Congolese refugee shares story of risk and perseverance with ISA students

Grade 3 students and Upper School French-language students were given an insight into the first-hand experiences of an asylum seeker when Justin, a Congolese refugee, visited ISAthe school to share his story.

Brett Preiss, ISA Lower School English as an Additional Language teacher, invited Justin to come and speak with his grade 3 students as part of their recent unit of inquiry, Believe it or Not. The unit explores students’ understanding of beliefs and belief systems and challenges them to see how this affects their own lives and the broader world in which they live.  

“We wanted to invite Justin to share his experiences and how his similar or different his beliefs and values are to those of the children.” noted Preiss.

Justin left the Republic of the Congo five years ago, and arrived in the Netherlands without a home, his family, or any local knowledge of the Dutch culture or language. In the years that followed, he was able to teach himself English and Dutch, and took advantage of social opportunities opportunities to integrate himself in the community, including joining acting classes where he met  that are also attended by Preiss.

Applying the PYP to Real Life

The PYP curriculum has a strong focus on the 10 IB Learner Profile Attributes—inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. Preiss chose to use these attributes as a tool for guiding the discussion with his young students.

We focused on the IB Learner Profile attributes and asked Justin to share how he has been a risk-taker by leaving his family and country, and moving to a totally new land.” explained Preiss.

Being an international school, this concept of relocation was familiar to the students. However, the circumstances in which Justin had to move gave them new insight into how his journey to Holland differed from theirs and allowed them to reflect on the plight of refugees and the sacrifices they must make to start life over again in a new home.

“Justin also emphasised another attribute by discussing how caring he wants to be by improving himself and his life so that he could one day be in a position to care for his family back in the Republic of the Congo.”

To that end, the school also connected Justin with the ISA IT team, after learning of his interest in video editing and development. He was shown some of the latest editing tools and software used in an ISA student’s daily life to guide him on the technologies that are shaping the future.

Preiss hopes that Justin’s connection with both his students and the Upper School French classes made a lasting impression and that both he and ISA can continue to help Justin and other refugees to get their stories out there to discover new connections in the Netherlands as they build their lives.

Justin also showed a keen interest in video editing and development, so during his visit to ISA, he was able to connect with one of the IT Station staff who showed him some of the editing tools and software used at the school.

Mr Preiss said that he invited Justin to present to students in Grade 3 who have been learning about different beliefs through a unit of inquiry called, ‘Believe It or Not’.

“We wanted to invite Justin to share his experiences and how his similar or different his beliefs and values are to the children. We also focus on the Learner Profile attributes and we wanted Justin to share how he has been a risk-taker by leaving his family and country, and moving to a totally new land. Justin also emphasised how caring he wants to be by improving himself and his life so that he could one day be in a position to care for his family back in the Republic of the Congo.”

Students and staff all relished the opportunity to listen to and learn something new from Justin, and while his story was at times challenging and confronting, there was opportunity to be inspired by his incredible story of perseverance through adversity.

“For Justin, this visit was a really memorable and rewarding experience, because he truly believes his story should be shared and that by doing so he is able to help our students and others appreciate what they have” noted Preiss.

“He wants to inspire others to help each other and I think he has done that. I know I’ve been inspired by the fact that he has been able to remain true to himself and his beliefs and values, despite having everything taken away from him. He’s overcome obstacles  and really taught the children that once you achieve something you really should give back to help make things better in this world.”


ISA Students explore solutions to Global Issues at GIN Conference

From 23-25 March, eight ISA students represented the school at the annual European Global Issues Network (GIN) conference at the Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg. The conference was a culmination of several months of brainstorming, planning and student-led activities aimed at providing a solution to one of the 20 global issues that form the foundation of GIN.

This year’s theme was Facilitating Sustainable Change through Education and Integration. Students developed two projects that demonstrated their practical knowledge of the topic and how to apply their own solution through service in the local community. Both ISA projects explored ways to overcome linguistic barriers when interacting with a local Dutch-speaking environment.

“It was interesting to see which other projects were developed by other schools. It was a good way to learn from others and inspired our groups to look at new ways to develop our projects. I felt very happy with our project after presenting it at the conference,” said Hannah Boyles, one of the ISA students who  attended the conference.

The first project explored the integration of different ISA-related communities through interaction with Art. The group visited De Schakel, an Amstelveen-based activity centre for adults with mental disabilities, where they interacted with a group of painters, and later  visited Klaasje Zevenster, a local elderly centre.

The second project was a collaboration between the ISA GIN students and the independently-run Refugee Buddy Project, which attempts to bridge the gap between the international ISA community and the local refugee community in Amstelveen. ISA students have partnered with refugee students from a local high school for various social activities such as a community concert, a movie night and recently a cooking session at the school.

Another ISA student, Bailey Ransom said the experience was beneficial to all involved because it enabled the international community at ISA to interact with the local Dutch community.

Eight students from ISA travelled to Luxembourg to present at the conference, however there were numerous other students involved in the projects and activities demonstrating the students’ commitment to engaging with their local community and exploring innovative solutions to issues of global importance.

Kindergarten students transform ISA into a modern art gallery

Art serves as a bridge across cultures—communicating the emotions, experiences and perspectives of the artists to the world around them. At ISA, the arts play an integral part in the Primary Years, Middle Years and Diploma programmes, allowing students of all ages to creatively share their own views through various media.

Each year ISA’s Kindergarten students, under the guidance of Lower School Visual Arts teacher Frankie Rees, explore how art can be used to as a form of communication through the study of Dutch artist, Vincent Van Gogh. Working with their homeroom teachers and in their dedicated art classes, the students create individual art pieces, inspired by Van Gogh, that reflect the learnings in the unit of inquiry (Find out from Frankie what this was).

Gaining inspiration from class discussions and a field trip to the world-renowned Van Gogh Museum, the student extended (name of Unit) to artworks which they displayed for the entire ISA community in a full-scale art gallery set up in the school’s main foyer in March.

Rees was more than impressed. “The Kindergarten artists were able to explore their creative process with all of the students produced a very special painting, on canvas, using acrylic paint and gel medium.”

“They learned how to use palette knives to add shape and texture to their flower forms and experimented with colour mixing and value. To see their own work exhibited in the school foyer was so exciting for the children and their families.”

Parents, staff and students who attended the gallery throughout the week were all extremely impressed by the range of artworks.

“It was really wonderful to see how the kindergarteners have taken such pride in their work and exhibiting each students work showcases  how each of them have grown throughout the process.” noted Rika Maja Duevel, ISA Upper School Visual Arts teacher.

“As a teacher who has taught both kindergarten visual arts in the Primary Years Programme and the Diploma Visual Art programme I have seen just how important the exhibition component is to students. In the final year of the Diploma Programme students are both showcasing their work and also curating their shows. Building links between museum visits, artists, and creating is an invaluable experience for any age and I’m happy our kindergarteners.”

ISA special olympics a special success

For the past 19 years, the ISA Special Olympics has been a highlight of the school calendar, with students from ISA and the van Koetsveld school in The Hague coming together to host a day of games and sports activities for local children and adults with disabilities.

On Saturday, 4 March, the ISA Special Olympics Club members, along with creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) students participated in this year’s Special Olympics led by ISA English teacher, Jennifer Gryzenhout and Pre-school teacher Eli Arenas Thomas.

One of the school’s strongest and longest-running community service projects, the day offers students the chance to engage with the local community while also experiencing the value of inclusion, connection and diversity. This year’s Special Olympics was created around the theme of “outer space” and ISA students decorated the foyer and annex and set up a range of fun and engaging activities and games. The support of students and volunteer parents who helped with the organisation of the event and the packing of lunchboxes was appreciated by all involved.

Jennifer Gryzenhout said she was very proud of the efforts of ISA students who rise to the challenges of staging the day with dedication, making a real difference to the lives of those who participated.

“The Special Olympics is a truly memorable event, with a lot of laughter and broad smiles at the end of the day. ISA students enjoyed the day almost as much as our guests! They interacted with our guest children with enthusiasm, responsibility and in the spirit of joy and inclusion.”

Next year’s event is looking to be even bigger and better as we celebrate 20 years of the ISA Special Olympics!

Launch of New ISA Alumni Platform

On the heels of their first Alumni Reception in London, the ISA Alumni team has just launched the ISA Alumni platform – a website that serves as the go to place for alumni to share their experiences, connect with old and new friends and remain a part of ISA’s enduring legacy to educate for international understanding.

The platform encourages alumni to connect with former classmates, parents and teachers and engage in the ISA community to promote ISA’s mission. The ISA Alumni platform is open to anyone who has ever been a part of the ISA community – parents, former faculty and staff, and of course, students, including those who have graduated as well as any student who ever attended ISA. The online platform will provide a range of opportunities for alumni to collaborate, network and share stories about their journeys since leaving ISA.

Some highlights include:

  • Electronic yearbooks from nearly every year at ISA
  • Links to the latest ISA news and communications
  • Photos from past events and ISA’s history
  • A directory of alumni on the platform
  • Easy messaging options

In the next couple of weeks, the platform will be coupled with a mobile app – making it even easier for ISA’s alumni to stay in contact with each other!

All alumni are encouraged to sign up at

London ISA Alumni Reception

Everyone loves a good “catch up” with old friends and with ISA launching its new Alumni department, many of our former students had the chance to do just that.

On Sunday 22 January, ISA held its first Alumni Reception at the trendy Graphic Bar in London, with ISA students from 1973 to 2016 gathering to laugh, reminisce and reconnect over their shared experiences whilst studying at ISA.

Als­­­o in attendance were ISA Director Ed E. Greene, Heads of School Sarah Grace and Paul Sanders, Admissions & Advancement Director, Julia True and new Alumni & Advancement Officer, Matt Jasinski.

“This was the first Alumni Reception that ISA has held in London, and in fact the first event that we have done since revamping ISA’s alumni programme earlier this year. It really was great to meet so many of our community members and have them attend the event.”

Jasinski, who heads the new alumni department, is excited about the new opportunities for alumni of the school.

“This was my first chance to meet many of our alumni – and I was blown away by their kindness and appreciation at having this chance to get together. Everyone spoke fondly about their time at ISA – proving that the connections that they made while at our school are lasting.”

“I hope that those who attended felt motivated to reconnect with friends they have not spoken to in a while, and left excited over meeting new members of their ISA family. The school looks forward to hosting future events, connecting with more of our alumni, and creating more opportunities for our community to come together.”


Technology Planning Update

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ISA is in the process of updating its Educational Technology Plan, under the direction of Director of Educational Technology, Michael McGlade, who will be working with all community stakeholders to update, clarify and communicate clear goals for technology use at ISA, to describe how the school will meet those goals and to suggest the related expenditure needed to achieve them.

The Technology Plan is a document (or series of documents) compiled by the Director of Educational Technology, with input from staff, students and parents, to support the school’s overall strategic plan by creating clear goals for technology use, describing how the school will meet those goals and suggesting the related expenditure needed to achieve those goals.

The Tech Plan Steering committee is made up of Faculty and Staff volunteers and includes Upper and Lower School teachers, Technology integrators, tech support staff, and school administrators. The steering committee is organising the process and compiling data as well as forming smaller committees to give input. These committees will include students, parents, faculty and staff.

The previous 3-year plan is now being updated and the ISA Tech Plan Steering Committee will be looking for input through small-group discussions and feedback sessions.

Please contact Michael McGlade at with your questions and if you would like to volunteer your time to this process.

ISA Awarded Gold School Cafeteria Plate 2016

ISA’s cafeteria, George’s Place, has been awarded GOLD status by the Netherlands Nutrition Centre (Voedingscentrum).

The Gold Plate certifies George’s Place as a cafeteria that provides healthy choices to students. “A healthy school cafeteria facilitates making healthy choices through its vibrant and healthy appearance, and by offering predominantly healthy foods.” Our thanks go to George van Rijn for initiating and completing this process with the Voedingscentrum. For further information, please click here.