June 2016 sees four faculty members retire from ISB after decades of service to the school. Kimete Basha, Jeffrey Brewster, Mary Ferguson, and Christine Laphkas are all celebrating their careers and achievements this spring with colleagues across the divisions as they bid farewell to ISB. Each of them has graciously agreed to share reflections on their professional and personal learning, their ISB experience, and the things they're looking forward to next.
Kimete (Katie) Basha
Head Librarian MHS
34 years at ISB
"Mrs. Basha, what was that book you told us about where the boy's father was the head of a concentration camp? Something to do with pajamas? It sounded really good." Kimete (Katie) Basha would be able to respond immediately, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." Over the last twenty-five years, hundreds of Middle and High School (MHS) students have been encouraged to read because of a book suggestion made by Kimete Basha, MHS Head Librarian. She's living proof of loving what she does – opening doors to independent learning!
Thirty-four years ago, Kimete joined ISB's Middle School social studies department and thus began her long and impressive career at ISB. Classroom teaching gave her much insight into how essential the skillful use of resources is to lifelong learning, and, as Head MHS Librarian, she used that knowledge to create collaborative and integrated information skills -subject area curricula in the ISB secondary schools.
For Katie, positive relationships with students and colleagues have been among the things she's most proud of in her career. Countless IB students have benefited from the comprehensive library program that she created to support the Extended Essay process. In recent years, ELD students in the MHS have gained language skills through a storytelling program she developed, and she's built a Guided Reading program for ISB's Special Education students. She was a founding member of Safe Place, which emphasised respect for differences at ISB. "Kindness, courtesy, patience and generosity are the cornerstones of building respectful and lasting relationships," she says and Kimete has modelled these behaviours in her years at ISB.
What's next for Kimete? Continued involvement with the Albanian community (of which she and her late husband have been a significant part for many years) by sharing with the National Archives of Albania an extensive personal collection of documents and books on Balkan issues. She also plans to write, travel, and enjoy her grandchildren. With these projects to look forward to, Katie's post-ISB life should be as rich and varied as her ISB career has been.
Please click here to view a video tribute about Kimete
Head Librarian ECCES
28 years at ISB
Jeffrey Brewster's says one word sums up his experience of working twenty-eight years at ISB and that word is, "Opportunity." Jeffry, who is retiring this June from his position as Head of Early Childhood Center and Elementary School (ECCES) libraries, had taken opportunities to publish a number of articles, write about early years education, mentor novice teachers, teach at Bank Street College of Education, chair ECIS's Early Childhood Education Committee, and " ... support children's natural curiosity ... and ... celebrate the ways they explore the world..."
Jeffrey was a classroom and special education teacher, Early Childhood Coordinator, and teacher-librarian, before he became Head of ECCES Libraries. Developing and supporting the literacy skills of young children has always been his passion and he says, "Share what you care about. Your passion is the most powerful motivator." Jeffrey believes that the potential of each child passes through the hands of an educator, and thus teaching is a profession that builds on belief in the future.
A sense of humour and patience are important qualities in being a successful educator and colleague, he feels. Countless students have experienced these aspects of Jeffrey's personality which have made them feel comfortable and "at home" in the story-telling, reading circles, research groups, and learning activities he has initiated and led in the ECCES library. His warm smile and gentle ways have made Jeffrey a valued teacher, colleague and friend to many.
Looking forward, Jeffrey and his wife plan to spend time gardening, enjoying walks in the forests bordering Brussels, and reading "books for grownups." He also plans to explore some ideas he's had in mind related to children's books. And, of course, one won't be surprised to know that he's going to continue learning: this time, deepening his knowledge of French. Knowing Jeffrey, he'll seek other "opportunities" that will enrich his post-ISB life.
26 years at ISB
It will be no surprise to the many Elementary School (ES) students and colleagues of Mary Ferguson to know she says that her experience of ISB could be best summed up as "happy." Over the years, Mary's smile, humour, and the Irish lilt in her voice have made her students in Kindergarten, Grade 4 and Grade 6 love being in her classes. As a teacher-librarian, the position from which she is retiring this June after twenty-six years at ISB, she's been able to work with students across the ES, and she says, "Watching a book disappear off the shelves after a book or author talk still gives me a thrill... Being told it was the best book [a student] ever read – that's job satisfaction right there." No wonder "happy" is the word she chose to describe her ISB tenure!
Another part of that job satisfaction Mary feels stems from her work with colleagues. In moving into librarianship from classroom teaching, she gained a Master's degree in Teacher Librarianship which enabled her to grow as a learner. To help others continue their learning, she has provided professional development opportunities for colleagues in the areas of reading, literacy and the use of digital resources, as well as facilitating the First Steps Reading program in the ES. Mary has also mentored new teachers, and says that she gained great satisfaction from helping to "make a difference" to teachers new to ISB.
"There are so many generous people at ISB- it's like a culture of generosity that endures, despite the constant turnover of people." Yes, there will be turnover in the ECCES library and Mary will no longer be there, but she believes that this culture of generosity will continue once she's off developing her picture framing skills, finishing unfinished patchwork quilts, walking her dog, and having more time to spend with the people she most cares about: family and friends. Her final words of advice? "A sense of humour goes a long way." And that's what Mary Ferguson is about.
ES Grade 6 Teacher
21 years at ISB
Christine Laphkas, who is co-founder and student advisor to the Elementary School's (ES) literary journal, "The Pierian Spring", has given to many aspiring ES writers the joy of seen their work in print for the first time.
According to Greek mythology, drinking from the Pierian Spring would give an individual knowledge and inspiration. Well, certainly the poems chosen for the annual "The Pierain Spring" reflect this belief, as they show readers the beautiful insights that ES student writers have into life and the world around them. As Christine retires from ES Grade 6 teaching after a 21 year ISB career, she commented that "When one reads the poetry of about four hundred students, one looks into the heart and soul of about four hundred students. This is a very rewarding and humbling experience." With those words, she sums up what teaching is all about for her.
"Ms. Laphkas" is known to her students as a rigorous and very knowledgeable teacher whose goal is to prepare them well for the transition to the young adult world of middle school and beyond, and they appreciate this "grownup" approach. She has worked with the ES Student Council and has helped the students create a successful community service partnership between the ES and UNICEF Belgium. International Community Morning is another annual ES activity that Christine initiated more than ten years ago while earning the ECIS International Teacher Certificate and ICM continues today. Important learning opportunities for Christine while at ISB have been collaboration with Harvard University's Project Zero and Making Thinking Visible courses. Knowledge gained through these studies has definitely informed her thinking and her teaching.
When asked what's next for her, Christine said possibly a second Master's degree or completing her Ph.D. This would fit with her lifelong learner profile. Then, there is her desire to serve others and this will be by assisting migrants in Greece. Given her linguistic skills and international background, she will be a wonderful resource to those arriving from war-torn countries. Last but not least, will visiting her sons, Phaedon and Paris, be on her agenda as well? By all means! Christine will continue to seek knowledge and give others inspiration in retirement just as she has in her years at ISB.
Please click here to view a video tribute about Christine
A Parting Wish...
All of this year's retirees can leave ISB proud of what they have achieved and with affection and appreciation from students, colleagues, families, team and Board Members.
Former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, once observed, "There are two periods in our lives when we have exceptional freedom: at college age and when we begin our retirement years. At those times, we have relatively few restrictions and obligations ..."
Kimete, Jeffrey, Mary and Christine - enjoy this freedom, explore new opportunities, and know you have made a difference in the lives of many during your years at The International School of Brussels.
Written by Angela Purcell
Co-Chair Former Faculty and Staff Group