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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Mr. Markus’ WIS Departure

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At the start of the school year, beloved Upper School principal Mr Markus announced the news that he was leaving WIS to move to Zurich with his family after eight years. Mr Markus was delighted to answer some questions for Dateline about his experiences at WIS, Zurich, and what he knows will be an exciting adventure next to the Swiss Alps.



  • What is your favourite part about WIS?


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There’s a lot I love about WIS. I mean, I love the students. I love the faculty too actually! So, the thing is that students here give their all to everything they do, they’re interesting and interested, in the world. I mean, the leadership that a lot of kids show is pretty remarkable so I mean I’ve enjoyed working with. But the teachers are really engaged also, they are always looking to get better, they are constantly studying new things, Project Zero they’ve done a lot with that. And they all have their own unique personalities. One teacher once told me that the best thing about some of the people I have hired is that I don’t want people who will just say ‘yes’ to things I suggest, they’ll fight back because they care about what kids need and they’ll say ‘I’m worried about this’. When we come up with something, we come up with something that’s good for everyone. It’s been a great community this whole time.



  • How long have you been at WIS and what is your fondest memory?


Wow, that’s hard. So I’ve been here for eight years. Taking one memory out of those eight years is tough. I loved the first year I went on the New Orleans trip, I’ve loved every year I’ve gone.  I was out there doing the wetlands one day, driving around and getting people things, but just being there and seeing how happy everyone is. I love that trip. But I’ve loved teaching TOK, I’ve had great TOK groups. When you’re principal, you don’t get to see students on a daily basis and develop that kind of relationship. But, I’ve been fortunate to teach all these years. My first year, I taught this thing called ‘X period’, which I really enjoyed cus I could make up anything I wanted. But, for a time period, when one of the teachers got sick, I got to teach English and Animal Farm. And, since I was brand new, and these guys were brand new, that class had a special meaning to me because I watched that group go through four years. It’s hard to pick, but New Orleans is pretty special, I think, and when I’ve gotten to go on that trip with them, whichever group it is, it’s been pretty wonderful.



  • How has WIS changed you as a person and an educator?


Good question. I mean, I’ve learned just as much here as anywhere I have ever been before. The Project Zero work, I did a ‘making across the curriculum’ learning group last year, and I think I grew more as a leader and an educational thinker from that than any other professional experience I’ve had before this.  But also, what’s been great about this place has been working with Jeanne Romilly, as a nurse, Megan Hallam, as a counsellor, Ms Eaton, Ms Polland and Mr Spezzano. All of them have taught me something about how to lead groups. I’ve thought a lot about student mental health over the last six/seven years, and that’s changed my view that if we do things well in the classroom, we really need to also focus on how we’re helping kids find their paths in life. That’s way more important than the academics. And the academics can’t happen for some unless you’re taking care of that. If you talked to me before I came to WIS, I was very academically focused. Now, I’m really focused on the whole person, and the challenges that young boys or young girls, and they’re different, have gone through at this age range.



  • What is something you learned at WIS and will take with you to your new school?


I was never in the IB before I came here. I was mostly in AP and American independent schools, and then I did my stint in DC public schools as a principal, but I’ve come to understand and appreciate the IB. I’ve also come to understand how the IB can limit things. What’s interesting at my new school is that some of the kids go the IB route, some do APs, and some do a diploma that’s just courses from the school. But, I’ve come to appreciate TOK (Theory of Knowledge), I love how you’ve got CAS (Service program in IB) as part of the program, and you have to do research in the Extended Essay. But, I’ve also learned, over the years, that for some students, the full IB isn’t for them, and so I fought early on to allow people to do the course program to be adaptable to what people need. And so, in the new school, having different paths, means that I can be flexible in a different way there too.  



  • Why did you decide to leave?


My family and I moved to DC originally to work in urban public schools. That was my main goal. I worked under Michelle Rhee, and that was a crazy experience. I told my wife that we’d probably be in DC for five years. About three years in, I found WIS, and I love it. I couldn’t find another place that was this great, I thought. But, with my daughter graduating from high school, we came back to the decision that it’s time to find someplace else, either internationally or in the United States. So, I started looking. But, the funny thing is I was looking probably not for this coming year, but for the year after because, I was looking to become possibly a head of school, and that takes two to three years. Then, this position came up, and I’ve known a lot of students here who’ve been to international schools and talked about how great that experience is. My daughter is going to be twelve soon, and I want her to have that kind of experience. She’s lived in DC her whole life basically, and I think that the ability to live in different places and see different cultures is so enriching that I just want her to have that. So, when I got offered the job in Zurich, it felt like the right thing for the whole family. So I’m not leaving you, I’m actually moving to another place so my family can have an experience of the world that’s different. I could have stayed here forever if I was only thinking about the kind of school I like to be at, but I’m also thinking about the whole family.



  • Where are you going and why did you choose this school?


I’m going to Zurich International School. I was looking internationally and to become a principal at a school where my daughter could go. When I moved to DC, both my kids started out in public schools because I was working at public schools, which weren’t great schools for them, and when I came to WIS, they said they would like to stay in these public schools. But for now, I was looking for a place where I could teach, or lead, and where my daughter could go. So that’s one of the reasons why Zurich International is a great school. I mean, it has a lot of the things WIS has, its got a great learning culture, really engaged students and I’m excited by the complexity of a school that has three different tracks. And they’re also a school that says they want to be thinking more about student mental health. And so all the things I’m interested in and that I care about as far as helping students and faculty grow, it’s all there. And Zurich’s a beautiful place actually. We went there, and I was very impressed with the mountains in the background and good quality of life. And they offered me a job, which helps too.



  • What does this opportunity mean for you and your family?


It means, in the short term, a lot of transition and a lot of change. My wife and I are figuring out how to close down a house, sell everything and get moving. For my daughter, who’s going off to college, it will mean we will be a little further away from her. She seems fine with that, but my wife and I are feeling that’ll be hard. Skype calls are great, but we can’t go and visit at the drop of a hat. For my younger daughter, she’s super excited. She’s a soccer player and a swimmer, and she’s looking at the places she’ll travel for activities, and she’s super excited. It’s a two-year contract, but most people stay longer, whether it’s two years or six years till she graduates. We will have experiences traveling over Europe, getting to know other languages and cultures that there’s no way we could get here. And so, for us, it’s an exciting adventure.

Although WIS will miss him, we are all excited for Mr Markus and his family as they explore this new opportunity. We wish him the best in his move to a new country, an experience that many WIS students are familiar with.  


By Sofia Sanchez

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