What initially inspired you to pursue a career in education?
I was encouraged to pursue a career in education because of the influence of a number of inspiring teachers who I had the good fortune of having when I was growing up in small town Ohio. I still remember my first grade teacher, Miss Schuler; my Latin teacher, Miss Schlegel; and my English teacher, Mrs. Wurst. They and other teachers made me feel special and made me feel like I could accomplish anything. And trite as it may sound, I knew that I had found my career the first day I walked into the classroom as a teacher.
How do your own life/work experiences inform your approach to your work?
I like people and I always expect the best from them. Although I’ve been disappointed a few times over the years, I still think that most people “rise to the occasion” when you place your trust in them and have confidence in them.
What have you learnt from your time as a headteacher of an international school?
After almost 30 years as a headmaster in Europe and America, I think that one of the most important things I have learned is to remain calm. No matter how bleak things may look at the time, it is good to remember that “this too shall pass.” I believe that if a leader remains calm, the community remains calm.
What characterises the students graduating from your school?
The students graduating from TASIS truly are global citizens. With more than 65 nationalities represented in our student population, we work hard to stress the importance of internationalism, service, civility, compassion, and empathy as key parts of a young person’s education.
What would you say makes the learning environment extra special?
Among the things that make the learning environment at TASIS extra special is the incredible beauty of our campus. The stunning architecture that is part of our Global Village takes advantage of the equally spectacular views from virtually every classroom and dormitory room. Students often say that the beauty of the campus and the warmth of the people who work here are among the things they value most about TASIS.
Which features of the school do parents value the most?
Among the things that parents seem to value most are the academic quality, the beauty of the campus and facilities, the close relationships with administrators and teachers, and the School’s emphasis on developing good character.
What are the main principles and philosophies you promote at the school?
Among the main principles and philosophies we promote at TASIS are the value of hard work, service, civility, leadership, beauty, and the arts. The School’s Global Service Program requires all high school students to participate in service both locally and globally. It is heartening to see that many students who have fulfilled the required amount of service continue to remain involved in the program.
How do you get children to do their best academically?
Although we want all our students to be challenged academically (and in other ways), we also want them to have appropriate challenges. For students who want and are ready for the rigorous IB and AP programs, we offer a wide range of demanding courses. For students who may struggle in some areas, we offer a wide range of supportive instruction, including writing, math, language, and science help centres that are available to students in the afternoon and evening. We also provide additional support for students with learning differences through our Learning Resource Center. Since all students in grades 6-12 also have a faculty advisor, it is hoped that any academic needs will be quickly identified and addressed.
Which other areas of education and extracurricular activities are you developing?
The athletic program at TASIS has grown much stronger over the past decade. Since it was often difficult to arrange games because of distance, the School has worked hard to develop relationships with other schools within reasonable distance of Lugano. TASIS now participates in three sports associations: SGIS, ESC, and NISSA. Travel also is extremely important at TASIS. Twice a year students in grades 6-12 participate in Academic Travel trips throughout Switzerland and Europe. The School works very hard to ensure that these trips are tied to what is being studied in the classroom.
How do you encourage understanding between cultures and nationalities?
One of the highlights of the year at TASIS is International Week, in which all our students have an opportunity to introduce aspects of their culture to the rest of the community. Teachers also find ways throughout the year (almost on a daily basis) to make students aware of other cultures and nationalities. With more than 65 different nationalities represented in our school and more than 35 different languages spoken, international understanding is a major focus.
What is the best thing about leading an international school in Switzerland?
Among the joys of leading an international school in Switzerland are the beauty of our surroundings, the wealth of languages and foods we encounter daily, and the friendliness of the people. The sense of security and stability are added bonuses.
How do you make the most of everything Switzerland has to offer?
We offer field trips, cultural trips, and Academic Travel trips throughout the year to places such as Zurich, Bern, and Geneva. Each January, we offer a one-week ski term for our high school students at Crans-Montana and a one-week ski term for our middle school students at St. Moritz.
How do you help international students settle in when they first arrive?
When students first arrive, we provide them with an extensive orientation program. We also train student proctors to help look after new students. For students who might be struggling with homesickness, we have faculty advisors, dormitory parents, and health professionals to help them with their adjustment.
What are the main trends in education that you are seeing at the moment?
One of the trends in education that I think is having a big impact at all levels is the increased attention being paid to differentiated instruction in the classroom. I think that the more teachers learn about how to teach to a wide range of learning styles, the more effective they will be with all their students.
What are the main challenges facing education as a whole in the future?
I think that one of the big challenges for education at all levels and in all places is to make it more affordable.
How are you equipping your students for future success?
It is my hope (and expectation) that students leaving TASIS are equipped not only with a quality academic education but also with a love for learning. For this education to matter, however, it is essential that our graduates also be people of good character who care about others and the world.
About the school:
The American School In Switzerland (TASIS) is a private coeducational boarding and day school for elementary, middle, and high school students. Located in Montagnola, a village south of Lugano in the Canton of Ticino, TASIS enrolls approximately 730 pupils from around the world, including 270 middle and high school boarding students.
TASIS is the oldest American college preparatory boarding school in Europe. Visit their website: www.tasis.com