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DIS 12th grade FB students have begun taking their first mock exam for the French Baccalaureat. Over the next few days, depending on the student’s track (S or ES), students will take mock exams in the same format that they will experience when taking the actual Baccalaureat in May/June. Mock exams are important to students, as they give the student an idea of the formatting of the tests and how to work within the allotted time. To best prepare students, DIS provides two opportunities to take the mock exam, and we have seen great results from providing more than the standard single opportunity. The first mock exam given can be used to adjust the student to the time constraints given for the test, and the second mock exam can be used for students to take the feedback received from their first experience and make it applicable. We have no doubt that when the time comes, DIS students will be more than ready!
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Tuesday evening, December 17, our current CM2 students attended the DELF diploma ceremony. The DELF (Diplôme d'études en Langue Française) is a certification of French-language abilities for non-native speakers of French administered by the International Centre for French Studies (Centre International d’études Pédagogiques, or CIEP) for France's Ministry of Education. It is composed of four independent diplomas corresponding to the first four levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: A1, A2, B1 and B2.
All 5th grade students received their DELF certificates after passing the accompanying exam during the previous school year. The qualifying DELF exam consists of four sections, listening, reading, writing and speaking, on which all students scored above 90%. DELF certificates are valid for life and do not expire. Congratulations to all the CM2 students on this amazing accomplishment!
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One of the core tenets of Dallas International School is being globally-minded, not just in education, but in all aspects of life. Due to this deeply held belief, DIS strives to give back and serve not only around the local community, but around the world.


Since 2013, members of the DIS community have traveled to Haiti under the leadership of DIS parent Jodi Shelton and others to help build schools in impoverished areas of the country through a partnership with BuildON, an international nonprofit organization.


Recently, it was announced that the newest school completed by DIS and BuildON volunteers would be dedicated to the late Tracy Kozah, a fixture of the DIS community who served as the director of public relations and development at the school for over a decade. Tracy traveled to Haiti to help build a school in 2014 and was instrumental in formalizing the partnership between DIS and BuildON.


To learn more about the experience that DIS volunteers have when they go to Haiti and help build these places of learning, we sat down with Eric and Valerie Corticchiato, DIS parents who have been to Haiti three times with their daughter, Lea.


Tell us how the whole process works. What do you do on a day-to-day basis while you’re there?


Valerie: We live with host families while we are there. They give us their space that they have and we use their facilities. We do lots of work and we also do a cultural experience.


Eric: We are helping them build a school so they can get educated, which will really help them for many years. You learn to really work, even if you’re not necessarily a construction expert. It contributes to their momentum. The villagers sign a covenant saying that they will continue to build and finish the school once the volunteers leave.


What are some of the lessons you’ve learned while you’ve been down there?


Valerie: Material things will make you happy for a temporary period, but it’s really all about education and relationships. The Haitian people seem to be just as happy as we are. In reality, the school is what’s going to help them be happy. When you work there, you come back with an enthusiasm from being there and it’s contagious.


Eric: You can be very happy with a lot less material things. In the long term, education will make you a lot happier than material things will.


Valerie: You definitely think about all the things that you have and you become more grateful. We waste so much water every day and they have to carry a bucket of water everywhere they go, for example. You take things for granted.


Eric: Yes, it’s important to learn not to waste. Learning to conserve water and other resources is key. When you don’t have the resources available, you learn to conserve because you have to.


What are some of the lessons that you’ve seen the students learn as they’ve gone to work?


Valerie: It’s good for the kids to learn the benefit of helping others who need it most. Also, it’s nice for the kids to learn by being in a third-world country and they’re unable to use their cell phones and technology but they still have a good time and they’re still happy.


Eric: It’s important to show the children the lives of people who have a lot less than them but who are still prioritizing education to get out of poverty and to get a head start in life. The kids also learn perseverance when they come because the work requires both physical and mental strength. They all show that strength by coming down.


How and why did the idea come about to dedicate the newest school to Tracy Kozah?


Eric: The reason why we are dedicating the school to Tracy is because of what she did. She participated in 2014 and was really one of the links between BuildON and DIS. She really deserved that recognition. So we brought the idea to the group and they all voted unanimously to dedicate the school to her. A plaque will be placed there on the school sometime this summer.


Why is this partnership between DIS and BuildON so important?


Eric: There is a cultural aspect to it. You learn the Haitian culture, which is very similar to the French culture. That helps make the connection between them and us that much more special. In my mind, there’s no doubt that the partnership will and should continue on. It’s important to continue the tradition. We’ve seen new people and younger students participating in the trip each year. Hopefully they will continue passing the torch.

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The lower campus of Dallas International School recently held a one-of-a-kind bilingual science fair complete with dual language presentations by the students that utilized QR code scanning technology to allow parents to view the presentation in both English and French. We sat down with the head of primary, Jean-François Lopez, to discuss the fair and the academic impact it had on the students.


Tell us more about this fair. What was its purpose?


It was all about science protocol. Students and teachers were working on the scientific method and it was very interesting for the science process. It was done in a bilingual way. It was all about helping students engage in writing and in talking and presenting in both English and French.


How excited were the students to incorporate the QR code technology into their presentations?


Oh, it was great. It was very interesting to get the QR code because students were able to review their speeches in both languages and be able to present that to parents orally. They were working specifically on oral skills in both languages, which is very good.


What types of experiments did the students do?


We actually assigned each grade level one experiment, so each grade level worked on the same thing. We did this to help the students think with a critical mind. You have results, but if you compare them with other students, then you learn much more. It helps them go from belief to reality. But they did some fun experiments. One grade level did an experiment to see which liquid rots a nail the fastest—Coke, water, vinegar or other things. They were all really interesting.


How did the parents react when they came in to see the presentations?


They were very excited. They were so happy to see the QR codes and to see more interaction with technology in the teaching process. It was interesting for them and really nice because everything was done with just one QR code scan. I was glad they were able to understand what our bilingual education means.


What do you hope was the biggest lesson learned by students, teachers and parents through this science fair?


That our bilingual education is special. It’s not two parallel language curriculums, it’s merged as one, with both French and English teachers working on the same skills. Both teachers were working on the same thing and that showed in the fair. They really did an amazing job with the students. It was incredible to see everyone working together.

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Ask Kamel Zouaoui what he does for work, and the answer is simple.


“I am a storyteller,” he says. “I travel the world to tell stories and teach. I consider my hometown to be the world, as if I were a tourist.”


Zouaoui is an artist, and though he’s lived in Paris for the last 20 years, he spends most of his weeks on the road, telling stories to audiences in theatrical settings and leading creative workshops for students. He spent this week with students from the upper and lower campuses of Dallas International School, first with the younger ones at Churchill, and then with the older ones at both the Waterview campus and those participating in this week’s Multilingual Theater Festival at the Dallas Children’s Theater.


His first goal when he set foot on the Churchill campus was to help the students come out of their shell. He accomplished this by helping students write, act out and record their own play, and then leading them in voice exercises that let them be heard.


“I always ask students to write stories in the class,” he said. “We made two shows for all the children to see, and they went really well. Their stories were incredible. That and the voice exercises help them consider the importance of speaking. Sometimes they have very important things to say but they don’t say them with any volume. And we want to hear them. It’s for them to think about the importance of being heard by others.”


Zouaoui has recorded these class plays in 17 different locations around the globe, and he loves letting the students see the work of their peers in other countries. He especially enjoys hearing the students perform in French, some for the first time.


“It’s amazing because they have the capacity to listen and to have a French show,” he said. “Some of them had never heard or seen a French show before.”


Once the fun was done at Churchill, Zouaoui performed one of his stories for the students at Waterview and then joined the upper school theater students at the Dallas Children’s Theater for the Multilingual Theater Festival the next day. Gathered there were students from six different schools across the country, participating in various theater workshops to improve all facets of stage performance.


For his workshop, Zouaoui taught the young performers about life as an artist and led them in various exercises to improve their speaking technique and storytelling chops. He also emphasized the importance of teamwork in a theatrical group.


“I teach them and remind them the importance of being together,” he said. “The groups are in solidarity with each other. We did an exercise where one student pretended to be blind and the others had to guide him to walk across the room using only their voices. They couldn’t touch him or help him in any other way.


“It’s a great way to teach them how to use their voice and use the space,” he continued. “They spoke French and English and have different backgrounds but they were all working toward the same goal”


Zouaoui, who utilizes a special French program to help fund his artistic pursuits, said that learning about art and artists is important for a young person’s development.


“Being an artist is important for humanity,” he said. “When they’re acting, it’s a good opportunity to be someone else. You have an opportunity to have a different eye for the world. And it’s an opportunity for the students to enjoy themselves.”


After the festival is over, Zouaoui will fly out to his next destination. But he had one last request he wanted to pass along to the parents of the young artists he taught at DIS.


“Tell your children stories,” he said. “There is a magical link between people and stories. Tell them a story and then have them tell you one.”


After their week with Zouaoui, they should have no trouble doing that.

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Kyra Naylor is a graduate of the Dallas International School class of 2016 and is currently studying at Southern Methodist University. As she finishes up her sophomore year at university, we sat down with her to learn more about her future plans and past successes as a DIS Tigre.

How has school been going? What are you up to?

I am about to enter my junior year at SMU. I am a declared World Languages Major (French & Spanish), Art History Major, an Arts Management minor and photography minor, which keeps me very busy. I also am starting to look at law schools and preparing for the LSAT. I wanted to get involved in the local community so I try to volunteer with SMU’s Not On My Campus group as much as possible, as well as the HPUMC. Growing up and going to DIS, I was very fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to travel internationally, but nowadays I am trying to see more of the United States. So, I have been traveling a lot more locally with friends.

How do you feel like Dallas International School prepared you for your college experience?

As an art history major, I have to write a lot of research papers and DIS definitely prepared me for that. Also, DIS had me memorizing verbatim poems, lessons and other things since first grade, so memorizing and preparing for exams is less stressful and time-consuming.

What is the biggest difference between life at DIS and life at SMU?

At DIS, I was so used to having a very diverse surrounding and a lot of structure, whereas at SMU I feel like I’m at a school with people very similar to me and I definitely have a lot more freedom, which has its pros and cons. I was expecting to be a little overwhelmed going to a school so much larger than DIS, but SMU has such a tight and close-knit community that I can’t go from one class to another without running into friends.

What do you miss most about DIS?

I miss my teachers most of all. Most of my classes now hare pretty large with over 50 students, but every once in a while I have a small class, but even then I don’t have the same close relationship with my professors as I did at DIS.

If you could give a piece of advice to the students at DIS, what would it be?

Just really take advantage of your time at home with your family and friends, because once you get to college life really starts rolling. I’m halfway done with my undergraduate studies, but it feels like I started school yesterday.
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What do Mandarin Chinese, hip-hop dance, and emoji design all have in common? They’re all among the wealth of offerings at Dallas International School’s Summer Enrichment Camp. And like soccer, sculpting, and countless other activities available at this six-week program, these courses offer students diversity, flexibility, educational enhancement, and the chance to learn new skills while having great fun.
“Our day camp has run for more than three decades, and it grows more with each passing year,” says Yohanis Mibrathu, Director of the DIS Summer Enrichment Camp. “In 2018, we’ll have 60 staff members and more than 400 students. We’ll be introducing new activities such as DJ classes, Omnisports, and computer-game programming. And we’ll be offering camp on the upper school grounds as well as at the lower school location so we can extend more choices to our campers.”
DIS summer camp is broken into two three-week segments; kicks off on Monday, June 11; and wraps up on Friday, July 20. Its final deadline for enrollment is Monday, June 4. And on two Fridays—June 29 and July 20—it hosts “Summer Joy,” with students hitting the stage to show their parents everything they’ve learned at camp.
That learning spans the full spectrum. “Essentially, we offer many camps rolled into one,” says Aisha Dibaki, the DIS Summer Enrichment Camp Coordinator.
Over the course of six weeks, students are welcome to explore literary offerings (such as creative writing); scientific ones (such as “little vet school”); the artistic (i.e. photography and painting); and the athletic (i.e. tennis and soccer).
Children ages three through 13, who comprise the bulk of campers, convene at the lower school or Churchill campus, while those in the 5th to 12th grades have the option to meet—for the first time in 2018—at the upper school or Waterview location, where many of them attend classes during the school year.
Roughly six percent of campers come from overseas. “Meeting these newcomers helps DIS students broaden their horizons,” says Mibrathu. “They forge friendships and cultural exchanges that enrich their lives, and that last well beyond summer camp.”
For children who come from abroad—and for locals whose families take summer vacations—the structure of DIS summer camp offers much-welcomed flexibility.
“Parents get to build each camp schedule for each individual child,” says Dibaki. “On our enrollment form, there are a total of twelve options for the six weeks.”
Activities are available in the morning (9am-12pm) and in the afternoon (12:30-3:30pm), with a break between sessions for a healthy catered lunch. Students can come anywhere from a half day for a single week to full time for all six weeks.
Starting as early as 7:30am and continuing as late as 6pm, childcare is available for youngsters whose parents are juggling busy schedules.
When camp wraps up in the afternoon, students at Waterview can take guitar lessons, while those at Churchill can enjoy summer-school activities including piano, origami, and basketball.
Educational enhancement
Whether campers opt to explore chess, crafting, or culinary classes, educational enrichment is part of every offering.
Foreign-language instruction—one of DIS’s key strengths—is a core component of camp, and is available not just to kids, but to their parents as well. Taught from kindergarten through 12th grade during the DIS school year, French is also available here—as are Arabic, German, Mandarin, Spanish, and English as a Second Language.
“We try as much as possible to mix language learning with other activities,” says Mibrathu. “Campers can do everything from sports to cooking classes in French.”
No matter what languages or other subjects they’re learning, children at DIS summer camp are continually building new skills.
“During our new Omnisports sessions, we’re learning a combination of soccer, dodgeball, rock climbing, and other sports,” says Kenneth Jones, who coaches Omnisports and basketball at the DIS summer school. “But we’re also learning teamwork, communication, and how to keep our heads in the game.”
Though camp gives DIS students a very different experience than the one that they enjoy during the school year, this experience is vital and valuable in and of itself. “This is play-based learning,” says Mibrathu, “but it’s learning that is guaranteed to stick with these students long after the summer is gone.”
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The bell at Waterview campus rang at 11:30 a.m., signaling the end of Amy Blankson’s presentation, which elicited an audible groan of disappointment from the assembled students in grades 8-12. They wanted her to keep speaking.


Blankson, a happiness researcher and expert who holds degrees from Harvard and Yale, laughed and thanked the students for being attentive listeners. Several lined up to get a word in with her before scurrying off to class. Blankson’s talk had been profoundly influential, and its effectiveness as part of Dallas International School’s “Be Happy” campaign was clear.


DIS recently has focused on helping its students at the Waterview campus develop a happier lifestyle and a culture of positivity in and out of the classroom. Thus, the “Be Happy” campaign was developed and implemented, with several components making up the initiative, including:

  • Values-based activities to reinforce the DIS Core Values: Empathy, Integrity, Resilience, Respect and Responsibility with projects led by the student council and the House system leaders.
  • Understanding the concept behind being happy, its benefits and how to get there.
  • Introduction to meditation for Waterview students, led by DIS parent Nawal Bendefa. (We wrote about this initiative in a previous article that you can read here.)


Blankson’s presentation addressed the second of these three points, and while the students perhaps thought they were in for a run-of-the-mill assembly when they filed into the MPR on Wednesday, they were treated to so much more.


“Over the last 200 years, the use of the word ‘happy’ in our vocabulary has been going down,” Blankson said. “We’ve studied it so much, and what we began to find is that no matter where you were in the world, happiness is something that we aspire to, but we had forgotten how to get there.”


Blankson then outlined the process that most of us follow in our lives: “moving the goalposts” after each life achievement to some loftier goal that is always a little out of reach, thereby denying ourselves happiness and satisfaction all along the way.


“We keep pushing happiness over the cognitive horizon,” she said. “If you reverse the formula for success, if you pursue happiness first, it will make you successful. If you have a more positive brain, your brain performs better.”


The rest of the presentation focused on Blankson’s three main findings in her research, which she challenged the students to implement in their daily lives: happiness is a choice, happiness is a habit and happiness spreads. Some impressive figures helped back up her research.


“If we figure out how to be more positive in our brains, we become three times more creative, 31% more productive, 10% faster on tests, 10% more accurate on tests and 23% less tired,” she said.


Blankson’s assertion that happiness is a choice is borne not only out of her research, but also her personal life experiences. She lost her house in Hurricane Katrina while living in Biloxi, Mississippi.


“I didn’t know if I would be able to feel happy again,” she said. “But 90% of happiness has to do with the way you perceive the world around you. We all have things that happen. The way we deal with them determines how we view the future and deal with other things in our lives.”


To illustrate the concept of happiness being a habit, Blankson asked the students to work on one of the five points that make up her favorite phrase, J-GAME: journaling, gratitude, acts of kindness, meditation and exercise. Each student in attendance committed to working on one of the five recommendations to create a new habit of happiness and enrich their personal lives.


Finally, Blankson asked the students to pair up so that she could show that happiness indeed spreads. Each student took a turn acting serious, while the other student was tasked with making his or her partner laugh, but only by using their eyes. Predictably, everyone was in stitches within a few seconds.


This fed into Blankson’s point of making sure that DIS students support each other and contribute to each other’s happiness.


“People that provide social support are 40% more likely to receive it in return,” she said. “The best way to make yourself feel better is to do something nice for someone else.”


DIS’ “Be Happy” campaign will continue throughout the school year. Considering the meditation that has already been implemented on campus and the dynamic nature of Blankson’s talk, it’s off to a great start.

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Learning a new language isn’t easy, but it’s especially tough if it’s the primary language spoken in the country you just moved to.



This is the challenge that faces students in the English as a Second Language (ESL) class at Dallas International School. Coming from French-speaking countries, these young Tigres spanning Kindergarten through fourth grade often know very little English. They’re able to communicate perfectly in French with their classmates, so they spend a good deal of their day following a normal schedule, but they also take time for ESL with their teacher, Andrea Ewert.



Ms. Ewert has taught ESL for 12 years, and before that she was an art teacher. While there is a specific academic curriculum that her ESL students follow, she has also merged her two teaching expertise into a new arts and culture project that has helped her students open up and learn in ways they never had before. The class just recently finished its third of five separate art projects that aim to “explore, celebrate and express” each student’s heritage, background and differences.



“First, they designed and drew a flag that shows the flags of the places they have lived,” Ms. Ewert said. “And then they did a watercolor of the landscape of their home country and one of Texas. We talked about the how the two places are different. They’re celebrating what they like about two places.”



Ms. Ewert said this idea is key to the entire ESL experience. Students are taught that neither country is better than the other, but rather, they’re different from each other. Students may like or dislike specific aspects of each place, but it’s the difference that’s worth examining and celebrating.



“As they’re working, they’re able to celebrate who they are and where they’re from,” Ms. Ewert said. “When they’re printing France and talking about it they’re celebrating even when they’re far away. It sort of pulls out feelings they have for the places as they’re working.”



The students also made a collage that represents both countries and will soon work on a clay pattern that does the same. The final project will be a memory quilt made up of cherished memories from their mother country.



These art projects aren’t solely for cultural enrichment, however. Through artwork, ESL students learn aspects of the English language that would be difficult to acquire through a textbook.



“What I’ve seen is they’re using a different kind of language to learn,” Ms. Ewert said. “There’s a social language there, not just an academic language. It really helps with their vocabulary.”



As the students progress in their English skills through the art projects and other aspects of the class, Ms. Ewert has observed the positive change it makes in their school experience.



“A big part of learning a new language is their attitude toward their experience,” she said. “Their self-esteem is also involved. They can’t do it well for a while and it’s hard. They know they don’t know as much English as other DIS students do. So doing a piece of artwork in here that is perfect helps them combat feelings of ‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘I don’t know as much as other people.’”



Ms. Ewert works hard to make her students feel special, not only through unique art projects, but in other ways, such as enlisting the help of more experienced students in teaching new students in the class, or taking everyone on a field trip to the Veterans Day parade to learn more about the American armed forces. It’s all part of helping the students feel welcome in their new home, while letting them love and remember their first home.



“Through art, I think it’s beautiful for kids to express themselves and find a voice,” she said. “In art, there is no right or wrong. It is just what they’ve experienced. I want to make their experience positive and I want them to feel good about the process and feel amazing to be bilingual and have two places to adapt to.”



The ESL art projects will be on display for community members to see near the end of the school year. Keep an eye out in the Globe to find out when and where the exhibition will take place!

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The staff and faculty at Dallas International School were given a rare treat during their staff development day a few weeks ago: a few minutes of peace and quiet.
These school leaders are used to controlled chaos in their everyday working life, so Nawal Bendefa, a meditation and mindfulness professional and DIS parent, was brought in to help everyone relax, breathe and “focus on the moment.”
Bendefa, who recently moved to Dallas and has a fourth grader at the school, is working together with DIS to bring the concepts of meditation and mindfulness not just to the staff and faculty but to the students as well. Starting with middle schoolers, students will have a few minutes on select days to stop working, meditate, focus and simply enjoy a bit of silence.
“We are looking to develop a pilot program in middle school,” Bendefa said. “There is a transition in this age between middle and high school and there’s so much decision making there. They’re going to be asked to choose for their future. So we are trying to help them reach the clarity there.”
Bendefa uses mindfulness practices with businesses in her capacity as a career coach, but she says the positive impact that mindfulness and meditation can have on school-age children is often more noticeable. This was evident when she stopped by a fourth grade class this week and led them in a session of “laughing mindfulness,” where students were able to act out funny scenes, such as a car being unable to start, to help them relax and clear their minds.
“It helps students with stress reduction, self-awareness, self-management,” she said. “They’re more aware of their emotions, they’re more aware of the emotions of others and it also gives them more focus and effectiveness. Sometimes they’re aware and they can feel it in their body, and sometimes they’re supposed to feel in a certain way. It helps them get out of the herd mentality and be more aware of themselves and where they are in any situation.”
Bendefa said that mindfulness helped her change and improve her own life.
“I got into mindfulness for personal reasons,” she said. “I started while living in South Korea. I started meditating, and the results were fantastic with my health. Then I started using it in my profession.”
Though the pilot program will be initially aimed at middles schoolers, Bendefa said that all children, regardless of age, can benefit from these practices.
“Especially with younger children, it helps them focus on their attention,” she said. “They’re also developing the body-heart connection, through things like compassion and empathy. They learn to care for themselves. They learn to be nice to themselves and to others.”
Eventually, she envisions a program that is implemented at all levels of the school, helping students, staff and teachers alike to focus better, live healthier and be happier.
“We hope this will help them become more responsible citizens,” Bendefa said. “It gets bigger and bigger. It gets beyond the classroom and the school. In mindfulness, we talk about wholeness. It’s all connected.”