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Alumni Stories

Jean-François Merckling

Class of 1999
In 1995, the Merckling family arrived in the US from France with a 10 year-old Jean-François Merckling in tow and ready to start 5th grade.  As Jean-François’ parents weren’t sure whether they would stay in the US or return to France, ISTP and the French program were a natural fit.  Choosing a bilingual education and ensuring that the three Merckling children maintained their French language was essentially a forgone conclusion for the family. While the Mercklings’ relationship with the school began on an uncertain path, over time it became clear that ISTP was nothing less than the perfect fit for their family.
In the beginning of their journey, the benefit of an ISTP education simply meant that Jean-François, Jeremy, and Emilie wouldn’t have to repeat classes if they went back to France and continued their education in French. However, like many French ISTP alumni, Jean-François reflects that his bilingual education has meant so much more than a pragmatic choice. Thinking back on what his ISTP education has given him, he says “it opened my eyes to the value and power of understanding other cultures.” Of course, his understanding of other cultures continues to serve Jean-François in his current endeavors.
Jean-François excelled in his studies, earning a bachelor’s in engineering at UC Davis. Upon completing his education, he found himself at a crossroads – he could pursue engineering-related positions, or opt for the unknown, opening other doors that presented themselves. Jean-François took a leap of faith, choosing the path less traveled. Quite quickly, that path brought him back to ISTP where his creativity, hardworking sensibilities, and talents proved to be valuable assets to our community.
Now in his third year as middle school Dean of Students, Jean-François has shown that alumni are ideal members of the ISTP team in that they are the only ones who know what the school does for its students, and the only ones who know how to improve their experience.
On a practical level, Jean-François’ bilingualism has helped him to communicate with the French and American faculty, as well as with new French students. His main objective is to support the faculty in keeping students engaged and interested, and at the heart of accomplishing this task is his ability to make students feel heard. He notes that “some students are more comfortable expressing themselves in French, so it helps me understand their struggles and find ways to better help them.” Further than being able to connect with students through French and English, Jean-François brings a unique degree of empathy to what he does. He feels that sharing the experience of an ISTP education “allows me to recall and share the struggles and successes I experienced going through a bilingual curriculum.”
Jean-François’ insight into the school as a past student, paired with his experience as an administrator, has been a rare and valuable asset for ISTP. This dynamic mixture has made for someone who has the insight to recognize ISTP’s strengths, as well as the areas that could be improved upon. Jean-François says “the real power I find at ISTP is the way we are not afraid to have discussions about weaknesses and find better solutions that will have a positive impact on the students.”
The effort and dedication Jean-Francois exhibited when he took over and formalized the futsal team is a great example of his valuable insight into ISTP’s needs. As an alumnus, he knew that students interested in athletics would have to look elsewhere for recreational activities. After returning to work at ISTP, Jean-François took the initiative to expand the futsal team in 2011. He recruited a mixture of alumni and non-alumni throughout the years to coach the team, and reflected that the “program would allow the school community to grow through a new medium, with current and former students sharing new experiences and ideas through extracurricular activities.”
ISTP is fortunate enough to have a staff member who has seen the importance of community-wide support from the inside out, having been both a student and an advocate of our students. He has described going above and beyond his professional and philanthropic responsibilities as fulfilling in its own right: “even though I have only been here for a couple of years, seeing our students succeed is the best feeling in the world because I know that, with the fundamentals they have been given, they can achieve great things.” When asked why he gives to our school’s most important fundraiser, the Annual Fund, he answered easily: “I think ISTP has a mission that I admire and that inspires me to give back as much as I can.”
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