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One big family: the Vienna school where parent power is key

When you’re a family that lives abroad or moves from place to place, it can feel as if your children's learning may suffer. While many schools can offer a rigorous academic environment, it can be hard to find – or help build – the kind of school 'family' needed for a truly rounded and inspiring education.

One big family: the Vienna school where parent power is key
Photos: AIS Vienna

This is a familiar concern for international families everywhere. But in the Austrian capital, the American International School of Vienna aims to tackle this issue head-on. The Local spoke with a member of staff and a parent about how the school helps everyone feel at home.

Find out the top 10 reasons that families choose AIS Vienna for their children

A unique school for a unique city

As a truly historical centre of politics, economics and culture, Vienna has been attracting prodigious talents for centuries – Sigmund Freud and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for example. To this day, it proves a huge draw – the Mercer Quality of Life Survey has awarded Vienna the coveted title of 'World's Most Livable City' ten years running.

Such a city needs a first-class educational institution for English-speaking students. Located by the beautiful Vienna Woods, and with excellent public transport connections, AIS Vienna has been educating English-speaking students from Kindergarten to age 18 for over sixty years. Today, it has 800 students representing more than 60 nationalities.

Igniting kid power: helping kids learn for themselves 

As the International Baccalaureate school with the highest results in Vienna, the school has had considerable success in encouraging students to learn for themselves. Its curriculum challenges students to question the world around them, as well as following their own passions. 

Extracurricular programs, such as drama and the performing arts, not only complement a curriculum designed to encourage curiosity, but draw on some of the city’s top talents to provide real-world connections. In this sense, this self-empowerment, or 'kid power' is a hallmark of the school. 

“AIS Vienna embodies its four core values – nurture, include, challenge, and respect – with its students and teachers every day,” says Molly Berwager, one of the schools academic support staff. “Through its unique learning experiences, opportunities to stretch knowledge while also meeting the diverse needs of students, and through providing a warm and welcoming environment, AISV delivers on its ideals.”

Photo: AIS Vienna

The pandemic hasn’t slowed things down either, as far as learning goes. Using a mixture of stringent in-classroom teaching and online learning via video and content sharing platforms, students remain connected during a truly disruptive period.  So far as the school is concerned, computer labs are out, integrated technology is in.

Berwager says strong communication, preparation, and “flexibility in dealing with the unknown” has made sure students still have the same learning opportunities whether in school or virtually. “It has been amazing to see our colleagues and students adapt to such strange times in education and life in general,” she says.

Igniting 'kid power' in a family environment: find out more about AIS Vienna

Engaging parent power – and the 'AIS hug' 

Learning at school is more valuable when it's reinforced at home by parents who want to play a role in their child's education. Alongside teachers encouraging students to share what they learn with their parents, AIS Vienna also actively engages families through a variety of means. 

At the classroom level, parents are kept in close contact with teachers via learning platforms that not only display student grades, but also work and feedback. Regular meetings throughout the year further help parents to obtain a holistic overview of their child’s achievement.

Photos: Molly Berwager/AIS Vienna

Constantin Carmine, a parent and former alumni of the school, says: “It was always clear to me that if I was in Vienna when my kids were growing up, they would go to AIS. The warmth, friendliness and great atmosphere is second to none. I call it the AIS hug! You can see it everywhere. The students, the teachers, the staff. Some don’t 'live it' at first – but then get used to it with time and cherish it as well.”

Parents also receive frequent emails that give them a clear picture of what is going on at the school on a day-to-day basis, alongside the school’s social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, where pictures and updates are posted.

It’s one thing to educate a child, another thing to inspire them to use their knowledge to build a better future for themselves and others. To this end, the school places great emphasis on working with parents to create a warm, welcoming community that supports both existing students and new arrivals. 

“With our small community, families have so many opportunities to be involved in the school,” adds Berwager. “Be it hosting a massive foods festival, serving burgers at their child's sporting event, decorating the hallways for their child's grade level, or providing the faculty with a lovely faculty appreciation lunch, families take the chance to show their love and appreciation for AIS Vienna. I’m grateful for these moments as it helps to build stronger relationships between the students, teacher, and families.”

Carmine considers himself an embodiment of this community ethos. “So many kids from so many different countries and cultures, all getting along well. I’m still in contact with so many of my friends from back then. Some were only at the school for a year and say it was their best year ever.”

Want to learn more about how the American International School of Vienna encourages students to find their inner ‘kid power’, and builds a family community? Find out more on their website and watch these school videos.

 
For members

VIENNA

Everything that’s new in Vienna in December

From new energy bonuses being sent out to important trials and major events, here are the important changes, dates and events happening in Vienna in December.

Everything that's new in Vienna in December

Vienna will send €200 bonuses to help cushion rising energy costs

The City of Vienna announced more government assistance to cushion rising costs for residents.

Viennese households will receive €200 in a new “energy bonus’, as The Local reported. The administration said the bonus would benefit about two-thirds of all city homes.

Single households with a gross annual income of a maximum €40,000 or multi-person households with an income of up to €100,000 gross per year are entitled to receive the payment. 

In December, every household in the capital should receive an information letter with a password they will need to use for an online application for the bonus. Once applied for, the money should arrive within a few days”.

READ MORE: Vienna Energy Bonus: How to get a €200 payout

Influenza vaccination appointments

The City of Vienna has made available 64,000 influenza vaccination appointments for December in the city’s vaccination centres and those of the ÖGK. 

The City is investing a total of €9.9 million to be able to offer the flu vaccination campaign in Vienna free of charge again this year.  The campaign will run until the end of the year unless an extension becomes necessary due to high demand.

The influenza vaccination campaign focuses on people aged over 65. This avoids multiple exposures to Covid-19 and the “real flu”. Chronically ill people, children and health or care workers are also among the priority target groups. However, influenza vaccination is also recommended to all other people.

READ ALSO: Reader question: How to get a flu vaccination in Austria?

Vienna starts inquiry committee over Wien Energie

Starting on December 2nd at the Vienna City Hall, the City Council’s investigative commission on the Wien Energie case will meet every two weeks.

On the initiative of the centre-right Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ), it will investigate the events surrounding the dramatic financial needs of Wien Energie that became known in the summer. The commission can summon people to testify and request documents.

They will focus on two issues.

The first concerns the extent to which Mayor Michael Ludwig and City Finance Councillor Peter Hanke have exercised their ownership rights regarding Wien Energie, which is wholly owned by the city via Wiener Stadtwerke. Specifically, the commission wants to know whether the two SPÖ politicians reacted in time and appropriately to the price increases in the electricity markets in the summer.

The second matter revolves around Ludwig’s emergency powers as head of the city, with which he granted Wien Energie loans totalling €1.4 billion. It is to be clarified whether this procedure was legally compliant and whether Ludwig should have informed committees such as the City Senate earlier.

READ ALSO: Why did Wien Energie ask for €6 billion from the Austrian government?

Terror trial continues

On November 2nd, 2020, a jihadist terrorist shot dead four people and injured more than 20 in the centre of Vienna before police forces killed him.

Now, the country is going through a complex trial involving six men who allegedly helped the shooter prepare for the attack started. The process first started in October, as The Local reported, but a final verdict is not expected until at least February.

In December, tricky trial stages are scheduled, including questioning people suspected of having sold weapons to the terrorist.

READ ALSO: Austria starts trial over Vienna jihadist shooting

Armed police officers stand guard by the area where the terrorist attack took place in Vienna, Austria on November, 2020. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

This Human World Festival

The This Human World Festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary and it focuses on the theme of human rights. In four Viennese cinemas (Schikaneder, Topkino, Gartenbaukino, Stadtkino) and two other venues (Brunnenpassage, Brotfabrik) you can watch films that deal with human rights, current conflicts and crises from December 1st to 11th. 

About 90 feature films, documentaries and short films await you – some of them will celebrate their Austrian premiere at the festival. 

The aim of the film festival is to draw attention to political and social grievances in a sensitive, stirring and occasionally humorous way.

You can read more about the event HERE.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition

“Harry Potter: The Exhibition” is touring worldwide and the major exhibition about the wizard’s universe will get its first European location in Vienna on December 16th, 2022. The show will be housed in the METAStadt in the 22nd district (Dr.-Otto-Neurath-Gasse 3).

The ticket sale has already started on the official site of the exhibition and via oeticket. Tickets are available from € 24.90 for children (up to 12 years) and € 29.90 for adults (from 13 years).

Weihnachtsmärkte

Last year, many markets around the country were cancelled after a snap lockdown in November, although some events still went ahead with strict rules in place.

But this year, the Christmas markets are back in full swing without restrictions, so make sure you visit one (or two) to really get into the Christmas spirit. Austria’s most famous markets are in Vienna, like the Christkindmarkt in front of the Town Hall that runs from November 19th to December 26th.

The Viennese markets are drawing in thousands of tourists to the Austrian capital. Don’t miss out on all the Glüwein (even if it is more expensive this year), geröstete Kastanien and Weihnachtskugeln you can get. 

FOR MEMBERS: IN PICTURES: A guide to the main Christmas markets in Austria

Public holidays

Besides Christmas (December 25th) and Stephan’s Day (December 26th), December 8th, when Catholics celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Mariä Empfängnis), is also a public holiday in Austria.

Of course, there are also several celebratory dates in December. For example, every Sunday until Christmas is an Advent Sunday, and Austrian families commemorate it in many ways, including lighting up candles.

On December 4th, there is Barbaratag, while on December 5th, Krampus pays his visit to Austrian villages and cities. On the next day, December 6th, it’s time for St Nikolaus to bring chocolate and tangerines to children who were nice during the year.

Christmas Eve, Day, and St Stephen’s Day (December 24th, 25th and 26th) are important dates for Austrian traditions.

It’s also worth noting that Austrians celebrate Christmas on the evening of December 24th, usually with a family meal.

READ ALSO: Austrian Christmas traditions: The festive dates you need to know

New Year celebrations

Expect lots of fireworks on New Year’s Eve (Silvester) in Austria – and especially in Vienna.

In the capital, the bells ring out at St. Stephan’s Cathedral to welcome in the New Year, which is also broadcast on national television. This is followed by fireworks and some even take part in a communal waltz on Rathausplatz in front of the Town Hall.

But if you really want to celebrate New Year like an Austrian, then give a marzipan pig to your nearest and dearest. The little pigs represent a good luck charm and are handed out every year on New Year’s Eve.

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