We at the Knowledge Review are always on the quest to find institutions that have made a lasting impact on the educational sphere. This time, our motive of providing our readers with insights on exceptional educational institutions led us to Central Europe. One particular institution, nestled in the pristine city of Vienna, has set a benchmark for bestowing exceptional education on its students of diverse nationalities.
This institution strives to empower students to find their hidden potential and guide them in their endeavors so that they can find the best ways to shine. Allow us to introduce you to The American International School · Vienna (AIS), one of the most remarkable educational institutions in Central Europe and across the globe. AIS offers a unique combination of a nurturing family atmosphere with a challenging educational environment backed by its history of academic achievements.
Established in September 1959, AIS is the oldest English-language school in Austria. Initially, 234 students representing 17 nationalities enrolled in the school. Over the years, the school grew and became one of the finest institutions for delivering education in the English language curriculum. Today, AIS serves nearly 800 students with over 60 nationalities from Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 (IB Diploma or American Diploma).
Set in the Neustift-am-Walde area of Vienna, adjacent to the famous Vienna Woods, AIS provides an instructional setting in the midst of the surrounding hills, forest, and countryside. There are seven interconnected buildings housing Elementary, Middle and High Schools within its 11-acre premise.
Overall, there are more than 70 classrooms, seven science labs, art studios, music rooms, two libraries, a theatre, an outdoor classroom, two gyms, a sports field, a fun court, a cafeteria, health unit, and a separate sports hall (which houses three indoor tennis courts, two basketball courts, or ten badminton courts). The school also has offices for counseling, the International Baccalaureate program, division offices, technology, curriculum, and faculty departments. For students’ physical well-being, the school has built exterior facilities that include: a soccer field, a running track, an elementary playground, an outdoor fun court, and an outdoor amphitheater.
At AIS, computers are seen as a necessary tool for teaching and learning. Hence, through its 1:1 laptop program, all students in Grades 4 through 12 have been provided with a take-home personal computer. All classrooms have ceiling-mounted video projectors and interactive whiteboards- touch-sensitive screens that replace the traditional chalkboard and facilitate digital manipulation of images and text.
Being a school that embraces diversity, AIS’s journey to its present success has required plenty of hard work. To sustain its ascendancy and work towards AIS’ long-term strategic vision, the school has an Executive Board. The board has ten members, eight of whom are elected by the Parents’ Association that sponsors the School, one is appointed by the U.S. Ambassador, and one is the Director (ex-officio) of the school. All the members in the Parents’ Association are automatically conferred on the parents or guardians of children enrolled in the school.
These members’ efforts have helped AIS to be accredited by the Council of International Schools and the Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools, enabled AIS to get recognition by the Austrian Ministry of Education, and helped AIS to become an IB World School.
A Holistic Ambiance
Within the rich cultural context of Austria, AIS Vienna Nurtures an Inclusive learning community, Challenges students to strive for personal excellence and to explore their passion and fosters Respect through compassion for others and the world. These core values guide the school to craft programs that not only focus on the students’ academics but also on the development of students’ creative and leadership abilities and emotional intelligence.
To ensure every child is receiving the required care and attention, AIS has kept its class sizes limited to 20 students, with many classes considerably smaller. Widely, the school’s size is considered ‘just right’ and big enough to offer diverse and stimulating artistic, athletic, and academic opportunities, while still small enough to maintain a strong sense of community. This allows the school’s educators to nurture each pupil with an American spirit and help them achieve their personal best. Whether a PhD in mathematics or support in Kindergarten, members of AIS faculty provide the creative nudges, structure, and room to experiment – in the classroom, on the playing field, among friends, and in life.
Home Away from Home
AIS takes great pride in providing a sense of belonging to not only its students and staff but also their families. Every time they step onto the school’s campus, they experience a powerful feeling of closeness to its welcoming, supportive, and diverse community. AIS’s internationally trained faculty serves its multicultural families working in the diplomatic and corporate sectors, in the arts, academia, professional sports, and private business. They take extra effort to ensure families not only adjust to a new environment but are also given the care and attention to feel the acceptance in their new world.
AIS offers the AIS After School Activity Program in which students get the opportunity to participate in guided, engaging activities that complement and enhance the curriculum which guides their daily education. These activities are inclusive of athletics programs with ten competitive sports of varying levels across three athletic seasons, plus comprehensive clubs and programs including arts, music, language, service-learning, and technological opportunities. Such activities allow students to interact with friends and students from different grade levels while participating in an extensive range of activities. When the school day ends at 3:15 p.m., a new extracurricular world begins.
Since 1959, AIS has offered opportunities for students to take part in activities and travel beyond the borders of its host city and country. Now, 60 years later, this is just one of the many ways the school continues to supplement its curriculum with athletic and educational activities, allowing for learning to take place well beyond the traditional classroom walls.
Preparing for Tomorrow
AIS recognizes individual learning styles. It takes extra efforts to differentiate instruction and enable students to reach their full potential in different areas, be it academics, athletics or in visual and performing arts. This approach strengthens the foundation for students for higher education.
Students that graduate from AIS Vienna regularly attend the world’s top universities. The school has designed a curriculum that prepares its students for pursuing education at such institutions. Additionally, the school hosts many university visits that allow its students access to information and help them make the right choice for themselves. AIS also hosts a career Fair for its HS students to help them discover new career paths they might not yet have considered. All these initiatives help AIS to develop individuals who will become tomorrow’s responsible citizens and will eagerly take on real-world challenges to serve humanity.
Benchmarks of Quality Education
Under its roof, AIS has developed and nurtured some of the most remarkable leaders of the world. Their contribution to society has been immense. Some of the notable personalities of AIS are:
Aerin Lauder Zinterhofer and Jane Lauder
They are granddaughters of Estée and Joseph Lauder, founders of the cosmetics giant Estée Lauder. In the 1980s, the sisters attended AIS – with Aerin graduating in 1988 – as their family moved to Vienna as a result of their father’s Ambassadorship to Austria. Afterwards, Aerin studied at the Annenberg School for Communication and Jane graduated from Stanford University. Jane now manages several major Lauder-owned brands, while Aerin serves as the company’s style and image director. Vienna appears to have left an impression on their family. Her father co-founded New York’s Neue Galerie, and Aerin, too, has never been shy in professing her love for Vienna.
An emerging director and producer who was part of AIS’ Class of 1999. The young filmmaker had her big break in 2017 with the critically acclaimed documentary “La Chana,” which follows the legendary flamenco dancer and received the audience award at the International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam. The fluent German speaker has been working in the film industry for over a decade and has produced a number of short documentaries for The New York Times and The Guardian.
Became the youngest-ever winner of the prestigious Windsor Festival International String Competition in 2017 at only 17 years of age. The young American, who also picked up that year’s audience prize, is considered to be one of the world’s leading violinists. And while he now studies at Juilliard Pre-College under the esteemed Itzhak Perlman and Li Lin, Meltzer’s passion for performing started in second-grade orchestra class in AIS.
“AIS has given me an appreciation for the diversity of cultures and people that I was able to grow up with. Still being in contact with people from all over the world is something unique to having gone to an international school. AIS was very inclusive. You didn’t feel left out when you were new because everyone had experienced that at one point or another. It was like being accepted into a new family.” – Lydia Bergen Allen, Class of ‘79
“We came because we cared. We bonded in a way that I can only describe as deep and meaningful, we formed attachments that survived the test of time and distance; we were exposed to an educational environment that taught us to think big, think deep and think wide. Cultures, cities, languages, ways of thinking – civilizations were our bread and butter, and our playground knew no borders.” – Jane C. Goffman, Class of ‘80
“The education I received at AIS not only prepared me for and helped me to achieve a Harvard degree, but it also prepared me for a career in global business.” – Thomas Stemberg, Founder Staples Inc., Class of ’67
For a glimpse of this majestic school, visit: https://www.ais.at/