Our Principal & Our Chair
A Conversation With Our Principal: Bernice Ressel
What first drew you to DSM?
I’ve been a bilingual education enthusiast since as far back as I can remember. I’m originally from Gelsenkirchen – a city in the North Rhine-Westphalia state and Ruhr area of Germany, not far from the Danish border. When I gained my qualifications in teaching (in both English and German) I was immediately keen to see the world and discover the joys of my chosen career.
I have worked as far afield as Oxfordshire (secondary comprehensive school), Tokyo (Deutsche Schule), and Germany, finally landing here at Deutsche Schule Melbourne in September 2015. The small size and progressive approach of DSM really appealed to me, as much as the close-knit and collaborative community supporting it.
What is your vision of academic success for your students?
I’m pleased to say that we are well on our way to realising our vision for the academic success of our students. This is largely due to the commitment of a highly qualified staff, whose lessons provide every student with the opportunity and means to reach their individual potential personally and academically. While we strive for high academic outcomes, we also want to make learning enjoyable and fun for the students. I work as hard as I can to be there for all our students, as well as our staff and the parents, but it is certainly a collaborative effort.
In term 3 this year, we invested considerable time in articulating this vision and shaping our mission and the values underpinning everything we do. From this work, we identified three core foci: to inspire, nurture and challenge our students to become creative and confident participants in the global community.
How important is it to engage parents?
The engagement of parents is equally critical to the achievement of our school vision and values. The school provides students with the environment to live and learn two cultures. But it is ultimately the parents who motivate the children to join us and who support them to practice what they learn beyond the school gates.
This year we were very pleased to support the establishment of a DSM Parent Association (PA), which ensures a more active and constructive role for parents in the school. Parent class representatives bring their year-level perspectives to discussions and initiatives driven by the PA, whose purpose is to encourage and support a positive and productive school culture and create a vibrant and inclusive school community. My staff and I welcome this latest collaboration with parents and look forward to the positive communication and educational outcomes it will undoubtedly bring.
How important is it to engage the community?
The success of our school lies in its membership of both local and German-speaking communities, and what better way to encourage our students to join the global citizenry than by nurturing our own community.
We are proud of the strong relationships we have forged with our students’ families, but we are just as energised by our engagement with the broader community, which is invited to a variety of cultural activities throughout the school year. Highlights are our annual DSM Carnival, the “WoW Yarra” program (Walk and Wheels Once a Week), and our parents’ Australia v Germany soccer friendly. But perhaps most popular is the DSM Christmas Market, where we attract more than 3000 visitors.
A Conversation With Our Chair: Florian Dehne
What inspired you to create DSM?
Originally from Hannover, Germany, I traveled to Australia with my wife, Averil, in 2000. After just two years, we decided to move here permanently.
When our first child was born so were our ambitions to nurture our family’s German-Australian identity. It was around this time that the then principal of the German International School in Sydney came to talk to members of the German-Australian community in Melbourne. He spoke passionately about the benefits of a bilingual education for both the children and the community. His ideas resonated strongly with me and the seed was sewn for Deutsche Schule Melbourne.
We opened the school in 2008 with teaching staff, board members and volunteers working together to establish and develop school operations. The role of the Board and my role as Chair have evolved substantially since then.
Now we function as a governance board, which sets strategy and facilitates a clear vision for the school. I have worked for many years as a strategic consultant so I also enjoy acting as a coach and confidant to the School Principal and key staff.
How do you cultivate effective school leadership?
It has been important to us to find people that bring the right combination of capability, motivation and also cultural fit to the school leadership. That really applies to both the Board and the leadership staff. Everyone has the best interests of the school in mind and modestly performs his or her role with passion, thoughtfulness and respect. The result is a positive and productive team committed to establishing the right priorities for the school and ensuring we maintain our focus along the way.
What are your ambitions for the students of DSM?
Since opening in 2008, the school’s vision has been to expand from kindergarten and primary schooling to secondary education.
The journey so far for our students takes them from the early learning centre, run by our partner Froebel, through the primary years to grade 6. After that, many of our students move to a local secondary school, and some continue their German studies through DSM’s advanced German Language Certificate program (DSD). This is designed to help them with VCE German and acquisition of the DSD2, which is the German language qualification required to study at a German university.
We are keen to progress the establishment of a DSM secondary school, the design and development of which were the subjects of serious consideration this year. Our intention is to offer a Mixed Language IB as the leaving certificate. This is a special form of the International Baccalaureate, which is also approved by the German Government as a leaving certificate equivalent to the Abitur. Its ethos and structure align closely with DSM’s vision and bilingual profile.
While the introduction of the secondary school will take some time, we have already made progress by seeking German Government approval to proceed, while also engaging key stakeholders and continuing with our planning.
What can we look forward to?
As a school, DSM is in a very good position. The school’s educational outcomes are great and our children continue to enjoy coming to school every day. We are growing and expecting to continue to grow. And with that growth comes the opportunity to broaden our offer and ensure the school will become even more capable of addressing individual student needs.