Goodbye for now: ISD says adieu to long-time community member

With 26 years of experience in the British Royal Air Force, facing conflict in Northern Ireland during the 70s, the Gulf War, and the war in Yugoslavia, one of Nick Ligertwood’s most stressful battlegrounds has been the ISD car park. 

“It was worse than going to war,” says ISD’s much-loved security officer, “but now I’ve got them trained.”

With that victory firmly in hand, Nick is ready to say goodbye to ISD after 18 years.  

After leaving the Air Force, Nick was employed locally in Germany, until an opportunity opened with a security firm after the September 11 terrorist attacks. At that time, the school was under police surveillance round the clock, and a private security firm was enlisted to take over. Nick had already been working with this particular firm for around three months and was subsequently approached by ISD’s Director with a job offer. The rest is history. 

“Coming from the military, I never thought I would come back to school. It was a bit of a culture shock, coming back to civil life,” Nick explains. 

Nevertheless, he quickly felt a part of ISD’s unique community. Everyone Nick met, he says, made it worthwhile.  

“Every day is different, and the students are fantastic.” 

When it comes to making plans for his retirement, Nick jokes that he doesn’t have much of a say…

“My wife has got plans for me, so I’m not a free man!” 

Thank you, Nick, for your service to ISD. You will be missed.

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ISD senior flexes creative muscles

Sport and fitness have been lifelong passions for grade 12 student, Daniel. He’s played competitive rugby and lacrosse, trains as a boxer, and frequents the gym to work on his strength and conditioning. In just the last year though, Daniel has discovered a surprising new talent that demands an altogether different kind of training and focus: the visual arts.


For his IB Diploma coursework, Daniel is preparing a portfolio of paintings and drawings that focus on human musculature. By studying and imitating depictions of the male form in Renaissance art, Daniel has produced striking works that explore bodies and body parts in motion and wrestle with contemporary constructs of male beauty.

“I started by looking at the anatomy and form of muscle,” Daniel explains.

“It kind of started shifting to the question of the ideal male form and how men are influenced by social media to work out and achieve the perfect body.”

Art is a new discovery for Daniel. He is taking inspiration from Michelangelo in the representation of musculature and use of light. 

As part of the ISD Hub of Innovation’s recent Speaker Series event, ISD students were able to have a studio visit from the French-Tunisian performance artist, Elma Riza.

For Daniel, this was an exciting opportunity to discuss his work, one-on-one, with a professional artist and to expand his outlook.

“I thought it was so cool. Having a professional look at my work was kind of surreal. Her thinking is so abstract; she sees things differently to how we do. She gave me some interesting ideas.”

While Daniel admits things are not always smooth sailing in the art studio, he believes that ISD has given him the support and resources to develop complex skills and broaden his creative thinking.

“This piece that I’m starting on, I wanted to put my fist through the canvas. Everybody has those days when they want to destroy what they’re doing. But I think that if I keep going, I’ll eventually achieve what I’m looking for.

“At ISD you can use anything you need to. If you’re ambitious about something, the teachers help you to achieve it. It’s nothing like where I used to live.”

With graduation not far away, Daniel is naturally thinking about next steps. That could mean studying business management at university, or taking a gap year, or staying in Düsseldorf a bit longer to improve his German. Whatever Daniel decides, he undoubtedly has the drive and energy to make a success of it.

“I’m super ambitious,” he says, smiling.

“I find that I have to slow down. It’s definitely a process. It’s the same with painting; I think to myself, if I just keep going, I’ll eventually achieve what I’m looking for.”

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ISD Dad’s Army

There are many groups for parents and caregivers at ISD: language conversation groups, welcome committees, country groups, running groups, volunteer activities, yoga, personal development and so many more. The groups focus on developing language and comfort in a new environment, but more importantly, become the anchor for many new parents when they first arrive.

What about the dads? Yes, you know, the dads who have taken on the role of caregiver, but are unsure how to navigate the social structures in a new location, particularly when many activities are dominated by women. ISD has the dads covered!

Currently, the ISD Dads Group is expertly managed by Juan Carlos Duque, an ISD parent since autumn 2015. When he first arrived from Colombia, Juan Carlos was not confident in his English language skills and as a result, he didn’t initially join.

He began doing individual activities with a few other ISD dads, but didn’t officially join the ISD Dads Group until it was suggested he might help lead it at the start of his third year at ISD. Juan Carlos took on the challenge and made it his goal to engage the ISD Dads in many different activities throughout the year: soccer, tennis, basketball, volleyball, cooking, traveling and more.

Since that time, the ISD Dads Group has focused on providing opportunities for the many varied interests that exist among the members. The adult sports programs offered at ISD, as well as the sports clubs around the school, have been a great way to expand the activities for the group. Currently, the ISD dads are participating in two soccer tournaments, both with a local sportverein, one tournament is in the over 32 category and the other over 40.

As with many groups at ISD, there are natural subgroups – mostly based on home language – that form as well. An extension of the ISD Dads Group is a group of men from Spain and Latin America who enjoy cooking and entertaining. Including moms, the Spain and Latin America group has about 60 members. It’s a great way for those who speak Spanish to get to know each other and support families who are new to ISD.

About 18 months ago, the dads from the Spain and Latin America group formed a cooking and entertaining group that follows a northern Spain tradition where men create gastronomic groups that highlight cooking from all around Spain. The ISD Spanish speaking dads highlight cooking from all around the Spanish speaking world. It is dads only and called “TXOKO” – this is “choco” in Basque, the language spoken in the north of Spain.

Txoko was created with dads from ISD, but now includes men from all over Dusseldorf who speak Spanish, including ISD alumni parents. Each cooking event has an assigned logistic team who are responsible for all details of the event. There are about 6 cooking events in a year, happening every 6-8 weeks during the school year. Their events have highlighted foods from throughout Spain and the next event will move to Latin America with an Argentinian and Mexican barbecue. 

Whether a dad or mom, and regardless of the language spoken at home, ISD’s community supports our all of families throughout their time at the school.

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ISD teachers around the world

ISD is home to world class educators who inspire and motivate our students every day. Each instructor has a wealth of experience and expertise to share with our students – we are a fortunate school!

However, even the best instructors require time to reflect, learn and expand. Since the start of the school year, several ISD educators have been around the world, sharing what we do at ISD and learning more about the possibilities that exist in educating our students.

Below are excerpts from the experiences our educators have had along with a glimpse into the topics they shared with other international educators.

In 2020, we will continue to learn and share at the Association of German International Schools (AGIS) where over 24 of our educators will present to their peers. And, ISD is happy to be hosting a Numicon Workshop on 7 December, 2019 and the Outdoor Learning (OLE) Conference on 15 and 16 May, 2020. Learn more about these events here.

Samantha Ward and Michael Stanger: International Baccalaureate (IB) World Conference, Abu Dhabi, UAE 24 – 27 October, 2019

This Conference was a larger than life experience. From the grandeur of the conference hall to the passionate enthusiasm of the IB alumni and current IB student speakers to the engagement with other innovative, creative colleagues from around the world.

We were honoured to present on behalf of ISD’s Our Living World Grade 6 Team. Our focus was on how the team combines science, humanities, and theatre to provide students with varied and creative learning opportunities that challenge them to view the world through different, complex perspectives.

The response from attendees was very positive. Teachers and administrators from other international schools have reached out to learn more about our programme, as well as the other co-taught, transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary work that is happening in both the elementary school and senior school. 

David Lyttle: International Baccalaureate (IB) World Conference, Abu Dhabi, UAE 24 – 27 October, 2019

This conference is the largest annual gathering of IB educators around the world, with more than 1500 attendees from more than 500 International Schools participating. I was also lucky to attend many wonderful sessions: instructional coaching in IB schools, flexible learning spaces, diagnostic assessments, changing the culture of teaching and learning, and what universities of today are looking for in school graduates.

My breakout seminar was on “How the brain learns mathematics”. This session reviewed the latest neuroscience developments, and linked this to implications of teaching mathematics in an elementary school setting. More than 75 people attended, of which about 20 of them contacted me wishing to further the conversation and learn more. 

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and opportunity, to network, to learn, to present, and I look forward to keeping many of the conversations started there going.

Gisela Rabearisoa and Lynn Scherpel: The Alliance for International Education Conference, Geneva, Switzerland, 18 – 20 October, 2019

The Alliance for International Education Conference “Rethinking International Education: Values and Relevance” united educational practitioners, administrators, researchers and university students from around the world in presentations and breakout sessions. The main focus was to consider global transformations and the future of education.

Our presentation “Rethinking Teaching and Learning: How Flexibility Impacts Learning Outcomes” showed the substantial changes we implemented in teaching German at ISD in recent years. These include using flexible learning spaces, applying flexible learning groups across ability levels, using authentic literature and resources exclusively, and allowing students’ voice and choice in meeting the learning outcomes.

Mike Thaler: The Future of Education Now, Beijing, China 2019, 13 – 16 November

At this conference, held at the Western Academy of Beijing, schools from all over the world came together to discuss and share how they are reimagining, redesigning and reengineering school. We heard from thought leaders like Sir John Jones, redesigners of learning spaces like Rosan Bosch, and role models for future generations like Jane Goodall.

In the sessions and conversations that I took part in, my overwhelming feeling was that schools all over the world are on this journey together. It was affirming to see that many of the major changes that we have adopted here at ISD are consistent with those that are happening across the world. The common themes of personalised learning, collaborative learning communities, and skills mastery were apparent from Snells Beach, New Zealand to Hangzhou, China.

As we continue to search for ways to make learning more effective and relevant in the future at ISD, we must remember that we are not alone and that schools worldwide are taking this journey with us.

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Goedendag (good day) from ISD’s Dutch mother tongue programme

Since 2012, ISD has hosted a local Dutch mother tongue programme, NTC-school De Oranje Leeuw. Students from ages four to 13 take part in a three-level Dutch language programme that follows the Dutch elementary school system and is one of two mother tongue programmes at ISD, funded in part by the government of the home country.

The classes take place each Thursday during the school year. Several classes at ISD are converted to Dutch classrooms, complete with a Dutch language library, certified Dutch teachers and up to 50 students. The students are from ISD or German schools in the Düsseldorf area. Their home country is primarily the Netherlands; many students also hail from Belgium.

The curriculum is consistent with the language curriculum in Dutch schools. Students who participate are tested twice each year, as are their Dutch peers. The difference between the Dutch mother tongue programme and Dutch elementary school system is that the mother tongue programme only focuses on language skills, it does not extend to other subjects.

The teachers provide students with homework in addition to their class work. They are supported by both the teacher and teaching assistant while in class. Outside of class, teachers keep up with the coursework through an online learning platform that communicates with both students and parents.

There is more to the classes than language skills. Four times each year, the students take part in cultural events, sports, games or a day trip to the Netherlands. These activities help reinforce Dutch culture. 

One event that is important to all of the children at this time of the year is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas visits the school along with his book of names. Another cultural tradition that is celebrated across the Netherlands and in the Dutch mother tongue programme is “book week”. Each September, children use books to explore a specific topic that allows them to hone their reading in Dutch.

The Dutch mother tongue programme becomes a place for more than learning, it is a place where the students can find each other when they are away from their familiar surroundings. And, for the parents, it’s a great place to find a bit of home when integrating into German life. From time-to-time it’s the perfect place to have a laugh at the mishaps that can occur as an expat. Geweldig (splendid).

ISD offers many mother tongue programmes in addition to Dutch, including: Swedish, Finnish, French, Spanish, Greek, Russian and Italian. To learn more, please visit the Mother Tongue page on our website.

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From ten minutes to ten rivers

Thomas de Groote, a parent at ISD since January 2018, has truly found his passion and calling. It began with a challenge from a friend back in August 2017: pick up trash for ten minutes each day for ten days. He didn’t think it was his job or responsibility to clean up other people’s trash and was reluctant to accept the challenge. Nevertheless, he was able to turn the idea into a fun activity for himself, Maxine, Jeff and Jack (his children). They dressed as superheroes and enlisted the help of neighbours and friends nearby. 

(As an aside, the friend who challenged him has now been collecting trash for 10 minutes each day for over 1,220 days!)

Following his ten day challenge, Thomas became keenly aware of the amount of trash in his local area. It spurred him to take action and become a part of the change. 

Shortly after moving to Düsseldorf, Thomas contacted the organisers of the city’s yearly  Dreck weg Tag (Cleanup day) and, together, they agreed to organise the first RhineCleanUp in September 2018. Cleaning up this great river was a logical choice. Eight billion kilograms of plastic trash end up in the world’s oceans each year – sadly, 80% of this flows into our oceans from rivers. 

The more Thomas researched and worked with his friends from Dreck weg Tag, the more inspired he became to create an event focused on improving the condition of the Rhine. Together, they formed the Rhine CleanUp.

For World Cleanup Day, 15 September 2018, the Rhine CleanUp team had a goal of enlisting three cities in three countries – nine in total – to participate in a clean-up along this vital waterway. From the start, the team exceeded their goals. The event in 2018 spanned 59 cities in five countries and included over 10,000 volunteers. The power of the river not only naturally connected these locations, it also connected the people and their concern for our environment. 

And if this was possible along one river, why not try it for all?

Less than two years after the first 10-minute cleanup, an organisation focused on rivers around the world was established: River CleanUp. This non-profit organisation currently coordinates cleanups along ten major rivers in Europe (Volga, Rhine, Scheldt-Meuse, Danube, Pregolva, Neris/Neman, Drin and Belaya) in partnership with local groups. The aim is to “clean locally, celebrate globally”. 

River CleanUp is all about activating citizens, companies and politicians to participate in cleanups and become part of the solution. When River CleanUp was launched in Belgium, Thomas had the opportunity to pick up river trash side-by-side with management from Delhaize, Unilever and other partners. Having this firsthand experience helped business leaders to understand the extent of the problem, which will hopefully inspire them to effect sustainable change in the companies they serve. 

In addition to forging powerful partnerships, the team organised a cleanup with over 20 members of the EU Parliament the day before their crucial vote on the ban of single-use plastic. This hands-on experience was likely one of the many factors in their vote to ban single-use plastics by 2021.

This year, the Rhine CleanUp on 14 September will take place in 109 cities throughout five countries. Join the 100 ISD students and community members in cleaning up our portion of the river in Kaiserswerth. For those unable to join on 14 September, World Cleanup Day takes place on 21 September this year in over 170 countries around the world.

In two short years, Thomas has gone from a ten minute cleanup to impacting cleanups in cities along ten rivers. His efforts prove that the ripple effect of a single act can change the world for the better. 

Thomas recently gave a TedTalk on this topic at ISD – click here to watch.

You can connect with Thomas directly by e-mailing

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Tracing my passions back to ISD

During her time at ISD, Lauren Olosky was inspired to help others. Now a student at Georgetown University, Lauren’s commitment to supporting refugees, and to better understanding the causes of their flight, remains an important part of her world.

My first time at the Düsseldorf Airport Train Station as a volunteer in 2015, at the start of my IB Diploma, was one I will never forget.

That day and the subsequent months revealed the scale and intensity of the Syrian refugee crisis, but even more importantly, the toll it took on thousands of people who fled fearing for their safety and wellbeing.

Meeting these refugees and hearing their stories provided the impetus for my Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS) project. Several friends and I started volunteering at the train station regularly, especially with the children. Months later, when the arrivals at the station began to decline, we shifted to the refugee centre just down the street from ISD. Through fundraisers, awareness campaigns, direct volunteering and music lessons, and the invaluable support of friends, teachers, and the ISD community, I soon came to realise how deeply this cause resonated with me.

When I came to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. last fall, I was inspired to seek out more opportunities to engage with refugee and migration issues.

Last semester, I studied climate-induced migration in my class on humanitarian crises. At the same time, I interned with the Asylum Seeker Assistance Project, a nonprofit that serves asylum seekers in the local DC area with purpose and dignity.

In one of my classes this semester, I am studying the roots of the refugee crisis: the complex geopolitical and historical context of the conflict in Syria and its neighbouring region. Another one of my classes contrasts the American and Swedish asylum systems, and especially how they meet (or fail to meet) the particular vulnerabilities and needs of children. I now know I want to be at the forefront of these issues, working towards progress for thousands of people displaced by conflict.

It’s clear to me now, looking back on the path I’ve taken thus far, how I can trace the essence of my academic and personal pursuits to my experiences at ISD. It sparked my interest and set me on my way forward.

ISD will always hold years of memories and significance for me, attached to friendships, traditions and community – but I now know how ISD and the friends and teachers I met there also empowered me to pursue my long-term passion, and for that I am grateful.

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ISD ripe with entrepreneurial spirit

No matter where you look, students are encouraged to create and follow their ideas at ISD! For the last three years, the end of the year signals the time when students put on their entrepreneur hats at ISD. This year, grades 7 and 9 are exploring ways to create business models with goal of pitching them to potential ‘investors’. Entrepreneurship isn’t only at the senior school; ISD also has budding entrepreneurs at the elementary school. One grade 4 student, Rose, is the founder of Rosa’s Salsa. 

Rosa’s Salsa:

Rose began Rosa’s Salsa in early 2018, while an ISD grade 3 student. Rose found herself in a predicament: she was interested in owning a computer, and had been selling small things like bracelets and slime to classmates and neighbours, but she was still coming up short. In addition to a computer, Rose wanted to have spending money for sports trips and outings with friends. She needed a good business idea.

Rose talked with her dad about different business ideas, focusing on those they had seen at the ISD International Market. She and her dad both remembered that a neighbour had sold a lot of salsa at the International Market before she moved away; this was a perfect area for Rose to focus on.

Since that time, Rose has sold her salsa at nearly every International Market. She has learned many things about business during that time. When she first started making salsa, Rose had hoped that her parents would buy the ingredients. They didn’t. She quickly learned that in order to make money, you have to spend money! She also learned the value of staff. Rose’s family does help during the production of the salsa, but she pays them for their time, as she would any employee.

There are challenges to owning a business that she hadn’t considered. For instance, finding the ingredients for salsa in Germany can sometimes be challenging and expensive!

Overall, Rose is very happy with her business and plans to continue it at least through the 2019-2020 school year. She isn’t sure she will have the time to make salsa when she begins senior school at the end of the next school year… time will tell!

Grade 9 students:

Beginning in 2016, grade 9 students have spent the last full week of school writing business plans, creating product samples, thinking through their marketing strategies and pitching ideas to expert investors. The project was initially started with the help of outside consultants, but is now managed through the direction of the ISD MYP team, including Laura Maly-Schmidt, Adrian Ireland, Amy Dugré, grade 9 teachers and a host of other ISD staff and community members.

This year, the students’ business ideas ranged from re-imagining the mobile phone, an environmentally-focused board game, recycled clothes, helping out those with limited mobility, and much more. Their ideas were pitched to ISD parents and friends who have business and product development expertise – these expert volunteers then mentored several student groups to further refine their business model.

The week concluded with presentations to a wide audience of fellow students, parents, faculty and staff as well as visiting students from Cecilien Gymnasium. This included a product fair for a chance for investors to get further information. Solteria, a sleek phone case that integrates the functions of a minimalist wallet with a high tech safe, received the strongest investment, as well as being named ‘most realistic product’.

Grade 7 students:

The grade 7 science and design students spent the final weeks of term using biomimicry to design unique products that solve a perceived problem. This work included research and design, brand creation and pitch practicing. In addition to creating an innovative product, students presented to potential ‘investors’ to convince them of the product’s financial viability. For those who are unfamiliar with biomimicry, it is a method for creating solutions to human challenges by emulating designs and ideas found in nature. It’s used everywhere: buildings, vehicles, and even everyday materials.

Their presentations garnered significant investments and ranged from TATZ (shoes that mimic the padding of cats and lions to reduce athlete injury) to Safe Glove (made with Ooblek-like fluid to prevent fingers from bending backward while playing sport) to Marina Skating (a downhill racing skateboard with features modelled after fast swimming fish).

The last few weeks of school can be challenging for students as focus diminishes. The entrepreneur programmes bring excitement, fun and focus as the students are eager to bring their ideas to life.

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