Throughout her impressive career at LJCDS, Meiling Hager has connected with thousands of students through her positive demeanor, welcoming nature and the constant smile on her face. She has been a pillar in the Lower School community, and retired in September 2020—during what would have been her 30th year at LJCDS.
“Meiling is the one with the smile!” shares Susan Middleton, Lower School librarian. “She is patient with children, treating them with respect, smiles and attention. She is dedicated to her culture, her husband, her extended family, and makes each and every one of us feel valued.”
Ms. Hager first began working in education at the Taipei American School while she attended college at night. “It was an eye-opener for me on how Americans teach their children,” shares Ms. Hager. “I loved their creative and relaxing way of approaching education.” After her husband retired, they moved back to the United States, and Ms. Hager saw an ad in the newspaper for an open position as a Lower School secretary at LJCDS. Ms. Hager applied and began her career at the school in 1991 as the Lower School secretary, later taking on the title of Lower School administrative assistant, where she’s been ever since.
“Meiling is the face who welcomes all in the Lower School office. She is the calm voice that answers the many and varied questions the parents, students and faculty have,” says Maria Curtis, director of the early childhood center and extended day program. “She supports our students in any way that she is needed. Mornings were busy, but there was always time made for the students who brought in the attendance slips. She’d take time to ask their name and help them with their manners when greeting others.”
Ms. Hager is known to her colleagues as welcoming, caring and giving. She is also well known for her extraordinary cooking. “Meiling is extraordinarily kind, and she has the biggest, brightest smile. She knows every Lower School student and family by name,” Susan Nordenger, assistant head of school for community engagement, emphasized. “She has touched the lives of every Lower School student, parent, faculty and staff for 30 years—imagine that impact.”
Not only was Ms. Hager the Lower School administrative assistant, but she also taught Mandarin after school for about five years. “She loved introducing her favorite Chinese folk arts and Chinese food to her students. She loves the connections she has made with the community when she has had the opportunity to share her culture, native language, cooking and traditions. Even though it was a lot of preparation to create an after school Mandarin program for students of different ages and grade levels, she loved creating lessons for them and felt so proud of their accomplishments,” says Ms. Curtis. “Meiling was, for several of our Mandarin-speaking Tiny Torreys, a huge comfort and person of safety, as she reassured the crying little ones that their mommies and daddies would return and that they would be OK.”
During her retirement, Ms. Hager hopes to read, travel, play bridge, and attend operas and symphony concerts. “As a Country Day parent or as an educator, I'm not sure in which capacity I've—and my whole family—have appreciated you [Ms. Hager] more,” explained Jonathan Shulman, Upper School history educator. “I'm not sure where we'll be without you [Ms. Hager].”