In 2007, a few German, American and Austrian parents and educators got together to explore ways to establish a German immersion school in Chicago. We found there was much interest in such a school and gained the support of members of Austrian and Swiss cultural and business communities from the Chicagoland area. Consequently, we incorporated an independent, not-for-profit, co-educational pre-K through 12th grade German dual-language (German and English) school in December of 2007.
We rented a building we now own on the North side of Chicago, which had formerly been used by a charter school, and opened our school in September 2009 with 13 preschool students (3- and 4-year-olds) and two German teachers. In our second year, we grew to Kindergarten (5-year-olds) and expanded to 23 students. In our third year, we had 39 students and added 1st and 2nd grades. The following years, GISC grew to 3rd through 5th grades. For the 2017-18 school year, we now have more than 100 students in preschool through 7th grade and 14 teachers, all of whom are native German speakers from various areas in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. We plan to add one grade level per year continuing through 12th grade. Students will graduate from high school with an internationally recognized IB Diploma and a U.S. High School Diploma.
GISC will become a Pre-K through 12th Grade IB World School. We are currently a Primary Years Program (PYP) candidate school of the International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO). In implementing the PYP, we are adopting and strengthening our curriculum and we are fulfilling our School Mission to prepare students to become well-rounded, creative, responsible, and tolerant global citizens by providing them with a rigorous, world-class education in a supportive and individualized learning environment. Inquiry, Action, and Reflection are unifying approaches to teaching and learning across disciplines. The IBO offers its Pre-K through 12th Grade curriculum for elementary school (PYP), middle school (MYP), and high school (IB). We plan to implement all three stages. Our teachers have completed PYP course work. IB teacher training will continue over the next years. With the expansion of the School to 8th grade, we will transition to the Middle Years Program (MYP).
GISC is a Provisional Member of the Independent School Association of the Central States (ISACS). The School is also recognized as an official DSD-Schule (German schools abroad offering Deutsches Sprach-Diplom/German Language Certificate) by the Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen (ZfA), the German government’s agency that oversees German schools abroad. GISC is also an official PASCH Partner School. The PASCH-Initiative (Partner School initiative) of the Federal Foreign Office is a global network of some 1,500 schools that place a high value on German. The purpose of the initiative is to develop vivid and long-lasting links to Germany and inspire schools, teachers, and students to enjoy an open exchange of views and engage in cooperation.
Parents choose GISC not just for its German-immersion setting, but also for its bilingual and multi-cultural curriculum and community. Many parents seek to foster high levels of academic achievement in their children through instruction in two languages and a culturally-diverse environment. They also want their children to become global citizens through increased understanding, appreciation, and empathy for people from other cultures.
Parents highly value GISC’s supportive and individualized setting that nurtures curiosity and creativity. They also appreciate our attention to students’ different learning styles, developmental needs, and cultural backgrounds. Students learn in groups of varying sizes as well as individually. Groups can be multi-age-, ability- or interest-based, determined by teachers, but also selected by students. Our goal is to develop independence and intrinsic motivation, as well as to ensure that all students master the learning objectives and goals in each subject area.
Our low student/teacher ratio allows for intensive small-group teaching and learning, strong student participation and discussion as well as adherence to different learning styles. We also regularly have interns who work with students in small groups or individually. In addition, parents with specific expertise and knowledge as well as other professionals join us for special topics such as world religions, music, biology, or architecture. As our families represent many different nationalities, we regularly integrate cultural and language diversity into our learning.