The School I Wish I Had Founded

Ansel & Josie Sanger
5 min readNov 25, 2019

Liger Leadership Academy

In parts 1 and 2 of this series, we encouraged our readers to travel and build connections across the world. This third article describes one of the most fascinating groups of people we connected with while travelling in Cambodia from Josie’s perspective as a teacher.

Have you ever come across a movement and wished you had been a part of building it? This is how I felt when I stumbled across Liger Leadership Academy (LLA) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. The inventive ways this school develops leaders, facilitates learning, and creates social impact astounds me. After meeting several students whose impact plan will provide thousands of students across Cambodia access to a quality educational experience, I’m determined to help them reach their goal. Will you join us?

Part 3 Quick Take:

  • The teachers: there aren’t any; they have facilitators.
  • Does this actually work? How students impact their communities
  • Next steps: students are looking past the horizon and into the future of Cambodia

The Teachers: there aren’t any; they have facilitators.

As a former educator, I’m aware that it’s easy enough to give something a new title and think that this will change how people relate to or interact with that thing. For example, calling a failing grade an “E” instead of the traditional “F” — we all know what it means and the kids do too, nobody’s being fooled here.

So when I first heard that the Liger Leadership Academy (LLA) didn’t have “teachers” they have “facilitators” I internally rolled my eyes. “It’s a nice idea” I thought. And, sometimes, some days, I’d seen that sort of role work for specific activities. But could it actually change the culture/structure of what school was?

As I’ve gotten to know one group of the senior students, I realized something. I don’t know who any of their teachers are. Okay, I don’t know who any of their “facilitators” are. As students work to complete their learning projects, the facilitators are not the experts. Instead, the students figure out what they need to know, and go find someone who is an expert and ask them for help.

For example, the Liger CubeSat team is working to build Cambodia’s first satellite (nbd). They have several facilitators in math, science, and technology, but these people have probably never built a satellite. So, the students have reached out to actual experts: a former Aerospace Engineer at Boeing, an Aerospace Professor at Cal Poly, A radio expert, along with several others who have become mentors to this team.

Currently the Liger CubeSat team is in need of help to build their satellite. How can you not want to be a part of what these kids are doing? Check out their Kickstarter and contribute to their project: and you could get your very own 3D printed CubeSat!

Does this actually work? How students impact their communities

After initially learning about the students and staff at LLA, the question I found myself asking was: Does this actually work?

School is not separated from life with Ligers. On their academic and holiday breaks, the students return home to their families scattered across Cambodia. At home, they live out what they’ve learned.

I heard about one male student who returned home, offered to go to market to shop for groceries, and then made dinner for his family. If you’re not familiar with the Southeast Asian culture, this is highly irregular. Women are expected to shop for and cook meals. This boy, not only shocked his parents, he is challenging the status quo for gender roles at home.

A female student went home and realized that the girls in her community were not participating in sports. Seeing an opportunity, she created Cambodia’s first Ultimate Frisbee league and invited girls to join. Met with much resistance at first, the league eventually grew to include 60+ girls and culminated in Cambodia’s first Frisbee Championship (August 2019). This is impact.

We got to watch the FIRST Women’s Cambodian Frisbee Championship (2019)

Liger students are selected because of their potential to be leaders. They are trained to be leaders by being given many opportunities to practice being leaders at school and in their communities. How else do you get good at doing something?

Next Steps: students are looking past the horizon and into the future of Cambodia

Some projects that students take on are small. Others are big and ambitious. One ambitious project that five seniors are working on is “out of this world” (couldn’t help myself). The Liger CubeSat team, as I mentioned before is working to build and launch Cambodia’s first ever satellite. This alone is huge. There isn’t even a space department in Cambodia! As if this goal wasn’t cool enough, the team has deeper plans for this project. Because educational resources are very limited within public schools, space technology and project-based learning is pretty much non-existent. So, the Liger CubeSat team wants to build radio receiver kits to distribute to 50+ secondary schools so that kids across Cambodia can have a hands-on learning experience AND access to space exploration by receiving images that the CubeSat captures. How awesome is this?

They need our help making this goal a reality. By funding their trip to Cal Poly and the materials needed to build the satellite, we will be a part of something much much bigger than ourselves. We’ll be providing thousands of Cambodian students access to a quality learning experience and space exploration. Learn more by watching this two-minute video:

Liger CubeSat Team, Phnom Penh Cambodia


As a former educator, this school has my mind exploding. It’s incredible to see a school where students are seen for their character and potential and educated holistically. If ever start a school, my hope would be that adults involved are considered facilitators of learning rather than experts who must be the sources of all knowledge and that students, facilitators, and mentors will work together to be agents of change in their community.

I’m committed to helping the Liger students impact thousands of other Cambodian students by building a satellite. Will you join me?

Contribute to their kickstarter at:



Ansel & Josie Sanger

Traveling, learning, growing. We paused our business in Seattle to live and travel around Southeast Asia — wow there is so much to learn!