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Yearbook Portrait Memories

With almost 6,000 graduates across a history spanning sixty-plus years and counting, it’s no surprise that RIS alumni have found themselves back here in one professional capacity or another over the years. This year alone, there are over a dozen alumni among the school’s faculty and staff. You might have seen them around the campus but never knew that they themselves graduated from this fine institution.

As the year draws to a close and we eagerly await the yearbook portraits of the graduating class of 2018, we asked our alumni faculty and staff to take a look back at their own senior photos, share some recollections from back in the day, and tell us what it’s been like being an RIS alumnus back home.

Shirley Gamble
Class of 1982
High School Student Life & Activities Coordinator

“In the past, the yearbook pictures were taken at a studio in Sukhumvit. It was the studio that did it for ISB and RIS—it was the studio. You had to sign up. We only had 44 seniors, so there were thirty-minute sessions all-day Saturday over two weekends. 

“I never liked my hair that year. It had nothing to do with the yearbook picture. I had hair down to my waist until Grade 11 when I cut it short like a boy’s. This is how much it had grown from then until the senior yearbook photo-taking—which was the day after the Halloween Dance! And I didn’t even go home! [laughs] The theme was rock so I had really dark eye makeup, and because the hair had been really braided it got really puffy. I had to tie back half of my hair just to cut down on the puffiness for this picture! 

“Looking back at this picture for me, nothing has really changed at all, except that I’m older. I was a student, and now I’m still helping the students. I was on the Prom Committee. I was in Yearbook. I was in Student Council. The school was very small back then, so there weren’t many options. Whatever was available, I joined… except for sports! (I preferred cheering us on instead!)  I’m sure that with all the other alumni, they’re doing something completely different. My job here is all activities. I was always the social person, and I still am. That hasn’t changed.” 

Lincy Fung
Class of 1985
High School Math

“This photo is quite precious. It reflects me as a somewhat prim and proper young lady while the short hair represents the boyish part of me. The school was much smaller back then, and I do miss that because we really got to know our classmates and teachers quite well. I was a well-rounded student and tried to do my best academically. I participated in many school activities like singing and often played the guitar for the morning flag-raising assemblies. When we graduated, many of us were in tears because we really did not want to leave RIS. 

“Coming back as a teacher, the best thing is I no longer have to take tests—I make and give them instead! [laughs] But it means a lot to me to see the outstanding results on IB and AP exams each year. It’s also most rewarding to see positive changes and development in a student, not just academically but in their character as well. It makes me proud when they come back to visit, show their appreciation and share their success stories. 

“I tell seniors to always do their best in everything that they do, to strive to reach their dreams, and to never give up. I myself am proud to be an RIS alumna and that my two sons are RISians as well. One has graduated and the other will most likely be in my math class next year. It is a very special thing to have the chance to actually teach your own son.”

Chatsuda Samabhandhu Sirichitr
Class of 1985
Elementary School – Grades 4 & 5 Instructional Aide

“How nostalgic it is talking about yearbook pictures! I can’t tell you how often this picture reappears, and when it does, it is with many of my schoolmates and colleagues from the ‘80s and ‘90s. I was that high school student whom friends would come to because I was a good listener. I also respected all my teachers. I don’t think I’ve changed much, but I’ve certainly evolved. I’m still a good listener, and with the help of technology, I can still be that for friends who are on the other side of the world. As for my teachers, I revere them and their words of wisdom even more.  

“It was eighteen years ago when I took up the challenge of being part of the RIS elementary instructional assistant team. Around the same time, my son started kindergarten. RIS certainly provided him with a multitude of skills that were needed to help him land his dream job of being a pilot! As for me, the last eighteen years teaching at RIS have equipped me with greater patience, perseverance, positivity and passion. I can’t deny how challenging and rewarding working with kids has been. To have come back to RIS has been such a great blessing! Now, I have embarked on a new journey as I continue to pursue further studies in education in Australia.”

Mary Lancaster
Class of 1986
High School Counseling Office Secretary

“All the new yearbook photos are now taken on campus. We have the space to do so and the number of students are high enough that it’s efficient for the photographer to come onsite and provide the service. But back in the ‘80s, I remember making my way to a studio on Sukhumvit Road myself. There were no ready-made yearbook photo gowns. The black V-neck was just two pieces of cloth hung over our shoulders and pinned. It was all done on film unlike in this day and age where you can take dozens of pictures digitally and pick and choose. I think us girls were quite concerned about the hair, and yes, there was a bit of hair spray! [laughs] I wish I smiled a little bit more, but looking back, I actually think it’s not bad a photo.

“I still keep in touch with my old school friends. However, I’d love to have more reunions. We often do get-togethers when we have friends visiting from overseas. Getting out to see each other is actually a great excuse to get out from our shells and take a break from our daily working lives or family lives. And the thing is not all of us are RIS graduates. We have friends who had left in Grades 6, 8 or 9 or friends who joined RIS just for a year or two that we still keep in touch with!  The friendships formed while you are in your younger days as a child or teenager are very special. We grow older and we all go our separate ways. We work in different sectors and have different characters and personalities. Those friendships become enriched, and to have all kinds of friends and still be in contact with them is such a valuable thing.”

Supen Lin
Class of 1988
Elementary School – Grade 2 Homeroom Teacher

“We took graduation photos in a studio in those days. Each of us would sign up in our own time and go and take the picture. We were not asked to dress up or anything. Usually, we would try to groom our hair. We would just come in our own clothes and were given two pieces of cloth to wear as the graduation gown. I don’t remember much now. [laughs] Do I like my picture? Why, yes! I look good, right? I look young! People say I look like my daughter Kayla here. The older you get the more you like seeing pictures of yourself when you were younger.

“It’s much easier being a student than a teacher, but being an RIS student actually helped me with working here. When I first came to work at RIS at the beginning of my career it was nice to have all these familiar faces. I knew most of the teachers and staff. I was a few grades below some of my colleagues who were also alumni but we became close working together. Some of them even taught my children. We have things that we can talk about because we might have had the same teachers or the same memories from the old days, though now we mainly talk about our kids. I’ve made a lot of good friends here, and I’m still close with them now.”

Kristina MacPherson Sethaputra
Class of 1994
Admissions Officer

“We took our pictures at a studio between Sukhumvit 29 and 31. Everybody—at least in my year—had three poses and that was about it. It was face front, then turn left 45 degrees and look back, and then turn right 45 degrees and look back. We didn’t even get to choose our own pose, so I was lucky I was in Yearbook! [laughs]

“The curls are natural, but people thought it was a perm because it was a trend in the ‘90s. I think I’d never liked it because as a kid it made me stand out and I’d gotten a lot of questions about it and was teased a lot. Just imagine Thailand decades and decades ago and to be luk-krueng (biracial) with curly hair! I only started straightening my hair when I worked as a flight attendant for Thai Airways because curly hair wasn’t allowed. There was a time I used to criticize this photo, but I think you’re always hardest on yourself. Now that I’m older, I actually do like the picture. I think women in their forties become more comfortable with themselves. You love and appreciate yourself more and care less about what other people think.

“Times change, we’ve grown up, and it’s good to look back and talk to our kids and share what mommy did. It brings back a lot of memories I sort of forgot and makes me feel younger. Looking back at it today, I appreciate it because that’s me. In that period of time, that’s when you’re most you, before walking into the real world and changing because of time. I look at it and it reminds me—that’s exactly who I am.”

Sabrena Laornual Baiagern
Class of 1995
High School Science & Red Cross Committee Advisor

“Back then, I remember going alone, or maybe with my parents, to a studio somewhere on Sukhumvit Road and not actually wearing a formal dress. I remember that in my forward-facing photo, the pieces of black cloth draped over my shoulders weren’t pushed down on the sides. They were popping up and it looked very unnatural. I chose a side-facing photo which is why mine didn’t look like other people’s. I think at one point in time I felt it didn’t look or seem like me, that my smile wasn’t genuine enough. It could’ve been the better smile was in the foward-facing one. [laughs] But I like it now.

“I think back to high school and what things were like back then when I see this photo. It’s kind of interesting to think back to being a student and now as a teacher seeing what the students are going through and how different it is for them. But I still call my teachers from back then that I see on campus ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ We learned with them when we were so much younger, and I have so much respect for them that to address them on a first-name basis doesn’t feel right. I never thought I’d come back to teach at RIS, but it’s been nice. It feels like a second home.”

Matthew Hayter
Class of 1996
Digital Marketing Specialist

“I was skinny! [laughs] I didn’t really like the picture because it looks like I’m half-smiling. Now that I see it again the only thing I really remember is that I’d never owned a tie in my life and I had to borrow my dad’s. I’d grown up in Cronulla, a surfing town in Australia, where it was pretty much board shorts, T-shirts and flip-flops. When I moved here to Thailand, I would always question the slacks and long-sleeve shirts that kids would wear when it was so hot! I wondered why RIS kids dressed so maturely, but the ‘90s was a time when kids would wear adult clothes. I thought the tie made me look old!

“When I look at that photo now I think about how I was more active, sports-wise, at school. Then again, I’d never walked around and explored the campus back then as much as I do now working here. That said, it feels really good being back. People make me feel welcome. When I’m greeted and I’m asked how I’m doing I feel their sincerity. There’s a real sense of community, especially with the faculty and staff that have been here a long time. I feel the camaraderie, and I appreciate it.”

Michael Sawatsewi
Class of 1996
Alumni Relations

“I remember going at the absolute last minute to do my yearbook portrait in a Sukhumvit studio. Looking back, I wish I’d worn a proper suit and tie. I showed up in a T-shirt and borrowed that oversized blazer from them. It’s a typical ‘90s look, so I guess it’s also an appropriate representation of its time. These days I see a lot more styling going on before high school seniors take their pics, and it’s funny to think how unprepared many of us were back then doing this stuff.

“At the same time, we had some eccentric, non-traditional portraits. If they didn’t like the studio, some students would go to their own. My year had a lot of celebs and some used their professional modeling shots instead. One friend’s yearbook picture was his reflection on a TV screen turned off. There was a psychedelic one. Another drew a self-portrait of themselves as a child. It was a time that the students still put an entire school yearbook together themselves.  In retrospect, my committee had a lot of freedom of expression—maybe too much!

“I’ve always been in touch with RIS over the years so working here now isn’t all that unexpected for me. However, most of the teachers that taught me have either relocated or retired, so it sometimes feels completely different from what I once knew. That said, I am happy to see so many other familiar faces during lunch breaks, especially alumni I knew during my school days. It’s surreal to be here together. Everyone’s been kind and welcoming. It takes me back to a simpler time, and it reaffirms the affinity between RISians.”

Arie – Tharatharn Kositanont
Class of 1997
Elementary School Principal Secretary

“I think I look pretty young here! [laughs] I’d slimmed down a bit. If you look back to, say, fifth or sixth grade, I looked completely different. All I really remember is there was a studio set-up, and someone was there to dress me up. My hair was in a weird position, but they fixed it up to look nice. I’d forgotten what my picture looked like… I mean, it’s been twenty years!

“I remember that back then my RIS friends would refer to each other by their full first names.  I was ‘Tharatharn’ then and only started using ‘Arie’ in college. But the funny thing is I still call one of my RIS friends ‘Nitima’ when her nickname’s actually ‘Cherry’!  

“After graduating I hardly came to this area. I remember as a student that the main road was only two lanes and they were lined with fields of tall grass. When I first came back to RIS, I actually got lost because I couldn’t recognize the roads!

“Looking at my picture now, I realize I’m not the person I was when I was in high school. In RIS I was really quiet and shy. I barely talked to people out of my circle. I didn’t have much confidence and didn’t even dare speak English that much, even though I’d been at RIS since first grade! [laughs] I was telling a colleague the other day that I probably would’ve benefited from learning support, but it wasn’t something that was available then. Though I’m still a little shy now, I’m more open to having conversations with new people. I’m more outgoing and more comfortable with myself.”

Wit Pilunthanakul
Class of 2002
Learning Support & Alternative Day Class Coordinator

“My year’s senior photos were done at a studio. They picked one and we went. The interesting thing was no one would miss it. No one would intentionally go, ’Nah, it’s a photo! Who cares?’ It was part of our senior thing. Everybody would get ready for it. The girls would get their hair done—color, trim, you name it. The guys would pick the color they’d be wearing, bring their own suits, their own jackets. They only did two tries, and the photographer would show us the takes on his camera. The previous year supposedly had issues with people not liking or approving their portraits, so for our year, we were required to sign them. Maybe it was partially an artistic choice, but that was also how they got approval for everyone’s portraits. I’m not very picky, and to be honest, I was already happy with my first take. [laughs]

“It’s so different being back and being on the other side. None of my friends ever figured I would be! Alumni that I’d talked to would be like, ‘You were a party-goer and now you’re a teacher? How did that happen?’ [laughs] My first two years working here were the most awkward. When you first come back, you see teachers that used to teach you and you’re still referring to them as ‘Mr.’ and ‘Ms.’ They tell you, ‘Oh stop it! Just call me by my first name!’ It took a while to get used to! But from a different perspective, everything’s been nice. So far, so good.”

Akiko Miyazaki
Class of 2005
Admissions Officer / Japanese Liasion

“There was a day where all seniors needed to meet up and go to a photo shoot onsite for the yearbook. Everyone had to dress up and think of a message, too. It took a whole week because everyone had different schedules. When I look at this picture now, I don’t think it represents who I really was. The picture is so formal. Everyone remembers me as a boyish girl! I hardly hung around with girls, but you wouldn’t be able to guess from this picture, right? [laughs]

“When I think about school life, it always makes me smile. It was always fun. Working here is another enjoyable adventure. There are teachers, who had taught me when I was a student, who are still here. I continue to see a strong community. It’s also interesting to see the changes that are going on, how things have advanced academically and technologically.

“This is my last year. Though I’m excited to move on, I’m sure going to miss the school. The teachers, staff and students have always had a strong bond—that’s what I still have with my own classmates and colleagues! I know I’ll be sad and I’ll miss them, but at the same time, they’ll always be with me in my heart. I’ll definitely come and visit!”

Joelle Guiao
Class of 2013
Instructional Aide PreK 2

“When I look back at my old pictures from high schooI, I feel nostalgic. I remember how much I enjoyed high school and all the funny moments I had. I miss my group, the Estrellas. If you saw me in high school, you’d be amazed at how many times my hair changed and how many looks I went for. But I’ve grown a lot since then. I became more responsible, compassionate, caring, and hard-working, not to mention my once-orange hair is now black! [laughs] I’ve gained more friends, I can speak more Thai now, and I believe that RIS has molded me into what I have become today.

“I love RIS. This is my home, where I’m proud to be back and teaching. It feels like I never left! It’s amazing seeing everyone grow up, my brothers especially. I actually still see my former teachers, and I still cannot call them by their first names. To the graduating students, I would say they should always chase their dreams. Work hard to achieve what they’ve set for themselves in order to be successful and always take to heart what RIS has instilled in them—being compassionate.”