Letter from the Head of School

Dear Friends,

A few weeks ago I was alone on a hike, enjoying the quiet solitude and simple sounds of the summer forest, when a huge, beautiful buck bounded across the trail in front of me. Now, I spend a lot of time outside, and have seen hundreds and hundreds of deer, but I was so struck by the majesty and calmness of this experience, it got me thinking about the work we do at MIS. We are thriving, happy, solidifying systems and processes in support of our vision. We work every minute of every day for the students, for their experience at school, and we see the outcomes of that in letters like this one that I recently received from a student:

My brother and I think that there should be no weekend. We both hate leaving school on Friday and we feel that if there was no weekend, that we would get to spend more time with friends, have something to do, and get more education. You see, my brother and I love school a lot and at our old school we used to wish the weekend was longer. Since we came to MIS all we’ve wanted to do was come to school on the weekend. Maybe if it’s not possible for there to be no weekend, we could just have school on Saturday? I don’t know, but what I do know is me and my brother love school and want you to get back to us on that.” –MIS 6th grader

And yet, in that moment when the serenity of the forest really impacted me, and I thought about all of this incredible work for our students and school, I realized that it’s not enough. Yes, we put our students first in all of our decision-making; yes, we are unafraid of innovation and doing things in ways they have never been done; yes, each interaction with our students generates ripples of hope through the community. We embody the ill-paraphrased Gandhi quote, “be the change you wish to see in the world.”

It’s not enough.

​This year we push beyond last year’s theme to be brave, and will embrace a different ideal, one that protects the peaceful spaces, that affects meaningful change, and one that teaches our students that being good and kind and respectful is just the first step in making the world a better place: this year, we do the change.

Headshot of Andy Noktes

Ande Noktes is the Head of School for Midtown International School. She has 20 years of experience in education and educational administration. Her many years abroad and multicultural family at home have reinforced her passion for globally-minded, gifted education in the strategy and day to day practices of the school.

What that looks like in the classroom:

  • Our high schoolers, in their literature class, are delving into the depths of human identity. How does our answer to questions like whether people are inherently good or evil play into the decisions we make about laws, healthcare, and philanthropy? Partnering with our new community service programs and working with refugee groups, legislators, and community leaders, the students will use their strengths and passions to do the change in our community.
  • This year MIS 8th and 9th graders will represent our community at the NAIS People of Color Conference. Beyond being brave and talking about race, ethnicity, and gender, our high schoolers will join hundreds of their peers from around the country to do the change and craft the future that makes sense for their hugely diverse reality.
  • Our middle schoolers, in 5th and 6th grade, in social studies, are exploring the concept and history of human group behavior. How have people organized themselves into groups throughout history? How can we use this understanding of group dynamics to make sense of wars, innovations, and changes in ideals? What could we shift in modern group mindsets to do the change for today’s world?
  • In 3rd and 4th grade, in science, the students were outraged by the news that most cities, counties, and private waste management companies are no longer recycling glass, instead just crushing it and sending it to the dump. They have made it their mission to learn all they can about the properties of glass, how and why it’s recycled, and find compelling ways to do the change and keep glass out of landfills.
  • Second graders are launching our MIS-takes board, a space to explore the opportunities behind all of the things that go wrong in life. We’re always growing and moving forward, even as adults, and having a space for us to celebrate the moments that help us grow gives us ammunition to do the change for ourselves and others.
  • In first grade math, students are learning all about money, putting a double meaning in do the change. It’s more than coins and bills and budgeting—how can we use money to do things that are important and uphold the class creed to “treat others right, make smart decisions, and maximize your potential”.
  • Even our kinders are learning about the effects of our choices on others and our world. Beyond being kind friends, they are learning to support each other and the school community with their all of their actions.

As we look ahead to the first MIS graduating class in 2020, we are conscious and thoughtful of what it means to invigorate our students’ gifts and passions, to give them the freedom to be inspired by those moments like the one I had this summer, the resources to fulfill their potential and do the change. We also know that these resources include sometimes not-exciting things like SAT preparation, college admissions essays, and learning to be self-motivated and organized. As has been true for us as an organization even before we opened our doors to students, the best way for us to do the change as a school is to make sure that we put our students first.

I invite you to schedule some time to come visit our campus, where you will notice the thought put into the authenticity of learning experiences. You’ll see the ways every unit in every class allows our students to apply their learning to the world, to explore new things to be passionate about and love, and give them opportunities to do the change they want to see in their world.

Ande Noktes
Head of School