the world to take on the challenge of making their IB programs available to all students.

Paul Campbell

Laurie Carah, Librarian – West

Eric Hieser

Eric Hieser

The Carah’s Return for Hieser Leadership

Eric Hieser was a thoughtful and enthusiastic HS Principal whom I came to know while working together on a School-wide Teacher’s Conference at Graded School in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As an IB Middle Years English teacher in 1998, I was eager to share my excitement for developing “Teens using Tech” in a conference Eric was developing for the South American Schools.

Formally a “student centered” counselor, Mr. Hieser’s philosophy was in full alignment with the IB from the onset of his position as principal at Graded, encouraging all teachers to showcase their programs, aligning them with IB Learner traits already built into most of the student learning going on at the school.

     Graded was a unique school, one which developed highly independent learners from the onset, beginning in the Montessori pre-school, which encouraged children to take charge and design their own learning, a trait that would follow them through primary and into the Middle and High School IB Programs.  My own children, Nicola and Jesse would thrive in that environment, and grow up to be thinkers, inquirers, and open-minded risk takers in the careers they have settled in today.

Carah Family 1999

Carah Family 1999

It is not surprising, then, that Mr. Hieser would bring his extensive training and effective philosophy back to the states to build IB into a public program for ALL students, creating one of the most effective High School programs in the US.

It is no wonder then, that Steve and I considered Eric’s strong offer to continue working under the IB umbrella at Sturgis East and West in 2012. Today, we are both challenged daily to bring students closer to meeting their unique potential and feel it a blessing to spend our last years teaching with Eric before our retirement.

Thank you, Eric!

Laurie Carah

Steve Carah, Lead Science Teacher – East

Graded, São Paulo- Brazil

Graded, São Paulo- Brazil

Eric and I meet in the late 90’s when he joined Escola Graduada (Graded School in English) as the secondary principal.  He was immediately liked since he had an infectious laugh and a warm and embracing personality.   As the science department chair, I directly reported to and worked with Eric on school related issues.  What impressed me then, and now, was Eric’s unique ability to put you at ease in a conversation and bring out your best.  He is the type of administrator that is always trying to make you the best teacher you can be.  Our conversations always include at least one compliment on my teaching or rapport with students.  Seeing Eric in hallways has always been a pleasure, since it meant receiving a big smile along with some interesting conversation.  Eric, however, is no figure head.  He always has a vison of what he wants to accomplish at a school, and after arriving he carefully crafts the plans to realize his vision.  He doesn’t, however, impose his vision on the school community but gradually persuades, enlists and/or cajoles the allegiance of the members of the community.

At Graded he would arrive at 6 a.m. to get his ‘paper work’ done, but at 7:45 he would be in the hallways greeting the students when they arrived.  I often meet with him early in the mornings to discuss issues with the science department or the IB program.  After listening to my concerns he would give me a list of things to do and a time to report back.  He was very efficient at working towards solutions, and I always found his advice and guidance to be the “best approach”.

Eric showing us the Cape

Eric showing us the Cape

A decade later my wife and I were fortunate enough to reconnect with Eric while we were working at an international American school in Venezuela.  We had registered with the International School Service, an employment agency that facilitates the matching of teachers with international schools, and Eric through this service had noticed that we were looking for jobs abroad.  I received an email from Eric asking if we could have a Skye phone call.  Even though we had no plans to move back to the States, I was excited about the prospects of talking with my old colleague and friend, so we scheduled a call.  He invited my wife and I to visit Sturgis on the off chance we decided to return to the US.  With a wedding to attend in D.C., we decided to take a side trip and visit Eric and Sturgis before returning to Venezuela.  Eric put us up at his home, walked us through Sturgis (East) and showed us around the Cape. Nevertheless, it wasn’t until nearly a year and half later he had two jobs that he could offer so that both my wife and I would have employment.  This all occurred during our Christmas break and after much thought and discussion, my wife and I called him and accepted the positions.

Eric, his wife, daughter, grand daughter and son-in-law

Eric, his wife, daughter, grand daughter and son-in-law

Looking back, I can honestly say that coming to Sturgis changed our lives, and it is all because of Eric!  He transformed Sturgis into US News & World Report’s number one ranked high school in Massachusetts, making it a wonderful place to teach and learn.  His philosophy that “it is not the building that makes the school, but the people in it” shapes the school culture.  Eric’s belief: “Students working to become their personal best” has become our school mission and mantra.

Laura and I going to miss you Eric and we hope you will stay in touch.  Thank you for all that you have done for Sturgis and for us. As you embark on this new journey called “retirement” find time to enjoy the simple pleasures instead of hurling yourself into a new career.

Randy Carspecken and Dawn Cope, Math and Art – East 2005 -2014

Microsoft Word - For Eric who is retiring June 2016 from Randy aIn TIE Online in late Fall 2004, among the usual plethora of international schools advertising for positions, we spied one right here in the USA inviting teachers to “…help build an IB school on beautiful Cape Cod…”

The following February found us at the familiar Boston job fairs and we walked from Westin Copley hotel across the frozen Charles River to Cambridge where we met somebody named Eric Hieser. In our interview, Eric was warm and inviting and the following day after a pro forma phone call to our principal at our last post in Thailand who was also in Boston, Eric offered us contracts. We mulled over our prospects (Oman, Poland,…Cape Cod…) and thought about our aging parents and ultimately chose Sturgis.

Those early years in a former furniture store were not easy as the school had yet to earn the reputation it enjoys today. We are proud to have been part of the pioneering stages when the future of the school was not entirely certain.

It was several years before we clearly saw the brightening dawn of a remarkable school and about the time Eric installed windows throughout the dim former factory, it became clear we were all part of the brilliant success that evolved into the Sturgis today.

Thank you, Eric, for giving us our 9-year chapter on inimitable Cape Cod at inimitable Sturgis Charter. It was an adventuresome journey we count as one of our greatest eras filled with some of our richest work with kids.

Dawn and Randy

Olive Chase, Former President, Sturgis Board of Trustees

Eric Hieser and Olive Chase

Eric Hieser and Olive Chase

The day that Eric Hieser  walked into Sturgis to interview for the school’s Executive Director position turned out not only to be a lucky, lucky day for the school, it’s faculty and students, but for me it was the beginning of a four year partnership. On paper he had all the qualifications that we needed to finally realize the founder’s dream of IB for All, but we got so much more. 

Eric is and was a whiz at recruiting and hiring top notch staff. His quiet, calm demeanor helped to bring a sense of order and competence that was so welcome after a somewhat turbulent transition. In a short period of time we were able to do so much – get the IB curriculum up and running, produce a governance guide for the board that became the model for charter schools statewide, buy and renovate the building and most importantly help our students to succeed no matter where they started. 

I was honored to work with Eric and I am so proud of what he has helped Sturgis contribute to public education in Massachusetts and beyond.

Keith Clarke, President, Sturgis Board of Directors

Keith Clarke

Keith Clarke


Marilyn Connors, American School in Japan

My goodness, Eric, retiring!  And after you did what so many of us talked about doing all those years ago – you made your own school!  I’ve read about your accomplishments with Sturgis, and I add my congratulations to those of many others.

I enjoyed our many years of working together as ASIJ’s high school counselors, and I learned much from you with regard to college counseling. I was able to use that information in my job in Ivory Coast.  I know you hoped ASIJ would consider the IB program instead of persisting with AP alone, but your work at Sturgis has certainly proved its value. And your persistence with the IB, while at ASIJ, peaked my interest in it. I followed that interest while we were in Ivory Coast, and I ended up teaching IB Psychology, Lower and Higher, in England for seven years.  All because you, my friend, put the IB in my head as we worked together more than 20 years ago.  Whew!

So, Eric, the very best of memories and good wishes for the future come with this message from me to you!  Please give my best to Ann and Jessica, as I remember both of them fondly.

Marilyn “Suz” Connors

Dr. Linda Duevel, Graduated Director of the International School of Stavanger and Board Chair, Association for the Advancement of International Education

Dear Eric:

When in doubt about the past, I often retreat to my collection of yearbooks from Stavanger. The institution that was your first international school adventure was called Stavanger American School, now known as the International School of Stavanger.  You and Ann came, saw, conquered and moved onto to bless other schools in other countries. My husband, Len, and I stayed on permanently here in the Stavanger Region.

As high school guidance counselor, Eric, you arrived and put an indelible mark on the school—all of it positive.  Not only were you available to the students from the Guidance Office vantage point, you also established a new girls volleyball team. A picture caption from the 1977 SAGA yearbook sports section is Pure Eric: “Founder and trainer of the D Squad, Coach Eric Hieser bellows out instructions during a practice session. An experienced boys’ basketball coach but new to girls’ coaching, Mr. Hieser spirited the D Squad with determination, diligence, dedication, desire, dominance, drive, and defense.”

That same list of “D’s” could be used to describe your long and successful career in education. Every school you have worked at has been lucky to tap into your broad array of talents.

Stavanger was—in my humble opinion—a great place for you to initially work in an international school. It has been a great school and location for many educational leaders who have spent time here and then gone on to share their talents elsewhere.  I know Chris Andre would also agree with me on that point!

Len and I wish you and Ann all the best in the next chapter of your life. In June, 2015 we graduated, (the term “retirement” doesn’t exist in my vocabulary), from ISS and the past year has gone incredibly quickly for us as we volunteer in schools around the world.

Enjoy the next journey and find time to come and visit us here in the beautiful Fjord Country.

Best regards,


Dueval - Volleyball Coach

Matthew Fetzer, History – East

Early in my career when I was younger, less experienced, less confident and less mature, Eric had faith in me. He found a way to guide my growth yet give me the space to grow at the same time. I feel that Eric had faith in me before I had faith in myself as he could see what I could not. Especially in our conversations at the end of each year, Eric would affirm my strengths, my personal milestones as a strong base going forward. On a larger level, I’ll always remember the vision and bold sense of purpose that Eric brought back in 2004 when Sturgis was coming through a rough transition. I got the sense that we were going places and the years since have so thoroughly affirmed this. On a personal level, I’ll never forget the support and generosity of spirit that Eric showed to me when my mother passed away. “Take as much time as you need Matt.” As this equally captures Eric’s approach to my professional and personal growth at Sturgis, 2004 seems so long ago. For that I will always be deeply grateful.

Best wishes in the next chapter,


Beverly Fogg, Guidance Counselor – East

Bev Fogg and Carol Vari

Bev Fogg and Carol Vari


Congratulations on your retirement!  You have certainly left your mark with the stellar reputation Sturgis has earned locally and nationally.  What a legacy!  The phrase “a school is more than a building” is one that always brings you to mind.  Your leadership inspires faculty and staff to give their very best.  At the heart of Sturgis is exceptional teaching combined with a culture of care and concern for every student – never to be found in the structure of a building! 

There is another phrase that comes to mind as I think of you – “I hire good people and get out of their way”.  Your style of leadership is one of trust which inspires creativity, innovation and collaboration, also hallmarks of the success of Sturgis under your leadership.

On a personal note, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I am grateful for having been a part of the mission and vision of Sturgis.  It was the most challenging yet the most gratifying experience of my career.

Enjoy every moment of retirement – you have certainly earned it! 

All the very best,

Bev Fogg

Vintage-Compass-Rose-Image-hrNate Furey, Special Education – West  


Sturgis may never be quite the same after this school year, but the legacy you leave behind here will always be remembered and cherished. I cannot thank you enough for giving me that opportunity four years ago to become a part of the Sturgis community. I am forever grateful!

I will never forget your great sense of humor, your positivity that you always spread to others, and your ability to bring people together and make people feel important. Thank you!!


Nate Furey 

Heather Glenny, Class of 2012

I’m right in the middle of senior year at Stanford and not a day goes by where I don’t think about the enormous impact Sturgis and its communities of support have had on me. I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have had such a unique and meaningful opportunity. Next year I’ll be in Vietnam doing an education fellowship–teaching English and coaching soccer to university students! That IB international mindset at work 🙂

Cynthia Hall, Sturgis Trustee 2006 – 2012

Congratulations, not only for your retirement but mostly for the exceptional leadership you gave to Sturgis all these past years. It was my privilege to work with you on the Board from 2006-2012; your leadership has given Sturgis a solid future and international recognition. Your shoes will be very hard to fill. I wish you joy and fulfilment in whatever you choose for many years to come.

My best regards,


Merva Hansen, SAMS Stavanger American School Norway

(to Greece, then back to Minnesota, and now almost 34 years in Ilo, Peru)

When I arrived for my first overseas post at SAMS Stavanger American School Norway in August of 1977, Eric and Ann were very helpful to me as a newcomer.  (I think they had just been there themselves for a year or so then.)  There was something very comforting to meet others from the Midwest, and I welcomed their friendship as I worked with Ann in the science department at Stavanger American School.

We have remained in contact over the years since then, and I wish them the best as they enter the retirement phase of their careers.

Lisa and David Hassler, Alumni Parents

Dear Mr. Hieser,

Before you move on to other joys and challenges in your life, I’d like to thank you and let you know how wonderful we think you are.  When you envisioned Sturgis with its unique culture and IB for all mentality, I know that you didn’t specifically have my children in mind.  But it feels like you did.  Though Joshua and Bella are unique individuals with their own goals and needs, Sturgis felt tailored made for each of them.   I watched with joy as Joshua grew as a critical thinker and risk taker over his time at Sturgis.  He embraced the character of an IB learner and has brought that same curiosity and sense of adventure with him to college.  I can see the same positive changes starting in Bella.

Your guiding hand and inspiration along with your wisdom in choosing exemplary staff and teachers made Sturgis one of the best schools in the country.  But it is your approachability and kindness that have made you so beloved by students, parents and everyone involved with Sturgis.  Your character, professionalism and vision has made Sturgis a model school for other to learn from.  But you have also built a strong foundation for Sturgis to carry on and continue to do wonderful things in the future – a testament to your love and commitment to the school and its students.

Wherever you go, know that you will be missed and we wish you the very best.

Gratefully yours,

Lisa and David Hassler

Mike Holm, Stavanger American School and American School in Japan

Ann, Eric, and Mike Holm at Shimoda, Japan 1983

I first met Eric when I got hired at Stavanger American School in November of 1976. I played basketball (including a tournament in Bergen) and softball with him, got advice from him on teaching matters and on living in Norway, and my wife, Mary, and I attended social gatherings with him and Ann. At the end of the school year, Mary and I moved home to Minnesota, and Ann and Eric would usually stop to see us on their way from Illinois to northern Minnesota to visit Ann’s relatives. Soon they were encouraging us to come to Tokyo.

In 1982 I got hired at the American School in Japan. By then, we had a son Peter and the Hiesers had Jessica. We flew with them on our first flight to Tokyo, they found a place for us to stay our first few nights there, they lent us money to buy furniture for our home, and took us to the American grocery store several times. We spent many weekends and evenings with the Hiesers and the Duyans, who also taught at ASIJ and had a Minnesota connection.

Jessica, Anne and Eric Hieser at Tokyo Disneyland 1983

Jessica, Anne and Eric Hieser at Tokyo Disneyland 1983

While we were in Tokyo, Eric was one I went to for teaching advice, for travel advice, and for advice on living in Japan. We simply would not have had anywhere near the incredible experience we had there without the Hiesers.

Ann and Eric have been very influential in our lives as well as good friends. We can’t thank them enough for all they have done for us. We truly wish a wonderful retirement for them both.

Jenn Kirk speaks at retirement party

Jenn Kirk speaks at retirement party

Jenn Kirk, Principal – Sturgis West

Ms. Kirk gave the following speech at Eric Hieser’s retirement party. 

There are so many memories that come to mind over the last nine years I’ve worked with Eric – but there are two stories I would like to share today.

The first story was four years ago. It was the beginning of the 2nd year of West when we were going to have first year in our bright new building on West Main. Eric had already hired our faculty and the building was mostly built but when we returned for teacher orientation is wasn’t quite ready.

Eric Hieser checks the progress of Sturgis West construction – May 30, 2012

Anna Botsford – Theater West, June Miles – English East and Abby Rhoads – English West on Moving Day – August 25, 2012

There were walls, there were windows, but computers weren’t yet set up, white boards hadn’t been hung – there was a lot to do- but most importantly we needed the students to come.

We spent the first days of faculty orientation at East and were finally able to get into our classrooms for the first time on Monday, just two days before school was scheduled to open.

But by Tuesday morning, it still wasn’t certain if we were going to be able to open our doors to students — we had not yet received an “occupancy permit”

Then a little after 3 pm on Tuesday afternoon I remember sitting with the faculty in our last meeting of the day when Eric burst into the room to announce that we had received the occupancy permit.  The room erupted in cheers!  We were going to be able to open on time and welcome our three classes to Sturgis West!!

The second story was more recent. A student who was experiencing some struggles and challenges, not making the best decisions, was spending some time alone in Eric’s office.

Eric came over from East that day to work in his office.

From my office I heard him begin a conversation with her. He asked her lots of questions, encouraging her to try to reflect on her situation and turn it in into a learning opportunity. For about 30 minutes he chatted with her… I heard her reflect in a way I hadn’t heard before.

I share these two stories because I think they capture Eric’s tremendous leadership ability. He was able to make really big things – to open a second campus and offer IB for All to thousands more kids, hire twice the number of faculty, make sure the building was ready —

But at the same time never lost sight of the details – the relationships being the most important.

Eric Hieser Conducts First Assembly at West – August 29, 2012

I was struck by the conversation he had with this student because it reminded of the many times I have seen and heard him be so present in conversation with students, faculty and myself.

He really listens and cares, wants us to be successful and wants to help us to figure out how to get there. He chooses to take every opportunity to make a connection, personalize it and have an impact. You would think he has nothing more important to do.

And so I want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing us to work with you and be part of making Sturgis what is has become. Thank you for valuing us and trusting us and a creating a place that allows us to be the best we can be.  We couldn’t ask for a better model and guide. Thank you.

Jessica Lynch, Special Education Coordinator – West

Dear Eric,

Jessica and Tom Lynch

Jessica and Tom Lynch

I can never express how grateful I have been for the opportunity to work for you. In Sturgis you have created a special and wonderful place. Personally, for me, coming to Sturgis was a delightful surprise.  

As an educator, you hope that there will be people who come into your professional career who can show you new ways to grow. And, you also hope that you can work with people who share your unique vision. I never imagined, especially as a city kid moving from a (perceived) mecca of innovative education like Cambridge to (in my mind) the wild frontier Cape Cod, that I would find a place that fostered not only innovation, but innovation that is so in line with my own personal educational philosophy of inclusion. Having you a school leader with a laser focused message about IB for All has been an unexpected gift in my life.

As a parent, you hope that there will be adults in your child’s life who delight in their successes and nudge them back on track when they struggle. You have also done this for our family. Between my interview and my offer of employment, my daughter was deciding whether to go to Sturgis or stay in Barnstable. We came to the Arts Fest to experience what Sturgis had to offer in order to help her make a decision. You greeted us at the doors to the theater. Even though you didn’t know her, you took a few minutes to chat with her in a way I had never seen a school administrator do. In my current interactions with students, I keep that image of you, completely engaged with an 8th grade prospective student you didn’t know, in the forefront of my mind.

There are many small ways that you have modeled a way of being in the school environment that have guided my practice and enriched my experiences with students. Ultimately, this makes students more successful. I will miss wondering how many phrases you slip into the convocation speech and my internal dialogue: “we teach students not content” check one “it’s hard but it’s worth it” that’s two “we hire good people and let them work” there’s three “we don’t do that here” keep ‘em coming, Eric!

I am thankful that the path of my life led me to Sturgis. I am thankful that when I inquired about work, you hired me. The professional growth and personal satisfaction that I experience every day are astonishing. You made this possible for teachers and students here on Cape Cod. It is life changing and purposeful and I am so grateful to be a part of it.

Best of luck in all your future endeavors! You will be sorely missed!

Jessica Lynch

Megan Briggs Magnant, Spanish – East

Megan Briggs

Megan Briggs Magnant

Dear Mr. Hieser,

Thank you for providing my first post-graduation job! I can’t tell you how profoundly Sturgis changed by life for the better, and that was all because you saw something in me and helped me see it in myself. You are an inspiring leader and mentor, and I’ll always remember how that felt as a teacher at your school, and try to emulate it myself in leadership positions. You have touched so many lives—of students, families, faculty, staff—and the school will certainly miss you while it strives to carry your spirit forward.

Congratulations and enjoy your retirement!


Megan Briggs Magnant

Paul Marble, Associate Director

Mr. Marble gave the following speech at Eric Hieser’s retirement party.

Paul Marble speaks to guests at retirement party

Paul Marble speaks to guests at retirement party

Eric, we can never thank you enough for all you have done for Sturgis….but we can try. In recognition of your tireless efforts to make the vision of IB for All a reality, your crew here at Sturgis and at 4 international schools where you worked in Norway, Japan, Switzerland and Brazil collaborated to create a gift to you – a Captain’s Log.

We invited faculty and students to reflect on your upcoming retirement. Since I have been observing Eric’s technique for the last 12 years of honoring students at graduation by reading passages from their graduation speeches, I figured  I would use the same technique to honor him tonight.  The only difference is that I will not identify who wrote the following comments – with one exception.

  1. “I hired Eric from the American School of Japan in the 90’s, shortly after I had become Head of the American International School of Zurich. Those were turbulent times since, in a major re-shuffle and strategic re-orientation, a number of veteran teachers had been let go. So I needed experience, wisdom, patience — and vision — in the new leadership team I was trying to create. (Sound familiar???)

  Eric brought all of these qualities, in addition to a love for children, an unbelievable work ethic, an irrepressible   sense of humor, and the courage to stand up for his beliefs and yet remain fiercely loyal.”

  1. Documentary and Screening 007“Those early years in a former furniture store were not easy as the school had yet to earn the reputation it enjoys today. We are proud to have been part of the pioneering stages when the future of the school was not entirely certain. It was several years before we clearly saw the brightening dawn of a remarkable school and about the time Eric installed windows throughout the dim former factory, it became clear we were all part of the brilliant success that evolved into the Sturgis today.”
  1. “When you envisioned Sturgis with its unique culture and IB for All mentality, I know that you didn’t specifically have my children in mind.  But if feels like you did.  Though my son and daughter are unique individuals with their own goals and needs, Sturgis felt tailor made for each of them.   Your guiding hand and inspiration along with your wisdom in choosing exemplary staff and teachers made Sturgis one of the best schools in the country.  But it is your approachability and kindness that have made you so beloved by students, parents and everyone involved with Sturgis.”
  1. “Sturgis means the world to me. I attended a lot of schools due to moving around when I was younger, and I had friends but people weren’t always kind. Here at Sturgis, however, the people are amazing and I feel like I have a place now. So thank you, without you I don’t know where this school would be or where I would be without this school. Sturgis has given so many people a place to belong and so again thank you for everything you have done for it. Have a nice day/life/retirement.”   
  1. “Eric, you have accomplished the establishment of a school in which everyone tries to help students thrive, where staff works amiably together, where all the best values of our broader society are encouraged, and where creativity, student growth, and leadership are nourished.

You have sheltered us from the politics of the outside world.  You have made fundraising, real estate, and construction projects happen seamlessly from our perspective within the community.  You have had your own enthusiasms while letting us (faculty and students alike) have our own enthusiasms, leading to a rich culture enjoyed by engaged participants.

I use the term “magic” because just like when one watches a magician, one cannot really see the details of how you have accomplished all this so skillfully!

I wish you a well-deserved retirement and I thank you for including me in your grand project.  I have learned so very much here, and so much of that learning came from contact with your wisdom and from the wisdom of those you have brought together.

We will sincerely miss you!!”

  1. Paul Marble speaks at Retirement Party

    Paul Marble speaks at retirement party

    “Eric is an extraordinary observer of people.  He practices Management by Walking Around as it provides him with the anecdotal evidence to inform and guide his conversations with students, parents and teachers.  He also has an uncanny ability to recognize in people, often before they do, their strengths and opportunities for future growth.  Eric´s ability to identify these attributes assists him with Distributive Leadership as he builds a team that can help bring his vision to fruition.  Eric does not need a state of the art building; he needs extraordinary individuals to step up when called upon to serve.

It is all about people.   Eric taught me that people are the resource that requires thoughtful investment, targeted cultivation and never-ending support.   As we look back on Eric´s achievements at Sturgis, his greatest legacy may be that he believed in people.  He believed in us when we doubted ourselves.”

The final message that I will share is from Paul Campbell, Head of Outreach Services, IBO.

“From the moment that Sturgis opened its doors, you have helped us all open our minds. And our hearts. You have proven beyond doubt that all students, regardless of their personal circumstances, can benefit by involvement with the IB Diploma Program. We have recognized and celebrated your school in ways too many to mention. The impact of your message and your mission have resonated far beyond the walls of your school. As we write this, students in your school and other schools are writing IB exams. Many of these students would never have received the opportunity to step onto the global stage if it had not been for your vision of Sturgis Charter School as an “IB for All” institution where the IB Diploma is at the core of what every student at Sturgis experiences.

We wish you well in all your future endeavors and know that many times we will be working together to educate and inspire schools around the world to take on the challenge of making their IB programs available to all students.”

These passages represent only seven of 125 letters, cards and messages to Eric from home and abroad included in the Captain’s Log .

Eric, on behalf of everyone here and all the students, families and faculty you have encouraged to rise to a challenge and  “be all you can be,”

Thank you

Patrick McLaughlin, Secretary, Sturgis Board of Trustees

As a member of the board of trustees, I have seen firsthand your leadership and knowledge in guiding Sturgis to the respected institution it has become today. You have led this school that was near the edge of failure to a world class educational entity with an innovative concept of IB for all.

The dignity, grace and wisdom which you have shown the students, faculty, staff and board is what truly allowed this school to gain its bearings in what was, at times, rough seas.

The Sturgis community cannot thank you enough for your steady hand.

All the best,

Patrick McLaughlin

David and Patricia McPherson, Sturgis Parents

Congratulations and good luck as you move on into the next phase of life. Thank you for all you have done for the children of Cape Cod. We believe you have elevated the quality of education not only at Sturgis but across Cape Cod by showing what is possible. May the IB for All philosophy spread far and wide.

David and Patricia McPherson

Peter Mott, Director, New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. Commission  on International Education

I hired Eric from the American School of Japan in the 90’s, shortly after I had become Head of the American International School of Zurich. Those were turbulent times since, in a major re-shuffle and strategic re-orientation, a number of veteran teachers had been let go. So I needed experience, wisdom, patience — and vision — in the new leadership team I was trying to create.

 Eric brought all of these qualities, in addition to a love for children, an unbelievable work ethic, an irrepressible sense of humor, and the courage to stand up for his beliefs and yet remain fiercely loyal.

Eric was an inveterate advocate for the IB and a driving force in our school adopting the IB Diploma program. I have never forgotten Eric’s contributions to the school — or to my own professional growth.

I followed his career when he was in Brazil and then, later, when he came to Sturgis. Although we did not meet as often as before, when we did run into each other at conferences, it was as if he had never left. I don’t have any photos from those times, but his booming, good-natured, and open-hearted voice will always resound in my mind. Good luck, Eric, as you “retire”: somehow I doubt you’ll really do that; the word “tired” has never been part of your vocabulary!


Kerry and Lynn Nichols, The American School in Japan

American School in Japan

American School in Japan

My wife and I arrived in Tokyo in the fall of 1987 and met Eric for the first time at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Tokyo. He drove us out to the hotel near the school which was to be our home for the first week in Tokyo. Since we were hungry, Eric took us to one of the more exotic restaurants in Tokyo – Denny’s.

Eric and Ann were our buddies for orientation to the Orient. They helped us through the trials and tribulations of finding housing, setting up our place and settling into a foreign culture for the first time.  Quite often as we drove around looking at apartments, Eric would comment that there was a very good restaurant very near to wherever we happened to be at the time. This restaurant GPS skill was a theme that continued throughout the time we spent together at The American School in Japan.

Eric was the Assistant High School Principal and demonstrated daily that he was well liked by students and staff alike.

My wife and I were delighted, however, when he and Ann decided to leave Tokyo and move to Zurich. We missed the daily contact with both of them at ASIJ but that loss was offset with their move to Switzerland as it provided us opportunities to visit and stay with them during their time in Zurich. And again, during our visits, Eric was willing to recommend the best locations to sample the local culinary delights.

We are pleased to have had the opportunity to stay in touch with them over the years and are proud to be their friends.

We wish Eric a long, healthy and enjoyable retirement.

Kerry and Lynn Nichols

Stephen Pacheco, Class of 2002

As one of the first students of Sturgis Charter I never thought that the school would reach the heights that it has today. Eric has helped the school fully realize it’s potential. He has guided the school that I put so much of myself into beyond anything I could ever imagine. I am proud that I am a small part of Sturgis and that he is a part of that with me. Eric reached out to me for the Sturgis History Project. I agreed to be a part of it due to his demeanor and integrity. I am grateful to once again be affiliated with Sturgis Charter. To me, Sturgis was always about the community of people that make the school run. It’s what drew me to the school and it’s appropriate now it’s what brings me back.

Well done sir!


Steve Pacheco

Stephen Pacheco 2002 Yearbook Entry

Linda Peters, Sturgis Parent, Conner ’17 & Jonathan ‘17

April 29, 2016

Dear Eric Hieser,

I wanted to take a few moments to thank you for the amazing job you have done at Sturgis Charter School. When we moved to the Cape a few years ago, our kids were entering 8th grade and I still remember the day that I first heard that Sturgis even existed. I was at a swim meet with my daughter when another swim parent started ‘bragging’ about the school her kids attended. I was intrigued immediately as my triplets had been in online schools for their middle school education and I was really hesitant to place them in a public high school with large classes (as would have been the case in our community). As I listened, I knew almost immediately that at least two of my three kids would be entering the lottery just a month later in order to be considered for 9th grade (the 3rd opted for a private school). When the day of the lottery arrived, I was not able to attend but looked up the winning numbers on the website and to our surprise and celebration, one of my two boys had been selected for the freshman class the following year. Conner’s joy over being that ‘one’ was so evident as he jumped around the house cheering at the top of his lungs (and slightly rubbing it in to his brother, although we knew the sibling rule would mean that he, too, would be able to attend at some point)!

Because of Conner’s disability (cerebral palsy), it meant working closely with the special education department but the culture of the school under your leadership has been so strong that we never felt that Conner was treated as disabled. Instead, he, as well as his brother who was accepted to Sturgis before Christmas of his freshman year, have grown and flourished to such heights that all the dreams I’ve had for them during their high school years have come true.

Fast forward three years and it is with great joy (yet a little sadness) that I join others in saying good-bye to you as the leader of a school we are so proud to be part of. Please know that only the best is wished for you as you undertake new adventures and, hopefully, some much deserved relaxation. What you have done for so many children on Cape Cod has not gone unnoticed and your legacy at Sturgis is certain to remain strong for a very long time!


Linda Peters

Conner ’17 & Jonathan ‘17

Arthur Pontes, Sturgis Faculty 2004 – 2015

Arthur Pontes

Arthur Pontes

Mr. Pontes gave the following speech at Eric Hieser’s  retirement party.

(To All)       I first met Eric back in the nineties when I was the IB Coordinator in The Hague, Netherlands and a member of the search committee for a new high school principal.  He was one of the finalists for the high school principal’s job.   I got to interview him for a full hour and I knew that he was definitely the one for the job.  He did not get it.  He was seen as too nice, too kind for the rigorous job of high school principal.  He wasn’t nasty enough.  The next time we met was via a telephone interview for a job in a new IB program in Massachusetts.  After both an outbreak  of the bird flu and a tsunami swept away the competition, I was the last candidate standing on dry land and I got the coordinator’s job at Sturgis by default.

Chris Andre and Arthur Pontes

Chris Andre and Arthur Pontes

(To Eric)       They say that you should be careful what you wish for.  A challenge it was.  I remember you, Chris and me sitting around a table and I recall thinking that this is impossible.  We can never make everyone IB ready.    Nonetheless we began operating under the assumption that, of course,  IB for all will work.  We had to think positively, didn’t we?

(To All)       Looking back, it seems like it was inevitable that the school would succeed.  At the time it did not always seem so certain  that we would actually get there. The original vision of a highly academic school had attracted many able students attracted by academics and small classes.  Lunch on Main street also had its followers.  There was another set of students.  Local schools used to have the kids who could not make it apply to Sturgis.  There was no waiting list so if you applied, you got in.  There were far fewer complaints then about the loss of funding.   We were seen by some as the school for the “weirdos”, the misfits, the losers.  All the kudos from US News, Newsweek, the Washington Post and the MCAS, IB and PISA scores could not even be imagined in those first years but one could feel good things happening as time passed.

(To Eric)       You amazingly turned around the reputation of the school in a few short years.   The key lay with you and your strategic vision no matter how often you credit the “team”.  We learned tactics – you directed the strategy.  You were the master;  we were merely your acolytes.

Like the Chinese scholar Sun Tzu, Eric knew the weather, knew the terrain, knew the enemy and knew ourselves.

The weather- a mood in the community for a better school.  a mood in favor of a charter school.  A worried community fearing the failure of Sturgis.

The terrain-  the USA, a public school, an IB school.

The enemy-  Elements of American culture that encouraged competition rather than cooperation, an attitude us versus them from teachers to admin and from kids to teachers and teachers to kids, professional jealousy, high school as the first proving ground in the professional sports industry, low standards for special kids and average kids and a belief in tracking to mention just a few.

Ourselves- The most important – few of the staff knew what the IB really was.  Fear that we were not able enough to teach this rigorous program.  Fear that nearly all the kids would fail their exams and fear of the community’s reaction to this failure.

Arthur PontesStrategy is how one translates purpose into action using the means at one’s disposal.

Eric knew he had to build capacity with the staff so he hired at least one person in each department who had IB experience in International schools.  He made sure that we got all of the IB exams back so we could improve our teaching based on the flaws we saw.  He knew that the attitudes and abilities of the teachers were the keys to success.

Eric had to diminish the fear.  He did this with his emphasis on the process not the results.  No, you would not be fired for kids not passing. He reminded us that the IB program was, after all, a high school program of studies not a college program. We were here to teach kids not stuff.  He was quick to praise and slow to blame.  Humility was a key to his leadership style.

He emphasized the student as partner in education not student as enemy.  Ignorance and a lack of self confidence were the enemies.  He knew the importance of receptionists, the Guidance Counselors, and of Special Education teachers because he knew that a pastoral approach and a caring attitude were what made a real learning community.

He created a sense of inclusion for all by having the school pay for all parts of the IB exams.   Nobody would be excluded for financial reasons.

Arthur and Jo Mary Pontes

Arthur and Jo Mary Pontes

He created  a culture of trust in the abilities and instincts of the teachers knowing full well that this would cause the teachers to show the same sense of trust in their students.

(To Eric)        Sturgis is what it is because of your strategic vision and, if you forgive the term, your professional love for us and for our students.  I repeat what I once said to you five years ago when I was about to have a serious operation   –  thank you for making my last professional years so fulfilling.  Thank you for including Jo Mary and I in the exciting, transformative and meaningful experiment that has become Sturgis.

In keeping with the nautical tradition of Sturgis  I say welcome to port.  It has been a voyage well chartered.  Good bye. Adeus.  Godspeed.

Joann Prygocki, Registrar

Dear Eric,

I saw a phrase once and immediately thought of you:

“Great people accomplish great things”

What more can I add? However, I would be remiss unless I added how your tenure here at Sturgis had impacted our lives:

As a parent, I have always appreciated how you engage my children and their peers in the hallway. In fact, knowing that you have more pressing things in your office as the Executive Director, it has always been impressive that you continue to take the time to be “present and visible” in the hallways. You make the effort to address the students and show that, no matter what, THEY matter!

As an employee, I deeply appreciate how you treat us as individuals; always allowing us the flexibility to adapt our schedules to meet our own personal needs and yet always trusting that the work will be done.

And you have certainly accomplished great things! Trust that when they complete “The Hieser Court”, I will be sure to take my shoes off and only walk on it with the utmost reverence :)!

I truly wish you the best in the next Chapter of your life. Know that I will be thinking of you and your family and there is no doubt you will keep busy, but I do hope you’ll take some time to just enjoy!


Joann (Prygocki)

Gregory Ryan

Gregory Ryan

Greg Ryan, Sturgis Trustee and Alumni Parent


It has been a pleasure working with you.  Our legacy will be long lasting. I say our legacy because you allowed the Board to see your vision of a school which was IB for All.  This is your legacy, which is still innovative and groundbreaking.  I don’t believe there are any other institutions who have accomplished this goal.  You converted us, the Board, to be will participants in your dream.  Looking back I would not have it any other way.

As a Principal, and then as Director of the best school in MA, you always placed the students first.  Whatever decisions we made as a Board, The ‘kids’ were our prime consideration. Asking questions such as, how will ‘this decision’ or ‘that decision’ affect our students?  What type of impact will it have for them?  In retrospect, I guess we, under your tutelage actually, did a fine job!

Eric, I wish you all the best.  I doubt if retirement is actually in your make up.  But whatever you do, Best of Luck!

Greg Ryan

Senior Tribute to Eric Hieser

On May 23, the Class of 2016 planned a surprise tribute for Eric Hieser at the Hyannis Village Green.

Compass-Rose-hrRobin Singer, Mathematics – West

You are very modest about your accomplishments and always give credit to others, but I hope that deep down you recognize that you have a rare, hard-to-name ”magic power”, a talent which was the essential ingredient in the successful development of a  thriving dual-campus Sturgis, a gem in the Mass. public education system.

Although hard to name it, I will try to describe this rare “magic power” you have so you can take justified pride in how so many of us see you:

Your power is an potpourri of

  • character assessment genius
  • wise selection of guiding principles
  • daily common sense
  • understanding of balance between rigor and tolerance / high expectations and realism/

openness to new ideas and holding on to essential school culture ingredients

  • willingness to take responsibility onto those broad shoulders
  • a “light hand on the reins”
  • modesty and no hankering for the limelight

Eric, you have accomplished the establishment of a school in which everyone tries to help students thrive, where staff works amiably together, where all the best values of our broader society are encouraged, and where creativity, student growth, and leadership are nourished.

You have sheltered us from the politics of the outside world.  You have made fundraising, real estate, and construction projects happen seamlessly from our perspective within the community.  You have had your own enthusiasms while letting us (faculty and students alike) have our own enthusiasms, leading to a rich culture enjoyed by engaged participants.

I use the term “magic” because just like when one watches a magician, one cannot really see the details of how you have accomplished all this so skillfully!

I wish you a well-deserved retirement and I thank you for including me in your grand project.  I have learned so very much here, and so much of that learning came from contact with your wisdom and from the wisdom of those you have brought together.

We will sincerely miss you!!

Robin Singer

Peter Steedman, Sturgis Faculty 2006 – 2011, Principal – West 2011-2014

Eric Hieser, Paul Marble and Peter Steedman

Paul Marble, Peter Steedman and Eric Hieser

How often does one phone call change a life?  Receiving a call from Eric Hieser in March of 2006 was, for me, a life-changer.  After Arthur Pontes used his friendship with Eric to land me an interview in December, the call came informing me that I was offered a job to teach at Sturgis.  At the time, I had no idea how that one call would alter my life so completely that I would not be the teacher, administrator or person that I am today were I not fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of that call.

When I started to work at Sturgis, I had already been in education as a teacher, lead teacher and dean of students for over a decade at four different schools.  In many ways, I considered myself a veteran teacher who felt very comfortable with his knowledge of history, the IB and teaching.  I was not prepared for the difficulty that I would face in the classroom my first year at Sturgis.  No slight-of-hand that I had in my bag of tricks worked and I felt completely overwhelmed.  Fortunately, Arthur worked behind the scenes on my behalf with students, teachers and parents until I found my bearings.

It took me some time to consider why that first year was so difficult.  Only after a few years at Sturgis, when I saw other teachers go through the similar difficulties, did I understand that Eric’s vision for education was radically different from anything I had previously experienced.  To attempt IB for All was hard — really hard.  There would be many more frustrations than celebrations when attempting to implement the rigors of this program for all students. I believe that is why Graduation is such a joyful event on the harbor.  It was one of the few times when we can come together as a community and truly let out a collective sigh of relief and celebrate the accomplishments of our kids.

Eric Hieser and Pete Steedman check out Sturgis West construction June 15, 2012

Eric Hieser and Peter Steedman check out Sturgis West construction
June 15, 2012

Sturgis was not your ordinary school.  My mistake before I started was that I thought it was.   I came to understand that Eric had certain sayings, that I am certain will be repeated numerous times as he winds down his stellar career, which were said to students, but which were also meant for his faculty to understand and embrace.  When Eric said, “It is hard, but it is worth it,” this was true for the student who just completed her Extended Essay, but it was equally applicable for the faculty member who had to re-think how he was going to teach ToK in order to connect with his students.

Eric and Arthur both used the phrase “buildings don´t make schools, people make schools.” I am not sure who came up with it first.  I do know that Eric would use this phrase with parents and students when telling them not to focus on the fact that East used to be an old furniture store.  As with his other sound bites, this was also intended for his faculty to hear as well.  I believe it is the one that represents what makes Eric such an extraordinary leader.

On Friday afternoons, just at the end of the day, one can find Eric walking the hallways, looking in on classrooms.  He believes that students should be similarly engaged in the lesson on Monday at 8 as they are on Friday at 3.  Eric is an extraordinary observer of people.  He practices Leadership by Walking Around as it provides him with the anecdotal evidence to inform and guide his conversations with students, parents and teachers.  He also has an uncanny ability to recognize in people, often before they do, their strengths and opportunities for future growth.  Eric´s ability to identify these attributes assists him with Distributive Leadership as he builds a team that can help bring his vision to fruition.  For Eric, he does not need a state of the art building; he needs extraordinary individuals to step up when called upon to serve.

Consider the people he has placed in positions of leadership: Jim Barrasso and Jenn Walts as CAS Coordinators, Will Mathews as an Administrative Intern, Marion Weeks as Community Outreach Coordinator, Anna Botsford as Lead Teacher, Cindy Gallo as IB Coordinator, Jenn Kirk and Paul Marble as Principals.  The list is endless. I consider myself fortunate to be in this group.  When I answered that phone call back in 2006, the thought did not cross my mind that I would be asked to serve as principal of an expanded high school.  Fortunately, I was able to work closely with Eric for many years before I assumed the responsibilities of running a high school, both in the US and Brazil.  I would be the first to admit that any phrase I use to describe my own beliefs about teaching and learning come from Eric.  Whether Eric was able to help me crystalize my ideas about student learning that I had in my head for years or whether I simply stole them from him wholesale, I will never tell.

Pete Steedman Cape Cod Today

Peter Steedman in the hallways of the “original” West Campus location in the former Artifacts furniture store (Fall 2011)

In my current role in Campinas, one can often hear me say, “False praise given to a student can be de-motivating”, “We should challenge conventional wisdom,” “It’s hard but it’s worth it.” As a parent, I think of Eric’s mantra “The things we worry about the most rarely come to fruition.”  Anyone who knows me understands why that guidance is perfectly suited for someone of my disposition.  As my current school follows the Sturgis model of access, all members of the Escola Americana de Campinas use “IB for All!”

When I speak with the community however, and I ask them to reflect on what is truly important.  It is all about people.   Eric taught me that people are the resource that requires thoughtful investment, targeted cultivation and never-ending support.   As we look back on Eric´s achievements at Sturgis, his greatest legacy may be that he believed in people.  He believed in us when we doubted ourselves.  He had the ability to change a life with one phone call.

Joanne Stelma, Rockland Trust and Sturgis Community Advisory Board

Best Wishes on the next leg of life’s journey.  How fortunate were Sturgis and the many other charter school communities to have your guidance!

You will be long remembered for your dedication, many contributions and the young lives that you helped shape and grow.

I was so proud to be a member of the Sturgis Community Advisory Board and to say that your leadership was the main reason I chose to serve.  I was constantly in awe of the juniors and seniors who came to speak at our meetings about their love of Sturgis and why they chose Sturgis Charter School for their education.

Many happy days ahead,



Stacey Strong, Math – East

Carry On Mr. BowditchDear Mr. Hieser,

I’ve started and scrapped no less than 5 letters to you today.  I believe that Chapter 20 of the novel Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham captures my feelings for what you’ve created at Sturgis better than I can describe in words myself.

Nathaniel Bowditch was a contemporary of Captain William Sturgis.  He was a true egalitarian when it came to sharing the elite knowledge of navigating by the stars, moon, and sun.  He was willing to teach anyone– from the poorly educated deckhand to his well-heeled captains and mates– how to use a sextant and math to navigate the world’s waters.

Like Bowditch, you’ve got an egalitarian mindset.  Through your work and sacrifice, an elite education is within reach to all aboard the 4 year Sturgis voyages.

Thank you for making that vision a reality.

Best wishes on your retirement and future passions.

Stacey Strong 

Angela & Rich Sweeten, Sturgis Parents (Class of 2013 and 2018)

Dear Mr. Hieser,

Sara Sweeten and Eric Hieser – Sturgis Graduation 2012

In 2008, when our oldest daughter, Sara, expressed interest in going to Sturgis, we knew absolutely nothing about the school. After attending an orientation, we still wanted more information, and you were happy to provide it. During our meeting, you explained more about the IB program, and answered all of our questions. When we asked you about MCAS, you said, “Well, we give it, students take it, and they do quite well on it”. We left that meeting feeling like we had found a school that kept state standardized tests in their place, and emphasized what was really important for student success. We have since seen in action a curriculum that prepares students far beyond what a state test measures. You have helped create a school where true teaching and learning take place every single day in so many ways, and we are grateful our children have had the opportunity to experience an IB education.

Through your leadership both locally and globally, you have led Sturgis with vision and inspired us all. You have continually welcomed other schools and guests interested in “IB for all”. You are skilled in hiring a great staff that not only helps our students succeed, but cares about them.  You are generous with praise for your staff and students. You are a force behind the scenes that help other people shine.  You have kept the Sturgis community informed through your well-written newsletters. You didn’t let an old furniture building limit what happens inside! You have supported students in their personal growth through community projects, sports, clubs, field experiences, school-sponsored trips, and more. You have seen students go on to accomplish amazing things.  In a nutshell, your influence will continue for many years to come!

Thank you for your service to better the minds and hearts of our young people.  We wish you all the best in your next chapter!

Angela & Rich Sweeten

Fred Tirrell, Former Sturgis Trustee

Dear Eric,

I am so glad I was on the committee that selected you to lead the school.  You have provided unmatched direction and nurturing of the entire school community.  Every stakeholder from students, to parents, to faculty, to board members, and the Cape Cod communities that the school serves have had their lives enhanced by your stewardship.  You leave the schools a shining example of what can be done in a public school with clear goals and direction.

I wish you and your family well in all your future endeavors.  I am confident you will continue to provide educational leadership in new ways.


Fred Tirrell

Carol Vari and Deb Hempel, Guidance – East

Eric – As the bell is rung symbolizing that this journey is done, we hope you will keep these things in mind as you plan the itinerary for your next venture…

ib-lp-colour-sk-6IB Retiree Profile

The aim of all IB Retirees is to develop a leisure minded lifestyle, recognizing their common humanity and extensive life experiences, and using this awareness to relax and embrace this new era with travel, new hobbies, and time spent with family and friends.

As IB Retirees, we strive to be:


We nurture our curiosity, developing the skills for inquiry and research into the best place to grab a nap or a bite to eat. We learn with enthusiasm and sustain our love of learning about wine and good food, and the best new restaurant in town.


We develop and use conceptual understanding, exploring knowledge across a range of disciplines, including travel and leisure, gardening, and home improvement projects.


We use critical and creative thinking skills to analyse and take responsible action on complex problems including navigating public transportation and choosing the best warm southern destination in winter.


We express ourselves confidently and creatively through drawing, painting and gardening, and listen carefully to the perspectives of grandchildren, especially when it comes to spoiling them.


We act with integrity and honesty, with a strong sense of fairness and justice, especially when playing bocce and golf.


We critically appreciate our own cultures and personal histories, as well as the values and traditions of the many lands we traverse while travelling the globe.


We show empathy, compassion and respect for others, as volunteers in our communities, and never lose sight of our passion for educating the young and the young at heart.


We approach uncertainty with forethought and determination, embracing opportunities to parasail, rock climb and go on photo safaris. We use our previous experiences to be resourceful and resilient in the face of these new challenges.


We understand the importance of balance, challenging our minds with a new book, exercising routinely in order to remain steady on our feet, and enjoying the companionship of a new friend.


We thoughtfully consider the world and the impact we have had, as we look back on careers dedicated to helping children and young adults develop into their best possible selves.

We want to thank you for your dedication to the Sturgis community and its mission of IB for All. Your vision and leadership have positively influenced so many lives. We wish you much happiness and health as you begin the next leg of your journey!

Debbie Hempel and Carol Vari

Lindsey Weaver, Math – East (2013-2015)

Current Math Teacher at International School of Prague

May 1, 2016

Dear Eric,

Lindsey Weaver

Lindsey Weaver at Sturgis Graduation 2015

When I went to write this, I looked back to our initial correspondences in November of 2012. That fall, I was a wide-eyed 22-year-old intern at The American School  in Japan attempting to take my first steps into the teaching world. In the middle of my first ever job-search, I was desperate to find a school where I could continue learning from state-of-the-art educators and creators; ASIJ had spoiled me. Naive, I was convinced that I could find such a school that would be keen to hire a first-year teacher. Not surprisingly (in hindsight), my inbox was silent despite my many correspondences with international schools. So here I was, sending some final letters of interest on a late November night and “ding!”: a reply from Eric Hieser was sitting in my inbox. He had lived in Shin Koganei too?! And had worked at ASIJ?! He wrote, “Your background may be a match for our opening.” I blinked a few times to make sure my “go-to-bed-early” brain wasn’t reacting to my 11:50pm eyes. But it was real. Within that same email, you challenged me to describe why, specifically, I was interested in Sturgis. I hadn’t gone back to read my response until now. Reading it was emotional for me. The exact reasons I feel loyal to Sturgis’ community, mission, and leaders are embedded within this first impression- an impression that occurred an ocean away before I was lucky enough to call Sturgis home. I hope you accept these 2012 email-reprints and 2016 post-Sturgis reflections as my sincere gratitude for your decision to take a chance on a first-year educator who was ultimately transformed by the opportunities, mistakes, colleagues, and leaders she had the opportunity to learn from within Sturgis’ walls.

Nov 2012 pre-Sturgis email: “Sturgis’ reputation is simply excellent. Growing up in a family business, I understand first-hand that this reputation is not due to luck. Instead, I would guess the reputation can instead be attributed to Sturgis’ leaders building a culture of extraordinary work ethic and constantly working to challenge the status quo. I have a great deal of admiration and respect for the Sturgis team and for the engine it has catalyzed, as I have an idea (albeit limited) of the tremendous amount of work and planning that went into creating and running the successful organization Sturgis has become within the 14 years it has existed.”

2016 post-Sturgis reflection: I will never forget our hallway conversations surrounding the “Sturgis early years,” when you shared the uphill battles with many forces acting against your leadership and the implementation of “IB for All.” These conversations added an invaluable vault to my understanding of successful school leadership and mission implementation. In fact, I wrote a graduate school paper on it. It is shared on the attached page.

Nov 2012 pre-Sturgis email: “ It speaks volumes when, instead of complaints about lacking resources through construction, one finds students and faculty praising each other in regards to the experience and expressing a belief that is not about the space, but rather about the people who make it up. To add, I found Robin Singer’s recent piece regarding culture of Sturgis to be enlightening, in which she stated, “Administrators, teachers, students, parents, substitutes, and volunteers all treat each other with respect, compassion, helpfulness, courtesy, and common sense. It is this culture that keeps talented teachers at Sturgis…and allows adolescents going through myriad changes to feel safe and supported” (Sturgis Soundings, 2012).

2016 post-Sturgis reflection: One of my strongest memories from my time on Cape Cod was being the first to walk into the school after the 2015 Nor’Easter: the light in front of Paul’s office was flickering, while water rapidly dripped from it into the lake flooding the hallway below. Let’s just say things didn’t look better upstairs where the copy machines had met their death. No, it certainly was not the building that made Sturgis a transforming place. Instead, it was people like Paul who spent hours investing in my reflection and growth as an educator; people like Aaron, Amanda, Dan, JoMary, and Stacey who were the most generous colleagues with listening ears, self-deprecating humor, and wisdom any first-year teacher could ask for; people like you who were trusting leaders not afraid to cultivate and support a culture that challenged the status-quo. I wrote on the topic of Transformational Leadership for my senior undergraduate thesis; it was not until I was at Sturgis that I got to experience and learn from it.

Until we meet again, Eric, thank you for your belief in me and your mentorship over the Sturgis community and mission.

My warmest regards as you begin your “retirement,”

Lindsey Weaver

Marion Weeks, Community Outreach Coordinator

Dear Eric,

First of all, I can never thank you enough for taking an enormous risk to come to Sturgis in 2004 and lead the school through a turbulent and challenging time.

While filming interviews for the documentary, it became clear to me that the history of Sturgis can be classified by three periods:


Rough Sailing

Sea Change

Your guidance and leadership made the third period of notable transformation possible.

Marion Weeks - by Jarvis Chen

Marion Weeks capturing photos – 2014 West Graduation

Secondly, thanks for taking a risk on me and ultimately helping me find my dream job and adventure of a lifetime. When you offered me the opportunity to grow into a community outreach coordinator, it was quite literally a transformative experience. Although I had moments of self-doubt along the way, you seemed  to believe in me and helped me believe in myself enough to learn how to love the job.  In a recent New York Times interview, Barack Obama said: “Being able to do what you love is an incredible privilege.” Thank you for that privilege.

Looking back, I could never have foreseen that working for a fledgling charter school in a former furniture store would become the highlight of my career. It’s been a great experience although certainly not an easy one. I couldn’t agree more with seniors who say, “It was hard but worth it.”

Growing up on a farm must have paid off because you continually impress people with your work ethic and seemingly endless capacity to deal with all manner of things large and small.

No matter the weather, you maintain a steady hand on the wheel and keep an even keel.

Paul Marble & Marion Weeks present Captain’s Log to Eric Hieser

During the past 12 years, it has been my great good fortune to have a ringside seat at Sturgis. I will miss  your thoughtful clarifying questions, the sound of your booming laughter in the hallways and your generosity of spirit made evident even by the way you answer the phone: “Hello, this is Eric Hieser. What can I do for you?”

Last, but not least, thanks for helping thousands of students and faculty learn how to rise to a challenge and “be all you can be.”

Congratulations on a job well done at Sturgis and for a career of making a difference in local, national and international education by challenging conventional wisdom. 

I wish you well as you sail into retirement. Be sure to send all the articles you will be writing in your spare time to Sturgis Soundings Magazine. 

Thanks for everything.

Bon Voyage!


Rich Weida, Mathematics – West


Fred Work, Sturgis Trustee

Fred Work

Mr. Work gave the following speech at Sturgis 2016 Graduation.

Graduates, faculty, administrators, board members, family and friends of the class of 2016, welcome to this ceremony. I am honored to be chosen to represent our board. Actually, I volunteered …

I would like to take the spotlight off our graduates for a few minutes to honor a man without whom we would not be here today or without whom Sturgis would not be #1 in the Commonwealth and top 50 in the nation. He is our retiring—humble and retiring—executive director, Eric Hieser. I’ll get to the humble part later.

Since Sturgis Board of Trustees is so little known, give me a second or two to tell you who I am: My name is Fred Work.  I’m the longest-standing board member—got on the board in 2000 or 2001—so long ago, can’t remember exactly when! We have term limits. Ask me about them after graduation!

Well, they call me the institutional memory—never been sure how to take that … I’d like to take you back to a time when Sturgis was this close to returning our charter to the Commonwealth and closing our doors. I really want all of you to see the documentary coming out of the Sturgis History project. By now, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to say something about Eric. Well, you’ll see how it all comes together in about a minute.

Charter schools are supervised and regulated. We are inspected and have to apply to be re-chartered every 5 years. The board is required to be present at one or more of the examiners’ meetings. One such meeting has stayed in my memory for a very long time. Two examiners, Professors from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, came into a meeting and sat down next to me. They were saying: “O my gosh! There’s something really strange here: Sturgis kids are HAPPY!  This is a happy place, a happy school!” And then, “How is this done?” I immediately jumped in and said, “Easy! You hire a director who sets four parameters:

he or she hires teachers who love kids

he or she hires teachers who love their subject and love seeing students learning and growing

he or she hires teachers who are collegial, respect each other,and work as a team

and, as director, he or she maintains that collegiality and coöperation

Now, finally, you have heard about Eric Hieser. This is who he is.

I love it; Sturgis is my dream school. Here’s where I cite Eric’s humility: Over and over, I and many others have said, “Eric, you’ve done this! You’ve made this school what it is!” Eric’s response has always been to say, “No no! It’s the faculty and staff and students who have made Sturgis what it is today!” Team player is another way to describe Eric. If he sees that you have a better shot at scoring, this is the man who will get the ball to you.

I picked up a cute story from Paul Marble this morning. He and his wife were watching the rushes of the Sturgis History Project, the video I want all of you to see. He noted that whenever asked during an interview being filmed for this project, “What have you contributed to the success of Sturgis?” the interviewees consistently pointed and gave credit to everyone except themselves. Of course, I gave credit to Paul for making this observation. However, after an earlier delivery of this speech, Paul leaned over and told me that his wife had made the observation, not he!

This shows the humility factor here at Sturgis and it comes down from the top, from Eric Hieser himself. I call it trickle-down humility. Allow me to state one more inarguable point: Eric, you turned this school around. You took Sturgis from deep dysfunctionality to the highest levels of teaching and instruction any kid or parent could ask for. I was there. I saw it happen. I am witness to the evolution of Sturgis under your leadership. You did it, and thousands of people whose lives have been touched or changed by your policies—thousands of us are profoundly grateful for all you have done.

To be fair Eric, yes, you did not do this alone. However you have been the leader of the team which makes Sturgis what it is today. You leave Sturgis in a state of excellence and in good hands. You retire Summa Cum Laude.

Thank you, Eric Hieser

Dale Braunschweig -Eric Hieser_ZIS_textZurich International School Community 

Dear Eric,

On behalf of the Zurich International School community, we thank you for everything you did for our students during your time at AISZ – it’s clear from this 1998 yearbook dedication that you made a great impact on them!

Dale Braunschweig - Eric Hieser_ZIS

Eric Hieser, 1998 –  Zurich International School



Farewell Mr. Hieser – Sturgis Wishes You Fair Winds and a Following Sea

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*Past Cultural Soundings topics have included: Travel Tales (Fall 2011)Sturgis Reads (Spring 2012),  Cape Cod Quintessence (Summer 2012)Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation (Fall 2012) ,    Where Were You When…? (Summer 2013) Comfort Food (Fall 2013)Books that Change Lives (Winter 2014),   All Time Favorite Teachers (Summer 2014)Seniors Reflect on Sturgis (Summer 2015)Million Page Reading Challenge (Winter 2016)


  1. Christine Greeley says:

    What a wonderful legacy! I am so very glad that I had the chance to know and work with you, even ever so briefly. All the very best as you set out to write the next chapter of your life story.

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