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Berlin Brandenburg International School

Newsletter Archives

  • End of Year (Friday, 23 June, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    Looking back over a whole school year at BBIS, it should make us proud of what we achieved as a community. Both academically but also in all other aspects of school life, we experienced growth. It is not just quantity (like offering more subjects and events, which we did) but also quality that made a difference. It is impossible and would be unfair for those who missed out, if we tried to list everything.

    The number of families leaving due to dissatisfaction with the BBIS services is as low as leaving staff - amongst whom we have the smallest group in many years who seek new employment: five (or 5%). So, the rumours that 40 teachers are leaving are simply unfounded...

    Of course, students move on as families are posted somewhere else. We will officially say farewell on Wednesday from 13:30 in our last whole school assembly in the Sports hall. You are welcome to join us on the balcony when we wrap up the year.

    The annual summer mailing will go out once I am in a position to comment on the IB CP/DP results, which we expect for 6 July.

    One task the director has for you as parents is to fill in the annual feedback questionnaire. This is essential for us to monitor satisfaction rates and generally discover trends in opinions. It is totally anonymous but you are of course are invited to see me directly with observations, positive and critical remarks etc.

    We aim for at least 50% of our families to participate (currently we have about 25% in); here is the link to the questionnaire: 

    Wishing you a happy, relaxing summer,

    Peter Kotrc

  • Creating Interaction - Our PTA (Friday, 9 June, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    International schools are different from local schools in many ways – language, curriculum, often infrastructure. But most stunning is the community feeling that is created by all stakeholders at the school. For most, the school becomes a “home away from home”. Nearly all visitors here on the Seeberg recognize after a short time in classes and corridors how caring and welcoming BBIS is. This includes the communication between students and staff and even the (sometimes age-appropriate rough) way students address each other. A key role in promoting such an atmosphere lays with the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), which throughout the year creates opportunities for interaction. Starting with the Welcome BBQ before school start, the PTA is here to help newcomers to settle in and contribute. Our counsellors offer their expertise for arriving or leaving parents or help in their workshops to deal with the huge job of parenting. We just had the elections for the future PTA Board and I would like to take the opportunity to thank Erna Ludviksdottir, Ottolien Oechies, Ira Phillip, Kathy Pike, Kerri Olschner, Kerstin Greaves and Frances Durocher for their hard work. An opportunity for all of us to say “thank you” is the PTA organized annual Summer Fest on 17 June, where I hope to meet and talk to many of you. Looks like a great event, once again.

    Kind regards,

    Peter Kotrc


    If you missed the most recent PTA Newsletter and Update, please find it here.
    There are still some places for the personal statement writing workshop to support our students intending to apply UK Universities. It is hosted at BBIS and takes place June 10/11.
    More information here.  

  • Graduation (Wednesday, 24 May, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    Even after many years in the job, seeing students leave school for any reason is hard for us as professionals. Whenever a student leaves, it is like a wave rushing through BBIS asking who, why, what will he/she do, will they get on well, and more.

    Seeing our Class of 2017 leave today is less dramatic but rather a fully enjoyable experience. We know they are (in some cases more than) ready to go on, embark on a new journey and look where the grass is greener than on the Seeberg.

    It is easy to let them go because we prepared them well for the next step… but still: BBIS is an 800+ piece puzzle with each holding a particular place, and removing 82 parts will make us a different place. We wish them well for the future – and have put them straight onto our list of alumni.

    Congratulations to our graduating students and their families.

    Peter Kotrc

  • The Importance of Language Learning (Friday, 12 May, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    After a successful SEC MYP language week, it may be a good moment to reflect on the paramount importance of language especially in our international school context. At this moment, we have students from 65 countries enrolled at BBIS. We do not have detailed data but roughly one third have English as their home language, one third German – and the last third a diversity of other home languages!

    Being bi-cultural and thus often being bi-lingual is more the norm at international schools. As it is worldwide, data from UNESCO indicates that only 40% of the world’s population are monolingual. This is something that can be improved and we/your children are working on that every day.

    Long gone are the myths which expressed fear that the bilingual brain would respond to a second language by developing schizophrenia. Conscientiously we have replaced the word “mother-tongue” by home language or dominant language. Research is robust now in showing that children growing up bilingual develop a more agile and more connected brain through synapsis growth.

    We constantly encourage families where two languages are spoken to use this gift and to speak in both languages with the children. That form of early language acquisition is the most powerful and cannot really be replaced by the formal learning in later years.

    So, if you are a Primary parent and hear from your child that their teachers were out yesterday or today, it was for the good reason of (even) further training in the awareness of languages – we had two experts here at BBIS.

    If you want to learn more about our approach and future plans, please join me at the upcoming “Director’s platform evening” on Tuesday 19:00 in the Primary Aula (sign-up here: – as usual, an opportunity to ask all questions you might have.

    Lastly, we have a wonderful new short film that captures the magic of BIMP (Berlin International Music Project) below as well as a student reflection from Eszter Magyar on their 8 years of participating in BIMP.

    Peter Kotrc

  • Our Sprint Towards The Finish Line (Friday, 28 April, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    After Easter, schools embark on the sprint towards the annual finish line. We know it is May when our Grade 12 students assemble for their final exams. It's an exciting time for the students, but also for you as parents and us as teachers too. 

    We should be excited but there is no reason to be nervous: assessment is the celebration of achievement. BBIS students have shown in the past that they are well prepared. As a cohort, the IB DP students last year were only beaten by one school and one point in Germany in their exam average grade. And the IB CP results were the best we had. So making sure the “kids” get enough sleep is the only thing we really can do for them at this stage.

    The teacher and admin sprint includes planning curriculum, building renovations, and dates for events for the coming year. The general calendar for the next two years is on the website already.

    Today you will receive a letter from the BBIS Board Chair, Dr. Frank Walter-von Gierke, regarding next year’s school fees. Please contact us in case you do not get this important message.

    The last “Director’s platform” of this school year takes place on 16 May, 19:00, in the Primary Aula. We will round up the year with all info we have for you, respond to your questions and give you a sneak preview of 2017/18.

    Wishing you a sunny long weekend,
    Peter Kotrc

    PS. With the PTA Staff Appreciation Lunch and Summerfest fast approaching, please be sure to check out the latest PTA Newsletter for info on these events and much more. 

  • Role Models (Friday, 31 March, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    To have role models is human – not just for the very young…

    We had a wonderful time this week when students had the opportunity to meet an eminent football player, ask questions and even do a little sport with him. The enthusiasm of the students (and staff, and parents) gave us the opportunity to reflect on how powerful the influence of special individuals is and how we, as a school, should deal with this fact.

    Looking at Jerome Boateng and his exceptional career, and listening to a few students this morning, it became clear that it is not the one skill that makes him special: young people admire how he developed his talent, how he made a conscious decision to follow his dream, how hard he worked and still works to be on top of the profession, how humble he is about his success and how he cares about the next generation by now starting and running his third charity.

    If kids manage to transfer these insights into their own actions, a lot was gained that Thursday afternoon. What can we as adults learn? Not each of us can be a football star, but we – parents and teachers – are around children most of the day and our behaviour influences their actions. Until robots start populating schools, replacing teachers, we humans have a distinct advantage… let’s make good use of it! For a start, you should see the director less often staring at a smartphone screen….

    Enjoy the sunny weekend, and maybe join us for the refugee fun day on Saturday,

    Peter Kotrc

  • A School Is Not A Building (Friday, 17 March, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    “A school is not a building” – this old quote still remains as a dogma, expressing that it is the student-teacher interactions that make a successful learning experience. To find out more about how learning is going in our Secondary School, you have been invited to the Parent-Student-Teacher conferences next Tuesday (21 March). Let me stress that the name of the occasion includes students, so it is our clear expectation that students will accompany parents and join the conversation rather than being “talked about” – they are subjects, not objects. And it is not just a day off for the kids either.

    But schools are also bricks and clicks, and as space has been rightly called the third teacher, we have this in mind when planning for the renovation of House 5. You can indeed expect some exciting learning spaces there. Samples of newly built schools are currently in the Economist and it is our ambition to come as closely as possible within listed buildings in Germany to an optimal room situation. We will keep you posted!

    Best wishes,

    Peter kotrc

    And lastly, a friendly reminder...

    BIMP 2017 will take place Sunday March 19th at 15h - more info here
    Habitat for Humanity will be hosting a 'Moveathon' fundraiser Thursday March 30th at 12h - more info here.
    Mamma Mia Chorus & Senior School Orchestra in Concert will take place Friday March 30th at 19h - more info here.
    BBIS Flohmarkt/Car Boot Sale will be on Saturday May 13th at 10h to 14h - more info and to book a spot for your car here.  

  • Celebrating Student Success (Friday, 3 March, 2017)

    Dear Parents & BBIS Community,

    In many school systems, nationally and internationally, child safety has become a number one issue. Leaving your children in the care of others should never be a risk. BBIS has always had a strong child protection policy, and further steps have been taken in the last years to make the school an even more safe place to be. If you would like to hear more and maybe make further suggestions, please join us at the platform evening on Tuesday, 7 March at 19:00 in the MPR.

    Please register under (the evening will be canceled/postponed if less than 7 participants).

    Kind regards,

    Peter Kotrc

    BIMP 2017 will take place Sunday March 19th at 15h - more info here
    Habitat for Humanity will be hosting a 'Moveathon' fundraiser Thursday March 30th at 12h - more info here.

  • On To February Break (Friday, 17 February, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    Children are the most important asset in our lives. Only natural that we fear all sort of things might happen to them – and when you hand them over to us at school, we, for a few hours, take over that duty of care and aim to make their time at BBIS as safe as possible. A number of procedures and protocols are in place to cover all possible situations we could think of.

    At the next director’s platform evening on 7 March, I would like to share with you what (international) schools in general do regarding safety, and what we here on the Seeberg have put in place. Hope to see many of you at this occasion – please register in advance here.

    Best wishes for a fun, relaxing holiday week,

    Peter Kotrc

    PS. This month's newsletter from the PTA with info on BBIS Parents Night "Dine Around The World" event and more. 

  • Building Confidence (Friday, 3 February, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    Classroom learning and teaching is what a school is really about – major events just highlight the results of hard student and teacher work. One of them was the Grade 3 Art Show, displaying what students had learned about a chosen artist – their biography, impact, and style towards painting. The last aspect of the project was to recreate one of the works from their selected artist - just amazing how self-confident children were in their presentations!

    What they can become within a few years will be evident in the MYP Personal Project – see Mrs. Jung’s blog below for more details of the upcoming exhibition.

    To teach the children well, teachers need to be “taught” well and with professional development being a key priority at BBIS, a large group spent the last weekend at the conference of the Association of German International Schools (AGIS), offering and participating in a diversity of workshops. This weekend, here at the school, a cohort of BBIS teachers will join over 100 colleagues from other international schools to work with inquiry “guru” Kath Murdoch. The place for the annual regional conference of ManageBac will take place at our Sports hall in March, and two more courses are scheduled for April and May that will provide our staff with even easier access to broaden their skills and knowledge – and thus, our students receiving the benefits of such staff engagement. 

    In addition, we should not forget the “big” picture – or, in other words, the BBIS Strategic Plan. It outlines broadly in four strands (Academics, IT, Marketing and Building) exploring who, what and where we want to be by 2020. Our annual input evening to prepare for the regular update took place a week ago, with 80 participants from all stakeholder groups donating their ideas and time and critical view.

    Thanks to all!

    Peter Kotrc

  • Looking Ahead (Friday, 20 January, 2017)

    Dear Parents,

    At the CIS (Council of International Schools) recruiting fair I recently attended, a half day was dedicated to child protection and how to prevent potentially dangerous people to be in contact with students in whatever role. I learned that BBIS is doing the right things - including asking an updated extended police check from every employee every three years. We want your children to be safe in all aspects of life. 

    Looking ahead at the upcoming week, we are busy preparing for a number of events including a Bingo afternoon and a Strategic evening. The Strategic evening explores the mid and long range planning of the school and allows administration, faculty, board members, parents and students to come together and be a part of our future direction. If you are interested in registering for the event on Thursday the 26th, please follow this link

    Also, please have a look at the events, offerings and updates from the PTA in their January Newsletter and take note of our upcoming Early Education Open House Saturday February 11th - details are above. And finally, sign-up for the Berlin International Music Project is now live. The password you need to login is BIMP.

    Have a great weekend.

    Peter Kotrc

  • Winter Holidays Are Here (Wednesday, 14 December, 2016)

    Winter holidays for all! Time to slow down, listen to each other and refresh family bonding. If you happen to be around, please drop in at our whole school assembly in the Sports Hall on Friday 16th around 13:35. An hour filled with music, updates from student groups and thank-you’s to all those who contributed so much since summer.

    Our best wishes to all for a healthy, happy and successful 2017!

    Peter Kotrc

  • Cross Cultural Exploration (Friday, 25 November, 2016)

    Where does the time go? The next time we send out our newsletter it will be December 10th and there will be one week remaining before winter break. 

    Across campus there is a delightful pace to all that is being undertaken. This weeks newsletter highlights some of the guest speakers, events and experiential learning opportunities that have all shared a commitment to exploring different cultural contexts. We take great pride in seeing activities play out at all age groups through the school and that challenge us to further understand what being a member of an international community entails. In addition to the stories here, our blogs (Primary, Secondary) have received regular posts since we last corresponded. 

    Lastly, we would like to draw your attention to a charitable initiative put forth by a group of ECA volunteers. As 2016 is about to close out, they ask you to donate your soon to be dated calendars to their cause of recycling the goods and creating new products of them to share with those in need. Calendars can be dropped off in the Atrium and back entrance of each house on campus. First collection will be December 15th. Full details below. 

    Thank you for your engagement and we look forward to finishing the year strong.

    Peter Kotrc

  • Values On Display (Friday, 11 November, 2016)

    What an honour and pleasure to be part of the BBIS community!

    Highlights begin this week with Secondary students, teachers and parents together reflecting on the progress made ar the first Parent-Student-Teacher conference of the year. Our pioneering role became visible today when we received our certificate as the first allergy-friendly school from the ECARF foundation, located at the Berlin Charite University Hospital (where our Grade 8 students had a chance to spend time at their laboratories yesterday). A glance of the caring aspect of our core values became visible through the St. Martin’s story put on stage today by Primary students, focusing on sharing what we have with the less fortunate. 

    Lastly, the lantern march through our very own woods was also a happy moment, as was around the fire where student-baked cookies were served. More “Festivals of light” to be celebrated in the coming days, to show respect to all cultures represented in our community of 65 nations.

    BBIS Supervisory Board

    Chair of the Board, Dr. Frank H. Walter-von Gierke provides us with this summary for the board's first meeting of the 2016/2017 school year. 

    PTA Update

    Also our Parent Teacher's Association is as busy as ever providing many opportunities for the community to connect even further. Please see their November newsletter for information on concerts, workshops, get together's and the very popular Winter Bazaar. 

    Sports Shop Hours

    Thursday 17 November 10.00 - 12.00
    Thursday 24 November 13.15 - 15.15
    Thursday 01 December 10.00 - 12.00
    Thursday 08 December 13.15 - 15.15
    Thursday 15 December 10.00 - 12.00

  • Experiencing Leadership (Friday, 28 October, 2016)

    “Lead, follow or get out of the way” – that was the text on a popular car sticker many years ago. Today, it still does carry some truth. As we are getting our students ready for a future life and a career that we know little about,  we believe that leading and leadership will remain a necessary quality regardless.

    There are no born leaders, and looking back we would very much doubt that we would assign admirable leadership qualities to some of the leaders throughout history, considering their methods and results. Leadership can best be learned by leading – as skiing will best be learned by skiing. From Early Education until Grade 12, in differing degrees, all students have opportunities to experience themselves as leaders. This week’s blog (Primary, Secondary) contributions from the principals show that.

    Enjoy reading the newsletter with this aspect in mind.

    Peter Kotrc

    Also, please make note of our Sports Shop Opening Times in the following PDF.
    Next Thursday the shop will be open from 8:30 to 14:00 to coincide with the Primary School Parent Teacher Conferences.

  • Motivation (Friday, 14 October, 2016)

    Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a keynote by Alfie Kohn whose main research focus is motivation. In a well-known book, he has applied the question of motivation to schools in general and homework in particular. His message comes timely when we go on a week of holidays and when many parents will ask: Do you have any homework? Following the research, homework does not change outcomes –motivation does.  So naturally you will ask, how we as a school motivate the students?

    Especially as the next piece of bad news shares that extrinsic motivation using grades, incentives and even praise, does not have an effect according to Kohn’s research – what works is intrinsic motivation which stems from curiosity and a deep interest in a question. At BBIS, we try hard not to kill the natural curiosity of children, and keep honouring the question, not just the answer. Inevitably, in certain learning situations some things cannot be avoided - like preparing for exams, a bit of homework, or receiving grades. What I hope is that your sons and daughters have a great week with you, following their interests – then it is time well spent.

    With best wishes,

    Peter Kotrc

  • Inclusion & Performance (Tuesday, 4 October, 2016)

    It’s been about 6 weeks since the official launch of our new website. You may recall the addition of new blog platforms on our site that were created to help share a little more about the BBIS community. We now have a regular rhythm of opinion and insight contributions from school leadership, along with reviews of events, activities and the week that was. It’s important that we not only show what’s happening but also delivers important viewpoints on matters close to our hearts. For example, Head of Student Support Services, Jonathan Matthews-Hirsch’s new piece below on the relationship between inclusion and academic performance.

    Additionally, here are some highlights from the past few weeks:

    Andrew Hand on the importance of partnering with parents; Michaela Jung met with former student Alexander Koenig to learn what he is up to after BBIS; Angela Hollington has been providing weekly recaps of what’s new in Primary School; Christin Mohammed-King captured our courageous participants of the 43rd Berlin Marathon; and a short piece from myself asking “what does teamwork really mean?


    Peter Kotrc​


  • A Learning Organisation (Friday, 16 September, 2016)

    Sometimes during the admissions process I have the opportunity to talk with new parents about their expectations, and often the question of teacher qualification does come up. Of course, all our teachers have to be certified and go through a thorough recognition check by the German authorities. Equally (or more) important is what happens to teacher professional development once they are employed.

    I am glad to report that indeed, a sizeable part of our budget is dedicated to PD…. All staff receive regular updates in the curriculum they are teaching (International Baccalaureate PYP, MYP, CP, DP). Also, staff are keen to develop teaching strategies: currently we focus on “Making Thinking Visible” as a topic applicable to all year levels. Nearly two thirds of our 100 teachers will be familiar with this concept by the end of the year. From this year onwards teachers organize themselves as “Professional Learning Communities” and focus on a specific aspect of education. Plus, very practical things happen, like a number of teachers involved in First-Aid courses this week. Yes, they may miss the odd period or day for such purposes, but I think the return we get as a school community is invaluable and justifies the absence (btw, a lot of courses are online and involve teachers far beyond the core teaching day).

    In short – at BBIS all learn, all the time.

    Peter Kotrc

  • Trip Week and Personal Projects (Friday, 9 September, 2016)

    Three weeks into the school and trip week on the horizon make us hope that the beautiful weather just continues until end September! When your children go away with their teachers, they have a unique opportunity for both outdoor learning and social development as part of a group. This is why we insist that all students must participate – although as a parent it is not always easy to let them go.

    Please be reminded that all students at BBIS (actually, everybody in Germany) must have a health insurance. Medical costs can be exorbitant and doctor’s visits may be necessary. We ask you to provide a copy of the latest insurance card before every trip we take your son/daughter on. Only accidents are covered by the school insurance. I am sure that you understand this as part of our duty to care about your children.

    Additionally, the September issue of the BBIS PTA Newsletter is now out, please read and subscribe here

    Kind regards for the weekend,

    Peter Kotrc


  • Sharing (Friday, 2 September, 2016)

    Dear BBIS Community,

    New forms of sharing information are everywhere – and we follow by replacing the traditional Kaleidoskope with a mix of social media posts and Blogs, all on our new website. A newsletter will add a few items and summarize the most recent points of information. We hope that this way you will be in touch with us more frequently which should help us to continue building the community of BBIS students, parents and staff.


  • New School Year, New Website (Friday, 26 August, 2016)

    It’s with great pleasure we welcome you to our new digital home. Over the past months we have been working to create a platform that would provide you with the latest insights into our dynamic community and also empower you with information you may need to make important decisions and best understand how we collaboratively support your child's learning journey.  With Early Education through Grade 12, a boarding facility and an ever expanding co-curriculuar program, needless to say there is a lot happening. To help better manage information flow to your home we have started by creating multiple blogs (Primary, Secondary and Director's) and calendars which you can subscribe to and gain a deeper perspective on what's happening.

    As the new school year moves forward, we will be following up with new communication initiatives to further strengthen how we connect. 

    Visit our new website and let us know what you think.