What initially inspired you to pursue a career in education?
I first studied child psychology and travel with my husband’s work pushed me to get interested in Education Internationally so I followed that degree with a teaching degree. I also wanted to work with children and families before they developed issues.
How do your own life/work experiences inform your approach to your work?
The many international locations I have lived and worked in, as well as the 4 languages I speak and my multicultural background have pushed me to being particularly suited for International Schools.
What have you learnt from your time as a head teacher of an international school?
The students that attend those schools come with multiple experiences and perspectives that we need to hone in on and celebrate. Due to my experiences I have been able to put all my skills to work daily to make sure we deliver on our mission and give students the best educational experience possible. The skills that I have found to be the most useful are: student centered decision making, teamwork and collaboration, organisation, entrepreneurship, excellent communicator, in tune with multicultural and multilingual families.
What characterises the students graduating from your school?
They will have an IB Diploma and therefore have access to universities all over the world. They will have excellent life skills from our Personal Social Education programme, will have had experience in serving the community locally and internationally and have 3 languages. They would have been given student voice and so will be politically literate as well.
What would you say makes the learning environment extra special?
The PSE provision, languages, service opportunities, access to high tech science, design, digital learning and media that is facilitated by savvy staff as well as dynamic and entrepreneurial teachers. All that in addition to a state of the art Sports Center, World Language Learning Center and Music Academy.
Which features of the school do parents value the most?
The high-tech provision, personal care and special staff attention as well as the Sports Center.
What are the main principles and philosophies you promote at the school?
The GEMS Core values are: Global Citizenship (make an active contribution to the community), Leading through Innovation (find the courage to challenge convention), Growing by Learning (strive to develop your potential) and Pursuing Excellence (work to continually exceed expectations). We are also an IB school so use those standards to guide all our practices.
How do you get children to do their best academically?
Students have personal and academic goals and we monitor progress towards the achievement of those.
Which other areas of education and extracurricular activities are you developing?
We offer opportunities to develop all aspects of a child so have a comprehensive Extra-curricular programme as well as a World Language Learning Center that offers 9 languages, a Music Academy that offers multiple instruments as well as voice lessons and a Sports Center that comprises multi-sports courts, 2 swimming pools, a climbing wall, a dance studio and a fitness suite.
How do you encourage understanding between cultures and nationalities?
We begin at a local level inviting in students from the public schools to our sports center and language schools. All subjects taught bring in multi-perspectives represented by our students and staff. Different religions, values and traditions are celebrated rather than ignored and students are invited to see that “other people with their differences can also be right” IB quote.
What is the best thing about leading an international school in Switzerland?
The varied perspectives that we are able to bring into a child’s education including his/her family, despite the quiet and safe environment they find themselves in.
How do you make the most of everything Switzerland has to offer?
GEMS Academy students go on multiple field trips locally that enhance and indeed transform the curriculum. They also go skiing, hiking and go on adventure trips in Switzerland.
How do you help international students settle in when they first arrive?
We offer parents a large selection of workshops that help with transition, curriculum and parenting in general. Our parental engagement programme is comprehensive with the intention of gaining partners in our parents. All conversations about student progress include all parties (student/teacher/parents).
What are the main trends in education that you are seeing at the moment?
The use of digital technologies and media for learning that are completely transforming and helping document learning. A balance must be found across disciplines so that children end up with a well-rounded child-centered experience that truly prepares students for what is coming in the future.
What are the main challenges for education as a whole in the future?
Diversity should be championed and not feared, as it is a great source of inspiration and perspectives that can lead to excellence and innovation. Collaboration is the key.
How are you equipping your students for future success?
By helping them develop life skills as well as intellect, talents and passions.
About the school:
Located in Etoy in the Vaud Canton, GEMS World Academy is an international school offering the very best education to students from all backgrounds, cultures and educational levels. You can visit their website here: http://www.gemsworldacademy-etoy.com/