2021-2022 review: stand-out moments and achievements (part 1)

An overhead shot of a large group of people in formation to read "ISB"

By Nick Yates, ISB Communications

Published on Thursday, June 2, 2022

Another academic year is almost complete! It’s time to look back at stand-out moments and achievements for the International School of Beijing (ISB) community, in this first part of our annual review.

2021-2022 at ISB has been heavily focused on celebrating the school’s heritage, recognizing its strengths, and establishing the direction to head in from here. While mitigating the ongoing challenges of Covid-19 and continuing to provide challenging and joyful learning in the present, the ISB community has been busy working on a new Strategic Plan to ensure an even brighter future.

ISB draws up a new Strategic Plan around every five years. It’s a roadmap for the school over the next few years, identifying priorities and how a world-class faculty and staff will make best use of ISB’s considerable resources and huge, modern campus to continue serving students and fulfilling the school’s Mission statement.

After a consultation of the whole community from enrolled families to alumni to teachers, ISB will start implementing the new Strategic Plan in 2022-2023. It has three main focuses:

  1. The core: challenging and joyful learning. ISB will double down on quality academic programming, ensuring appropriate challenge for ALL learners so that every student is achieving their potential in core courses.
  2. Empower students to purpose and compassion. School is about so much more than academics! ISB faculty will keep ensuring their students have integrity, strength of character, and that they are healthy socially and emotionally. To that end, the school wants each student to find at least one academic area and one co-curricular pursuit they are passionate about and in which they can excel.
  3. Strong, lifelong peer relationships across national, linguistic, and cultural lines in an inclusive community. ISB’s social-emotional learning program will continue to focus on relationships, and the co-curricular teams and performance groups on coaching peer collaboration. ISB is also developing the greatest alumni network in Asia. 

These ideas are nothing new. The Strategic Plan is an affirmation of the best of what ISB is already doing. Here’s a month-by-month review showing how the school provided challenging and joyful learning, empowered students to purpose and compassion, and fostered strong relationships in the first half of 2021-2022. We’ll publish part two, covering the second half of the year, in a couple of weeks.

Jon Hill, ISB's Middle School Principal, addresses parent from the stage at a Back to School Night

At Back to School Nights, parents meet with teachers and understand more about how their children are learning

September 2021

The academic year began on September 1. Teachers, staff, and students had spent the previous year settling into amazing new facilities and by this point they were very much at home in these additions to campus. The Elementary School (ES) Arts Center and Theater, Middle School (MS)/High School (HS) Performing Arts Center, Early Years Learning Community, and MS/HS Art & Design Center were ready to witness many more inspiring learning experiences.

Daniel Rubenstein became ISB’s new Head of School. His appointment was announced by the ISB Board of Trustees the previous September, after the Board considered over 60 other applicants for the position. Mr. Rubenstein arrived with almost 30 years of experience with various teaching and administrative roles in schools in New York, Washington D.C., and in China earlier in his career. In 2002, while he was still a classroom teacher, he was recognized with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Parents soon got a great chance to discover more about what their children are learning and ISB’s careful education philosophy at Back to School Nights (BTSNs) on campus. From academics to co-curricular activities to counseling, guests at ISB’s annual BTSNs are briefed on how this school is an inspiring international community in which students are given plenty of opportunities to explore, discover their passions, and serve others. BTSNs provide parents and teachers with a face-to-face opportunity to discuss objectives for the year ahead and the principles behind a quality modern education.

Providing an expert seal of approval, the new facilities continued to earn prizes in top international architecture award schemes.

October 2021

Autumn is a busy time for ISB’s faculty and staff specializing in advising older students and their families about options for after school. They have innovated to continue providing their services lately. September and October were packed with virtual university “visits,” online events which have come to the fore as travel restrictions have complicated this traditional season of university campus tours and meetings with admissions representatives.

2021-2022 was the second year in which ISB students have benefited from a restructured HS counseling model. The High School now has one department responsible for social/emotional/academic counseling led by School Counselors and one department for career and university advising led by Careers and University Advisors. This remodel has allowed the Counselors and Advisors to specialize and provide an even better service.

Teachers applaud at the ACAMIS Early Childhood Education Conference

Educators enjoy the ACAMIS Early Childhood Education Conference hosted at ISB

Ball games and dancing may not spring to mind when thinking of the average parent-teacher meeting, but that’s what families got in ISB’s latest round of coffee mornings with the Head of School and the Elementary, Middle, and High School principals. These events had a strong focus on social-emotional learning – ensuring students are healthy in body and mind alongside striving for academic achievement. This photo news story about the coffee morning for ES parents shows guests engaging in some fun replicating the healthy learning activities of their children.

On October 23, ISB hosted the ACAMIS Early Childhood Education Conference, with more than 160 educators from ISB and other international schools in the region discussing best practice in early childhood education. ISB’s programs are carefully designed to be based on the latest thinking in pedagogy, and the school empowers its staff to adapt their teaching so that it is most effective for students. While ISB recruits highly qualified, experienced, and passionate teachers, it is also almost unmatched in Asia in terms of the resources it puts into coaching for its world-class faculty. You can visit the Early Years Learning Community section of ISB’s website to learn more about ISB’s Early Years Philosophy.

Spirit Week collage

Spirit Weeks and other community-building student fun at ISB

November 2021

Spirit Weeks are a community-building initiative common in North American schools. In November, Spirit Week in the ISB Elementary and Middle Schools gave students a chance to practice life skills like leadership and collaboration. The Middle School Student Council (STUCO) planned a host of activities. The Service Council, the ES equivalent of STUCO, also had a say in ES Spirit Week.

While Spirit Weeks are where the STUCOs really get to show what they’re made of, the councils organize events throughout the year and act as liaison between classes and ISB administration. Here are 10 ways in which Student Council serves both its members and the wider student body.

By this point of the year, people arriving at ISB had got used to being greeted at the main entrance by two living green walls, giant towers of plants erected as part of ISB’s commitment to sustainability and because school buildings with natural elements indoors are proven to be better for learning. The winter change in temperature provided a test for maintenance staff in charge of the walls’ over 20 species of plants. They passed this test with flying (bright green!) colors.

Basketballer Stephon Marbury in an ISB classroom

Basketball legend Stephon Marbury visits ISB

December 2021

A couple of big performing arts pieces around now meant showtime for social-emotional learning. At ISB, the Elementary, Middle, and High Schools each put on a theatrical production per year. It’s an intense few months for those involved, testing students’ time management, interpersonal skills, and composure as well as their acting and production abilities.

As they prepared for performances of The Audition, balancing their regular academics against the hard work and fun behind the scenes and on stage, the MS cast and crew were given lessons on social-emotional health – how to be healthy in body and mind alongside striving for achievement in the play and in classrooms. The work was in line with ISB’s new Social and Emotional Curriculum, officially launched for the 2021-2022 academic year.

One person who proved to be a big fan of social-emotional learning was basketball icon Stephon Marbury, who visited students at ISB on December 8. Mr. Marbury, a star of the U.S. and Chinese leagues for over two decades, talked sporting values and praised ISB’s athletic facilities.

With the Beijing Winter Olympics just weeks away, ISB students had their own success competing in an official art competition for the Games. The Beijing government invited ISB students aged 4 to 18 to join peers from around the world in entering artworks themed around the Games into the competition. More than 70 artists from ISB participated and their works were among the 30,000 entries from 45 countries and regions put forward for consideration by the judges. Eleven ISB students were awarded prizes in a ceremony on December 26.

ISB is an extraordinary school, made so by a tradition of educational excellence spanning 40 years. Establishing, nurturing, and growing such an exceptional learning community has been and remains intentional; we work hard to build strong relationships so our learning is at its best.

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