by Marco Venturini
Dr DiMatteo, could you tell us about your international experiences in the schooling sector?
I began my career in international education in 1999, when I accepted a position at the American School of Warsaw (ASW). We left Warsaw to move to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where I served as the elementary principal and my husband was the Technology Director. From there, we moved to Munich, where I have served as deputy head of school at Munich International School for the last five years.
Dr Kristen DiMatteo, new head at the American Overseas School (AOSR )
How do you think your extensive international experience will help you with your new challenge at AOSR?
Each school has brought a new perspective to my thinking about international education. In Warsaw, I helped design a state-of-the-art campus.
In Tashkent, we developed an inclusive and inspiring curriculum to ensure that the needs of all students were met. In Munich, we focused on highly able (gifted) student services, ensuring that our students had access to premier universities in the UK and the US, and developing habits of mind like resilience and perseverance that bring success in adulthood.
I am excited to lead AOSR in the coming years as it offers a rigorous and personalised learning environment, which builds skills of the future. Due to the covid-19 pandemic the school life has been upset as never before.
What are the main challenges you see ahead and how is AOSR preparing for the next academic year?
The main challenge is to provide a safe environment that maximises the learning potential in each child. Safety of our students comes first.
From my experience reopening school in May 2020 at Munich International School, our challenge here in Rome will be to continue to educate our students about the importance of adhering to hygiene regulations to prevent the spread of the disease.
We talk about respect for others, and the importance of remaining diligent. Covid-19 has required us to re-think what teaching and learning looks like. Ultimately, inperson learning is optimal, and therefore our challenge is to ensure that our campus is safe and healthy for robust yet distanced face-to-face interactions.
How do you think the recent pandemic has affected the life of young pupils and teachers?
Certainly the pandemic has required all of us to become more resilient, adaptable, flexible and creative in our approach to education.
Our teachers have learned to pivot quickly from in person to distance learning, using technology to stay connected to students through virtual class meetings. Teachers have found this adaptation to be both challenging and inspiring, as they create interactive lessons for students that tap into the resources available at home.
It is missing the social aspect of school that has been tough for students. Children of all ages are resilient learners. Learning is innate in children and they can effectively and flexibly access technology for learning. What they miss is spending time with their classmates and teachers on the AOSR campus, which feels like home to our students. The AOSR community is such an integral part of their lives, they really miss it.
Keeping in contact via social media, keeping the school spirit alive through communitywide virtual activities, and watching inspiring messages from their teachers helps. But at the end of the day, humans are social beings, and we want to be together on the AOSR campus, when it is safe to do so.
Our students need the face-to-face relationships with their teachers and peers, and we need the joy and curiosity of our students back on our beautiful campus!
AOSR campus Aerial view
In this day and age what are, in your opinion, the strengths of a private international education?
What international education of the calibre of AOSR offers is firsthand experience in developing the skills needed to be successful in a global context. Diversity is our strength, and it is highlighted in our mission statement.
We know that having a truly international student population means that our students have opportunities to learn new perspectives, not only from our internationally recruited teachers, but also from their peers.
They explore ideas and concepts from multiple viewpoints and as a result, they develop an innate ability to problem solve and work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
This is indispensable as they journey into the world beyond AOSR.
In a fast changing world what kind of work opportunities will today’s student find in 10 years time? What advice would you give to your pupils?
We know that up to 35 per cent of the jobs deemed essential today will change dramatically in the next 10 years. This is according to the World Economic Forum. Social media director, inclusivity advisor, cyber security officer; these are professions unheard of even five years ago.
The work of the future is dynamic, solutions oriented and complex. Because our curriculum is steeped in critical analysis, intellectual rigour and collaborative work, our students leave AOSR optimally equipped to thrive in this type of environment.
My advice to our students is to have the courage to challenge yourself, and find joy in that challenge. There is nothing more rewarding than knowing you have exceeded your own expectations of yourself!
American Overseas School of Rome (AOSR), Via Cassia 811, tel. 06334381, www.aosr.org.