A vision of leadership and new perspectives on the path of excellence: reflections on StGIS Inspiring People - Andy Holzer

Reflections on StGIS Inspiring People Volume 3 - Andy Holzer

Last term, as part of our program of ‘Inspiring People’, St. Gilgen International School welcomed Mr Andy Holzer. Andy shared with us his journey as a blind mountain climber. Not only has he stood on top of most of the world’s highest peaks, he climbs to a level that would leave most fully sighted people still scratching about at the bottom. Most importantly though, he shared with us the mindset that has served him in achieving the remarkable things he has in his life. The summits he has reached and the hurdles he has overcome are truly inspiring; however, his powerful message to the audience was, though the vast majority of us will never face life without vision, the challenges we face daily are more similar than we may think.

As a blind man, and certainly as a blind child, Andy was consistently limited by other people’s estimations of him. People made judgments about his capacity to achieve things based on their preconceived idea of who he was. The error they made in this regard is that they positioned Andy’s blindness as the central and most significant part of who he was; they defined him based on his weakness rather than his strength. The critical realisation Andy made very early in his life was to recognise that he does not need to be defined in such a narrow way. Andy calls these people ‘the passersby’, and explained how he would politely greet them, then leave them behind, assured in his own reality of who he is, and fixed on his own goals and ambitions.

If it is the error of the passersby to underestimate and inadvertently burden those they encounter with the weight of a low expectation, it is our own error if we allow these energies any space within our consciousness. As an educational institution, we must be ever aware of the passersby and ensure that within our small community all those we pass share in our ambition, our passion and our expectation of excellence. As we nurture this culture of excellence within our school, we take control of the passerby effect and harness it for the positive. For Andy, it was his inner circle of friends, climbing partners and loved ones who enabled his greatness. At St. Gilgen International School, it is our students, our teachers, our parents and our friends who will enable ours; each of us is an enabler of each other’s path of excellence. This is the power of community.

The other powerful message from Andy’s speech, which has a great pertinence to education, is the necessity for dynamic leadership. Andy described dynamic leadership in his terms as, having the mental vision of where he wants to be and what he needs to achieve, yet needing the support of others to get there. To achieve this he would to engage those near to him in his vision and plans and then to teach them how they should help him to achieve them. In this sense, Andy was the leader, however, the fact remained that he needed others to lead him. And so, the process of dynamic leadership is to help other people help us to achieve our goals. Very rarely, would it be the case that we ever define our objectives and achieve them without the input or support from others. Whether these be physical, academic, business or personal goals, we always need others, and hence, we can all benefit from honing our skills in dynamic leadership.

The need for dynamic leadership is never so great as it is in the case of education. The teacher/leader who fails to see the student as central to the process of education fails to be effective in today’s classrooms. By the same token, the student/leader who fails to inform the teacher/leader of what can be done to promote greater understanding fails to see their fullest potential realised. Our classrooms need to be dynamic spaces where students and teachers work together on shared goals (the goal of opening minds, developing skills and increasing the complexity and depth of thinking). Flies on the walls of our classrooms will hear students beginning sentences with, ‘I understood it better when you…’, ‘what I am missing in my understanding is…’, or, ‘can we explore this section in some more depth please?’. The role of the dynamic student/leader is not a passive one; it involves self-awareness, reflection, open communication and a commitment to growth. It involves investment in those people who you need to succeed. The role of the teacher/leader is to be open to and aware of each learner and the way their learning is best led.

What Andy illuminated for us as a learning community is the necessity for interpersonal relationships that are characterised by high degrees of dynamic personal-professional leadership; embedded within a community of positive passersby with shared high expectations. In other words, students and teachers working together (leading one another) to achieve more that either may have otherwise believed was possible! This is a vision we can all play an active role in brining into reality.

With deepest gratitude and appreciation

Jeremy G House

Class of 2016-2017 IBDP Results

The IBDP results are one measure of excellence and just one small (but important) story our students will tell as they continue another step along their path of excellence and onward with a lifelong love of learning.

We are extremely proud of all of our StGIS Graduates from the class of 2016-2017. In addition to a full life at StGIS, packed with challenge, creativity, adventure, culture and fun, they have also completed one of the most rigorous and demanding educational programmes in existence: the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP).

The IBDP results are one measure of excellence and just one small (but important) story our students will tell as they continue another step along their path of excellence and onward with a lifelong love of learning.  

We are pleased to share with you the following wonderful news.

  • Of more than 150,000 IB graduates from around the world, 12 Diplomas, 15 Bilingual Diplomas and 2 Course Awards came from StGIS (pass rate higher than the IB World Average)
  • Our students achieved an average point score of 33.5 (higher than the IB world average and higher than our 2015-2016 academic year)
  • 11 of our students earned an IBDP point score of 35 or higher out of a possible 45 (placing them in the top 25% of all graduates world wide)
  • 4 of our students earned an IBDP point score of 40 or higher out of a possible 45 (placing them in the top 6% of all graduates world wide)
  • 1 of our students earned an IBDP point score of 44 out of a possible 45 (placing her in the top 1% of all graduates world wide)
  • Our students secured places in some of the best universities in the world. Some of these include; Harvard University, USA; University of Edinburgh; Institute of Design, Turin, Italy; Durham University, UK; Paris College of Art; United International Business Schools, Madrid)

Statistics based on the ”IB Diploma Programme Statistical Bulletin: May 2016 Examination Session”

While there are many wonderful individual efforts in the IBDP, we would like to take this opportunity to recognise the family effort required for students to achieve their goals. Everyone, including parents, teachers, administrative support teams, maintenance crews, boarding teams, housekeeping staff, and technical support, plays a critical role in helping our students achieve their best. This is the StGIS way.

Finally, a challenge for our graduates: we are proud of you all for what you have achieved here at StGIS, for how you have grown, and for the young men and women you are today. You leave with an IBDP ranking number, but you must never forget that you are more than this number. What you have achieved today is only a fraction of your remaining potential to achieve excellence in the next eighty years of your lives. Today you have taken one step in a thousand-step journey, what lies ahead is up to you. Be curious, be courageous, be brave, be caring, work hard, be just and honourable and stay in touch. You always have a home at StGIS.

"REFLECTIONS ON AN EDUCATION" by Thomas Zhang (class of 2017)

This school enabled and facilitated my growth and empowerment, resulting in the one and only "subjugation" that I conducted never to subjugate my individuality in an attempt to appeal to anyone.

Among tens of millions of high school students in my age, I was truly blessed to be part of this amazing school, which I found from 300+ IB boarding schools worldwide. This miraculous match brought a whole new world into my life--inspiring surroundings of mountains and lakes in Austria; small class size (4-10 students); 10 activities per week; international friends; self-discovery in arts, sports and communication; cultural, political and ideological clashes; pure pursuit of in life; individuality, confidence, even extravagance; appreciation and open-mindedness; dream and love...and of course, endless coffee shots in the school cafe and yogurts supplies to the houses. Every desired aspect of 21st century high school life school, StGIS provided me. Thank you, thank you!

Coming in the middle of G11 year, I prepared the readiness of adapting, or subjugating, to the established system. This school enabled and facilitated my growth and empowerment, resulting in the one and only "subjugation" that I conducted never to subjugate my individuality in an attempt to appeal to anyone. Whether it is the pressure from majority or authority, the social expectations or stereotypes, or simply the worthless judgements of haters, who have nothing in their brains and only gains sense of superiority by willfully engaging themselves in ridiculing others based on nothing. With so many caring people spreading positive energies and cheering me up each time I felt overwhelmed and doubted myself, StGIS empowered me, and surely will keep empowering every student, to achieve mental security and proudness by not putting others down, but by developing our own passion and talent, with numerous opportunities provided for self-discovery provided. Here, students learn to embrace themselves and appreciate each other in an amazing, meaningful, and constructive manner. Much as I appreciate and relish the opportunity to come, I will never forget all the ups and downs of the last 15 months, and I embrace my heritage and transformation. I will unrelentingly encourage other young boys and girls, with passion, love, and curiosity for the world, to embark on an unforgettable journey at StGIS. You are the composer of your life; be proactive, grasp opportunities, and have fun.

Farewell to high school, farewell to Europe.

Guodong (Thomas) Zhang, Class of 2017 Graduate Student

What is your StGIS story? Episode 1

Our stories are an authentic expression of our culture, our values and our mission.

Our stories are our living memories. They are an authentic expression of our culture, our values and our mission. Whilst an organisational mission statement can summarize an approach or an ideal, a story is the embodiment of this. The passing on of stories is one of the oldest and earliest forms of education. Narrated by those who experienced them, we will be publishing a series of videos to capture these stories and provide a unique insight into life at StGIS.