Interview – Kristine Greenlaw, ISB Upper School Principal

Kristine Greenlaw is an educational leader who inspires her colleagues and students to assume challenges. She worked at numerous international schools in Central America, Asia and Africa. When she saw the position advertised by the International School of Belgrade, and motivated by the fond memories of her Serbian high school friends from Toronto, Kristine decided to send the application.

You have recently obtained the position of the ISB Upper School Principal. What are your plans? Is there any specific field in the school curriculum you want to develop?

If we look at the overall, total school program, obviously our parents are first and foremost concerned with academics. So, within the International Baccalaureate framework, we want to make sure that we always deliver the best possible teaching and learning programs we can. This year, we have a very strong focus on the personalization of our learning experiences through the curriculum so that our students can develop and understand what their passions are. And passions are not necessarily what you may be best at doing in school. It is about what you love to do. The most important thing for students is that they have an understanding of what drives them and what their passions are about. Hopefully, they can find some elements of their passions in the different subjects and courses they attend. Our students are given a concept-based curriculum: working with greater ideas in order to understand content, and most importantly – to develop their skills.

Encouraging ISB students to find their passions in ISB’s Total School Program is a distinctive educational approach. How does this work?

Individual passions are wide-ranging and can be found in any subject. At ISB students take a wide range of subjects in the Upper School and this is to their advantage as they are then exposed to varied curriculum and experiences that can offer them opportunities for self-discovery.  Some students have taken very interesting and unique approaches in their art classes. Most people would associate passion with the theater and performing arts, which our school offers rich programs for, however, there are a lot of students interested in other subjects, such as traditional social sciences, Individuals and Societies (Geography, History, Politics), Physical Health and Education or Design for example. Students also can take a wide range of co-curricular activities that may be competitive or not and participate in community service learning and action activates. It is really all about trying to understand our authentic selves, through the experiences that are introduced to you in the classroom not taught in the classroom that ISB students can explore in their own way. That is actually what makes the education we provide here at the ISB school different.

The Upper School also offers a variety of “outdoor” learning opportunities. You have already published an expedition handbook for next year. How does this type of education add value to the ISB curriculum?

I would quote the English Outdoor Council: ‘Challenging outdoor experiences promote the development of communication, problem-solving and decision-making skills which have currency across a range of occupations. They encourage the positive “opting-in” and “can-do” attitudes’. Experimental learning cannot be matched as a single value-added package of learning opportunities. We collaborate with a local Serbian company specialized in conducting outdoor excursions. We will travel throughout Serbia: Tara, Zlatibor, Zlatar, and Stara Planina. We also make efforts to bring the local cultural heritage in focus, including UNESCO sites. There is always a level of challenge built into the excursions since it is through challenge and struggle that kids learn more about themselves. They learn how far they can push themselves; therefore, they can bring that back into any environment: be it school or be it their personal life. These are long-lasting benefits.

Photo: ISB