In 1991, I left the land of my birth, Canada, in search of my roots here in Switzerland. My father was originally from Switzerland and I felt the need to reconnect. Whilst still in Canada, I spoke by telephone to the then owner and director of the International School of Zug, Martin Latter. He interviewed me for two hours for a teaching position and told me to come by the school when I arrived. I was thrilled!
Martin proudly showed me around the school. The International School of Zug was then located on the Alte Steinhauserstrasse in Cham. It was clear from the beginning that Martin loved the school, its children and the learning environment more than anything else. At that time, the enrolment was only 120 students, from Playgroup to Grade 7. The school was located in a former office space on top of the PTT building (Post, Telephone, Telegraph), long since replaced by shiny car dealerships. I began working as a Grade 1 and later a Grade 4 teacher, together with my dear colleague, David Smith, who has created a musical legacy.
In those days, each teacher brought their own curriculum and cultural background into the classroom. The students were exposed to a variety of teaching styles and regional accents. We strongly believed that our passion and a solid foundation in teacher education was all that was needed. At that time, we had a Grade 7 class of only 3 students. This was due to The Riverside School adding Grade 8 to its High School. It would take ISOZ almost a decade before we grew large enough to add a Grade 8 back into the curriculum.
ISOZ was like a big family and, besides classroom teaching, our duties included driving our students in our 3 buses to sports events, trips to museums, skating and swimming lessons, which were my responsibility as well! Classroom teachers were responsible for creating their own PDW experience. As there was only one class per grade level, this was manageable. Some memorable events I can remember include organising a carwash to help raise money for WWF Save the Tiger, volleyball and softball tournaments. Reading has always been central to our school’s philosophy, and the entire school would celebrate Book Month by entertaining sponsored sleepovers in the library, visiting authors and illustrators, and DEAR (“Drop Everything and Read”), no matter where in the school you were! DEAR survives in the Primary school to this day.
By 1995, our school had grown too large for its premises. The Lower School moved into a sunny glass building located on the property of Landis & Gyr (now Siemens). The Upper School remained in Cham, but it became obvious that this solution would only be temporary. Martin Latter began to look for alternative premises. Early in 1997, the staff was brought to Walterswil to
view what would eventually become our current Zug Campus. With excitement, we envisioned what we each could make of the rooms from what had once been a boarding school for boys. Most of the little classrooms in the Rigi building were dormitories at that time, with my current English as an Additional Language classroom housing the supervising matron.
The entire staff realised that we were indeed lucky to have found such a charming location in Walterswil, tucked into the forest and complete with room to grow. That year we moved into the Walterswil campus with much joy for the future.
On a personal note, in 1998 my own family began to grow as I was blessed with one set of twins and again in 2002 with another set of twins. I returned to teaching in 2005, first in Primary EAL and then in Middle School EAL where I remain today. All four of my children attended ISOZ and later ISZL, as it came to be called when we opened a campus in Luzern. My children reminisce fondly about their time at ISZL and the unequaled passion of their Middle and High School teachers.
The years have been a whirlwind of change as I have had the pleasure of working with three outstanding Directors including Martin Latter, Dominic Currer and Barry Dequanne. I have seen many wonderful colleagues come and go, the rise of others into well-earned leadership positions, the introduction of the International Baccalaureate curriculum, the acquisition of a chalet in Wengen, the closing of the Luzern campus but the opening of the Middle School Baarburg building and the Riverside Campus. The years have sped by, yet the fabric of what makes ISZL a world-class school is entwined with the golden threads of my life and those of the many students whose laughter has echoed through its corridors. I congratulate ISZL on its 60th Anniversary - may there be many more to come.