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Our Kids interview: Get to know Regent College International Schools

Our Kids speaks to Anna Martowicz, Deputy Director - International Programme at Regent College International Schools

Regent College International Schools comprise a primary and secondary school. It is the only private school in Elbląg.

Our Kids spoke with Anna Martowicz. Deputy Director of International Programme at Regent College International Schools, a Cambridge International School, which offers education at the primary and secondary levels.  continue reading...

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Please watch and listen to this video conversation, which also includes many photos from the school. Its transcript is below.

History of the school

Our Kids: You're the only non-public school in Elbląg. Let’s talk about the history of the school.

Anna Martowicz: The school was established 20 years ago. It has developed over time, but it started as a teachers’ college cooperating closely with universities. Then after some time there was a junior school established before the reform of education in Poland. And at the moment, we offer high school education as well as primary school, and we function as Regent College International Schools. And yes, as you said, we are the only non-public school here in Elbląg, not a very big city, but our school has quite big ambitions to provide the best that we can.


Our Kids: And who are your students?

Anna Martowicz: I would say about 85% of our students are native Polish speakers. Children are brought up and born in Poland, quite a lot of them. Also, the students at high school level are students who came back to Poland with their families after spending some time, or even being born, abroad. And they come from a range of countries, not just the UK and Ireland, the English speaking ones, but also from France, Spain, the Netherlands. We have students from Egypt, for instance, so it's quite a variety. And we also have international students who arrived here with their parents without any knowledge of the Polish language. And those also enjoy the time with us here, and so do we.

Our Kids: You have opened your boarding option, which is quite unusual, but I know people look for it all the time. What made you do that and how is it going?

Anna Martowicz: We know that what we offer is quite an unusual thing, at least in this part of Poland. But I think it also appealed to students of the broader scope and from bigger distances. The idea was to make it possible for those who may be living in places where the commuting is not that easy to be able to make the most of what we have to offer here. The students are already using the accommodation. We can cater for about 30 students. The residence is fully equipped, and has an option of the full time boarding, so it's not just Monday, Friday, but also the weekends. It's also the breaks. There are carers that we have there ready to support and help whenever needed. In our school we also have our lovely famous kitchen ready to serve not just lunches but also breakfast to those students coming here. But there are options as well for full catering related to the boarding that we have. The boarding is set in a very nice area of Elbląg with lots of sports facilities around. So I think that in combination with the educational offer that we have, this is something really unique.

Our Kids: How far are those students?

Anna Martowicz: A ten minute walk. We are in the very heart of Elbląg, which is a lovely city, famous for many things, but its location is very appealing as well. It's only half an hour drive to some of the resorts here. The beach is very close. We have lots of water sports. There's plenty of options to use the facilities around Elbląg and in the city as well. We have a theatre, we have cinemas. Gdansk is only about 40 minutes by car and about an hour by train. There are great green areas in Elbląg, beautiful architecture. And if what we have here is not appealing enough, I think all that Elbląg has to offer in close proximity would appeal to anyone who would like to invest in themselves.


Our Kids: Let's talk a little bit about your curriculum. You have two - Polish and English. What made you decide to choose the British curriculum rather than, for example, IB?

Anna Martowicz: We've been working closely with the University of Cambridge as a Cambridge international school for the last five years. Recently we started the Cambridge program also at high school level, and this year is the first year where we offer it to our students. And the reason why we decided to apply to Cambridge and to get their accreditation rather than the IB, is the flexibility of the program. We offer it at the moment as an afternoon set of classes, which means that the students participate in the Polish curriculum in the morning. And then if they want, they can also do the British curriculum. So we're preparing them for IGCSE exams at the moment and then A level exams. We're also planning to open an international class. That would mean that they are focused on the British curriculum, first of all, rather than on the Polish one, the British one being the afternoon set. But it's the flexibility that appeals to us. It's also a very much student-focused approach. We appreciate that very inquisitive angle that Cambridge is using in terms of how they want to widen the horizons of our students.

So at the moment, we offer six subjects and our students, depending on what they are interested in, what their future plans are, can attend any of these subjects, which is quite a good range because it's not just English, history, mathematics, but also physics or geography. It's also biology and chemistry. So there is something to choose from for everyone.


Our Kids: And who teaches at your school?

Anna Martowicz: We have teachers qualified in Poland with experience gained in Polish schools, but also teachers who taught in schools abroad and who did their degrees abroad. Some of them have doctoral degrees. They also teach at the university level here, in Poland. Some of them had experience teaching at the university level back in the UK. We also have a group of native speakers. Some of them stay with us for a longer period. But it is also a very unique opportunity for the students to be able to have classes with native speakers. Each class, each age group, has separate lessons with native speakers, and that enables them to make what (and how) they communicate about more expressive. The lessons that our native speakers deliver are conversational classes with focus on communication and written communication as well. And this is something that we very much cherish. We have teachers from Canada, the USA, the UK, and many of them used to teach in schools in different parts of the world. This is an added benefit when it comes to the way we teach as our school, because the exchange between teachers who are coming from these various locations and with various experiences is very beneficial for the development of our school as a team of professionals.

So it's a very dynamic and very creative team that we have here, very passionate about what they do, very eager to give to the students the opportunity to make the most of their own potential. That experience of having lessons with a tutor, with a mentor who has been through a lot of adventures when it comes to their own educational journey, is something that very much inspires our students and is very important to us.

School values and ethos

Our Kids: Let's talk a little bit about the ethos of your school. How do the students feel when they come to your school?

Anna Martowicz: Very friendly and very enthusiastic, very creative and very inspirational. Of course, we focus on the academic aspect of education. We want to make the most of the time that the students spend here and help them develop their own potential, but also develop knowledge and skills in the subject areas that they consider as their future field of expertise. But what is very important for us is the fact that we're not a big school at the moment. Our high school has only about 60 students. So that means that everyone knows everyone else. And it holds not just for our high school, but also for primary school. And it creates a very friendly atmosphere where teachers have the time to talk to the students, not just to teach them, not just to ask if their homework has been done and deliver the lesson, but develop really good working relationships with them. And I know that students enjoy coming to our school and that we have lots of fun and we joke a lot. But when you have a class of 15 students, and some of our profiles have groups of maybe six or ten, this is very much a Cambridge University style education.

When it's you, the student, a couple of your classmates and the teacher, that really helps to get to know each other in the group, but also when it comes to the teacher-student relation. And this is very important to us to inspire, to spend time together, to laugh together, to have something to talk about together in addition to the curriculum that we have to work with.

Extracurricular actitivies

Our Kids: Which brings me to extra curriculars. I know everything is different in the pandemic, but what do you offer to the students?

Anna Martowicz: We offer a couple of clubs for high school students. There is a chess club, which is very popular. One quarter of our students attend the chess club, so we're looking forward to having some champions among us very soon. We also have a popular film club, and there is e-magazine “Regent Times” that our students work on as well. There is a very active student council, and students with leadership skills or willing to develop their leadership skills are happy to participate in it. There is also a golf club and a bike club that students can join if they wish. So quite a lot, if you add it to the Polish curriculum and also the Cambridge curriculum which at the moment is organized as a set of afternoon classes.


Our Kids: What are you proud of? What do you think are your biggest achievements?

Anna Martowicz: Oh, so many things on a daily basis, really. I'm a teacher as well so whenever you deliver a lesson and you see this spark in the students’ eyes or you see their interest, this is really the fuel for the teacher. And I think we've got plenty of it here in our school. We're proud of every single small achievement, not just the big awards that we're getting and the recognition that we get either in the rankings or from the Ministry of Education, but also these small achievements of our students who we know struggle with something and then they can overcome either their difficulties or their shyness, which happens sometimes as well. So these are things to be really proud of as well, not just the big ones.

Advantages of attending the school

Our Kids: How would you convince me that I should send my child to your school, or if I were a teenager, why would I choose your high school?

Anna Martowicz: Well, as with any school, I think it depends what you're coming for, because both parents and students may have different expectations, different opinions, different ideas about what a non-public school should be like. I would say that our school is for students who wants to develop their potential, who want to work on their academic success as well, but especially for those who want to do it in a really friendly atmosphere with an international vibe, for those who are willing to work, but are also very much looking forward to developing all these soft skills and to developing themselves as a person, as someone who is responsible for what they say, what they do, as active citizens, because that's something that we focus on. The students who would be interested in joining us would be also those who are not afraid of challenges. Because we like to challenge our students, we like to set up new adventures, we like to push them to maybe go into the fields that they have not tried before, which very often ends up in quite surprising results.

So “nonstandard,” I think, is one of the adjectives that you can use to describe us. But for those who are from outside of Elbląg, I think that the city may not be a city with a vibe similar to Gdansk or Warsaw, although Gdansk is quite close to Elbląg, as I mentioned before. But there are lots of beautiful areas here, the woodlands, also the old town, the sports. So if the parents or students are looking for a place that can develop them in terms of the academic preparation but also in terms of where they see themselves as a person, Regent College International Schools is definitely a place to consider.

Non-academic aspects

Our Kids: You mentioned paying a lot of attention not only to the academic side. What kind of traits do you want to develop in your students?

Anna Martowicz: There is quite a lot that we would like to offer in that area as well. And the work, the time that we have with our students here is very precious because that's a very difficult age when young students are thinking about their place in the world and develop their self-confidence. And it's quite an important one. And what we very much are ambitious about is to enable our students to develop themselves to become very confident young persons. And it's not that arrogant kind of confident persons, of course. It's the persons who know what they think, who can analyze the facts around them, who have their own opinion and can express it in a way that is not harmful, that is not aggressive in any way, but that shows their own internal convictions. And this is something quite difficult to do when you're thinking about this very, as I mentioned, delicate age of about 15,16 and onwards, but something very needed. And I think that's in general the big benefit of nonpublic education that by being with the student and by spending time with them, by being there to ask and answer questions, you can develop and sort of break through the shyness sometimes as well to help them to speak up their minds, but also to help and guide them on how they should approach this world which sends so many contradictory messages sometimes and it's so difficult to find the right answers. What the school can teach, and what we hope we're doing very well, is developing analytical and critical thinking about what is being said, written and develops the confidence as well.

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