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Our Teachers’ Hidden Talents! - 2nd Edition

Did you know my math teacher is also a chartered mathematician?

Interview between Eva-Sofia Meindl (Communications Prefect on Student Leadership Team) and Malcolm Williams (Head of Mathematics AND Chartered Mathematician). Mr Williams has been leading the Mathematics department at StGIS since 2016.

Have you heard the joke about the math teacher? Why should you worry about the math teacher holding graph paper? He is definitely plotting something.

This is definitely true for Mr Williams! There is always something exciting in his department; inspiring speakers, mathematics field trips, special mathematics evenings, or mathematics competitions; there is always a new challenge and plenty of support! His passion for education is recognised by his students and colleagues. 

Interviewer: You recently became part of the Chartered Mathematicians. What did getting this qualification entail?
Mr Williams: There are four aspects to it. Firstly, you need to know how children learn. I’ve spent my career working on that. Of course I’ve done teacher training, and how people learn is a big part of that; we’re thinking and discussing it all the time, so I felt qualified for that part. The second part was mathematics. I have a degree in that and I’ve been doing it all through my career, so I felt confident about that aspect. The third part is about experience. I’ve taught in three different schools in the UK before coming to StGIS and I’ve met lots of different students with different learning needs. And the last aspect, CPD, Continuing Professional Development, that’s something I’ve been doing as well. For example, I did a course called Thinking Mathematically with the Open University. I think as teachers we have to carry on learning because there’s always a subject we might not have seen before or an area we could improve on. So, having been confident that I met the requirements, I had to fill out a detailed application and write quite a lot about each aspect, detailing what experiences I have had and how I felt I met the criteria. I also needed two references before I received my certificate. What a ‘chartered mathematician’ really means is that you don’t just have the academic qualifications, but that you also have the experience and you continue to learn about teaching mathematics.

Interviewer: What is the process of continuing to learn and ‘keeping up’ with your subject as a maths teacher like?
Mr Williams: What’s different about maths is that we study things that have been discovered many, many years ago and of course the field is moving on but it’s way too complicated for anything we teach at school. The same ideas and concepts continue to lie at the heart of teaching mathematics, but what does change are the different methods of teaching it. New resources become available all the time. Kognity, for example, which we have chosen to use. You need to wrap your head around everything that’s available, which takes time. Another aspect is that syllabuses change; from September, there will be a whole new IB Mathematics curriculum. That’s something else that’s a part of professional learning since all of us will have to understand the new material thoroughly before teaching it.

Interviewer: How do you manage to balance personal learning alongside work?
Mr Williams: You need to take a short-term view and a long-term view. Some tasks are more urgent; I know I have to mark some things or prepare lessons this week. And then you need to leave some time for more long-term, less urgent but also important tasks. What we do in Maths is we have a department meeting every week. We try not to spend all that time on administration but instead use that time for long time planning and professional learning. Otherwise, everything would get on top of us.

Interviewer: What is your favourite thing about your subject?
Mr Williams: I think it’s really lovely when I come across something I hadn’t really thought about before. Or sometimes a student comes up with a way to solve a problem that perhaps isn’t the standard way or how I would have done it. Something else that’s really lovely is what we call ‘magic moments’, which is when someone works on a problem they really don’t understand and all of a sudden they say: ‘Oh, I get it now!’ That’s something you don’t have so much in other subjects.

Interviewer: What is the worst thing?
Mr Williams: I think the worst thing about teaching math is when people say: ‘Maths is really hard.’ Especially when parents say: ‘I was really bad at maths at school’, which doesn’t really fill their children with confidence. I believe it’s not harder than any other subject. How well a student does depends on their motivation.

Interviewer: Sometimes students are frustrated because they feel like there’s no real-life application for the things they are taught in maths. How do you respond to that?
Mr Williams: There is a sense in which maths is the most abstract of all the sciences. What we try to do is to give maths a context and to show how it can be applied to different situations. Sometimes they can be a bit contrived because really, the situations where you need to apply the kind of math we teach, students haven’t met yet. Giving mathematics a context that everyone can relate to is another challenge of teaching maths.

With gratitude to our talented Mr Williams! 

Proud winner German Brand Award 2020

The award for successful brand management

Initiated by Germany's design and brand authority and judged by a top-class panel of experts from brand management and brand science: The German Brand Award is the award for successful brand management in Germany. It discovers, presents and awards unique brands and brand makers - and not only promotes the winners, but also their respective industries.

A few months ago, the jury for the prestigious German Brand Awards invited us to enter our application in this year’s nominations. We took the decision to enter this international competition in the category for ‘Education’ not only because we are unendingly proud of the school itself, but also of the ‘St Gilgen International School’ brand and of the advertising presence that have achieved together with Zooom marketing agency in Fuschl am See.

What we could not foresee was that a small international school in Austria had a chance of winning the category first prize. On 18th June, we were officially informed that the independent jury had awarded St Gilgen International School first place in the ‘Education’ category for the German Brand Awards 2020! Statement of the jury: „The great care and expertise devoted to the finest details convey the ambitious values and merits of the private school in a credible fashion and reveal how these distinguish it from other schools. The result is an extremely clear profile that enables the positioning of StGIS as a credible brand.“

It is the first time that this award has been claimed by an Austrian educational establishment and it is particularly a mark of recognition for our marketing manager, Max Obauer, and for all those who support him in his work. It also represents a valuable confirmation of our ‘St Gilgen International School’ brand and our unshakeable belief; ‘Every child has talent, and StGIS will develop it!’ Few other schools have the opportunities that we have to discover and foster the individual talents of each student, be it in the academic arena, art, or in the many wonderful sporting activities which can be undertaken in the safe natural environment of the Salzkammergut.

Our German Brand Awards 2020 achievement will enable us to broaden our remit, spreading the message of the exceptionality of our school beyond our borders. We ask all of you to inspire your friends and acquaintances by endorsing just how special our school is.

Our Distance Learning Adventure

Our distance learning adventure began 3-weeks ago, we waved our students goodbye on a Friday afternoon, Wuhan-shaking each other at the gate. The whole community worked frantically in the days before our transition, getting our systems and curriculum in place, learning fast together; ready to truly embrace the fact that “learning takes place all the time, everywhere and for everybody; learning is complex and personal; learning is a journey”.

And what a journey it has been for StGIS students and staff already, highs and lows – challenges and celebrations. Our distance learning principles centred around a desire to ROCK; we asked our community to focus on Routines, get Outside where possible, to Communicate regularly and most importantly, be Kind to each other. We have discovered that curriculum delivery might change, but can continue, our staff and students have conducted Science experiments, filming and sharing the process, undertaken group work and performances in Drama, online discussions in English, and in-the-news research in World Studies; they love Kahoot quizzes, and enjoy the opportunity to keep fit through their Movement and Wellbeing daily exercise and keeping an active diary vlog of their efforts.

However, perhaps most importantly, we have also focused our energies on the many other, equally valuable yet less obvious aspects of school; our dedicated and caring Mentor Tutors have conducted face-to-face chats with their students on a daily basis, listening, guiding and supporting their learning and wellbeing. Our Head of Activities has motivated the community to try something new for 30-days; an instrument, language, cooking – whatever, provided it challenges and inspires. Our Digital Learning Coordinator has new ideas every week to connect with our students and staff across the globe, and he takes time to share his tips and tricks with the community. We continue to run assemblies, Science evenings, Spring concerts and more; in this way our commitment to excellence in care, education and activities remains as strong as ever.

What does this mean for our students? They get up each morning, but don’t have to wear uniform; their journey to school is a short walk to the computer rather than a long bus trip. They see their teachers and classmates on screen rather than face-to-face; but they still connect. Lessons start at normal times, students who can log-in, teachers introduce the topic and work with presentations, videos and live chat, students get the chance to ask questions. During the lesson, teachers respond to chat and video messages in Teams, review students work and give feedback as normal. After morning classes, our students check in with their Mentor Tutor, before taking a break. The rhythm continues; with up and down to lunch and some fresh air in between classes. After school, many will do some exercise, play music, draw, cook, meditate – anything to help keep positive and focused. Evenings maybe involve some homework, and some downtime with family; sleep comes quickly, and we do it all again. Is it easy; no, is it possible and are we ROCKing it – yes?

We are distant, yet still together and cannot wait to be back in St Gilgen as soon as possible; for now though, we remain committed to making the most of our distance learning adventure, and growing from the experience.

Class of 2019 Destinations - Update

Our graduates from the class of 2019 developed their passions with us and strengthened their strengths, and we are excited to see them continue this journey in a myriad of ways.

Class of 2019 Destinations Update

Following on from their stellar results in the IB Diploma Programme, we are pleased to announce that our students are continuing their lifelong pursuit of learning as they endeavour to contribute positively to our global society.  Our graduates from the class of 2019 developed their passions with us and strengthened their strengths, and we are excited to see them continue this journey in a myriad of ways.

18 Students of the class of 2019 start their University courses this coming month in countries such as the UK, Austria, USA, France, Spain, and Canada.  An additional 6 students have gone on to complete their civil service duties as required by their country, and 5 more graduates from 2019 have elected to take a gap year to gain experience in their chosen fields of interest.

University Destinations for our class of 2019 include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • UK: University College London (UCL), Westminster University, University of Sussex, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts London (UAL)
  • Austria: University of Vienna, University of Salzburg, Salzburg Mozarteum
  • US: Indiana University, Portland University
  • France: Le Cordon Bleu University, Paris
  • Spain: IE University
  • Canada: Ryerson University

We are very pleased with our graduates, and excited for their futures!