An Exciting Vision

Innova Academy is an exciting new school providing high-quality international education from Kindergarten (5 years old) to Grade 12, located in the Yizhuang economic development area of Beijing. Across our physical and virtual environments, and throughout our curricular and extra-curricular offerings, we are focused on the future of education, supported by the strength of our educational, leadership and administrative teams, and by our deep appreciation of our past experiences and collective cultural underpinnings.

Innova provides an exciting and rich education program that prepares young people to be inquirers, innovators and entrepreneurs – to find their place in a world that is being disrupted by rapid technological change and globalization. Our programme has a strong emphasis on languages, technology, the creative arts, health, physical development and community service. It cultivates students to be problem finders and problem solvers. The Innova programme challenges students to engage in finding solutions to real-world problems faced in the community and the natural environment and to develop leadership and entrepreneurial skills while developing sustainable social enterprises.

In a vertically aligned system, Innova will offer the internationally-recognized International Baccalaureate Programmes for a complete Kindergarten-Grade 12 education. Up to Grade 10, the Primary Years and Middle Years Programmes (PYP and MYP) incorporate both the curriculum standards of the Chinese national curriculum and those of international curriculum leaders, spanning the years of basic Chinese education (Grade 1-9). In turn, the PYP and MYP serve as the foundations to prepare students to study the rigorous IB Diploma Programme in Grades 11-12, itself recognized by leading universities around the world for academic quality and for preparing students to be successful in the challenges of university life.

Innova is more than a school – we are a learning community that focuses on promoting learning, creating and sharing. Our purposefully designed learning and collaboration spaces allow students, parents and visitors to meet and catch up with each other before and after school and during the day. By extension, our environment becomes more than a school, it becomes a second home for everyone in our community.

We are dedicated to making a difference in the lives of our students, contributing to and being a part of the larger community, and to being at the forefront of educational practice and community spirit.

Senior Leadership Team

Mr. John McBryde – Executive Director

Mr. John McBryde is an educator with over 25 years of experience as Director/Head of School in five international schools in Asia, including 9 years as Director of the Western Academy of Beijing during its growth and development phase during 1998-2007. John is co-founder of ACAMIS and served on both the ACAMIS and EARCOS Boards. He has extensive experience in IB Programs and school accreditation, has served as an education consultant for the Chinese Ministry of Education, developing NCCT accreditation for international schools and is deeply engaged in Learning Technologies, Community Service and the Arts.

Karen O’Connell – Director

Karen O’Connell is from Australia and has worked in national and international schools for the last 37 years as a teacher, consultant, researcher, Principal and Superintendent. She has had 29 years of educational leadership experience, with her international experience beginning at the Western Academy of Beijing in 1999, where she was the Elementary Principal/Deputy Director. Karen then moved to Indonesia as Deputy Head of School at Sinarmas World Academy in Jakarta. In 2013 she joined the United World College South East Asia, East campus as Primary School Principal.

For the last fifteen years, she has also been actively involved in school accreditation, as a member and leader of CIS, NEASC and IB accreditation teams on school visits. She has also led a number of leadership conferences for NGO’s in Cambodia over the past few years. Karen is passionate about student learning and well-being and feels that she has a strong affiliation with mission-driven and value-driven schools.

Deidre Fischer – Associate Director

Deidre Fischer is an experienced head of international schools in a range of countries who is now owner of her own company, DF Education ( Her current work with schools and teachers includes supporting the quality of teaching and learning, and ranges from helping schools vertically articulate their curriculum, conducting organizational audits/reviews, leadership training and Board governance training. She has presented at numerous IBO/TAISI/EARCOS Conferences which have focused on fostering diversity and inclusive practices within schools and leadership/management skills. Deidre’s work is guided by the philosophy that: “Great Leaders find ways to connect with people and help them fulfil their potential”.


Casey Bucheler – Head of Early Years

Casey has been working in Early Years Education for over 30 years as teacher, mentor, Early Years Senior Lecturer, Principal and Coordinator. She began her career in New Zealand but her passion in Early Years International education led her overseas, eventually allowing her to pass on her knowledge as an IB Workshop Leader and Visiting School Team Member.

Casey is passionate about young children’s education and about working with parents as partners in their child’s learning journey, fostering a sense of wonder along the way. In her practice, Casey works to engage, energize and empower learning through guided inquiry which involves exploring, playing, designing and constructing.

Ms. Lara Ronalds – Curriculum Coordinator

Lara Ronalds has been working as a teacher and curriculum coordinator across elementary school subject areas for 22 years. She is passionate about pursuing an ever-improving understanding of what it is that inspires children to learn, driving her to further re ne the ways she and her colleagues recognize potential within each individual student. She understands and values the learning a child can make through their own curiosities and sees it as the educator’s role to help children make connections between what it is that they are curious about and what it is they need to learn.

Lara is an IB Workshop Leader, IB school Visiting Team Member, and completed her Masters of Education in 2015. This is her 6th year of working in Beijing and brings with her a unique set of perspectives, having lived in Hong Kong, California and her home country Australia.


Ms. Grace Yang – Curriculum Coordinator

Ms. Grace Yang has Masters degrees from the University of Toronto (Canada) in Education Administration and Northeast Normal University (China) in American Young Adult Literature. She is a licensed High Education teacher in China, and has taught in public schools, private schools and the college level in China and in education institutes in Canada from 2004-2010. From 2011-2015,Ms. Yang served as the Assistant Director of the Yuecheng Education Research Institute assisting and facilitated the teacher development program and government related education projects. In 2016 Ms. Yang was invited to participate in the revision of the NCCT Accreditation Standards (version 2.0) and to join an NCCT School Accreditation visit.

Ms. QiongQiong Wu – Elementary Teacher

Qiong Qiong Wu is an experienced elementary school educator who started her teaching career as a special needs teacher after graduating from university in 2006. From 2007- 2016, she worked at a well-known Beijing International school as a librarian, ESL Assistant Teacher, and finally as a Chinese Language Teacher for 7 years across both the PYP and MYP. She believes deeply in the value of inquiry-based learning and hands-on class experience, and hence structures her class time to maximize these benefcial aspects of a complete educational experience. Qiong Qiong find both teaching and learning fun and engaging, and believes children should be able to enjoy learning in a friendly and interactive learning environment.


Fish Yang – Elementary Teacher

Fish Yang was born and raised in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong, and received a degree in Early Years Education from South China Normal University. As a young teacher, Fish applied her enthusiasm for Early Childhood Education as a playgroup instructor and running her own Early Learning Centre. Fish worked as an Early Years and Chinese teacher in Zhuhai International School (ZIS).

Fish is passionate about storytelling and since 2010 has been a volunteer at the NGO Dreamkid Land, promoting reading in the home. This work has encouraged Fish to give storytelling workshops in both local and international settings. Fish also highly values play-based learning and believes that, since children are born inquirers, play provides the most natural and meaningful process though which children construct knowledge and practice skills.

Nikos Kritsantonis, Elementary Teacher

Nikos Kritsantonis has been working in international education for the past 10 years. His experience has been enriched, both professionally and culturally, by working in diverse school environments in Europe and Asia as a homeroom teacher, theater manager and drama coordinator.

As a facilitator, Nikos is passionate about implementing technology and design thinking to his practice, and his educational philosophy aligns with the inquiry-driven educational movement.

He believes that the teacher’s role is to create learning environments where kids will find the space to uncover their individual, unique talents.