DIS lands on the cover of the July 2017 edition of Living Magazine with a feature story on the unique mission of the school.
Annaliyse Bowden wasn’t like other five-year olds.
“She had a fascination with other languages and other cultures,” said her mother, Chellie. “She loved watching foreign language TV and one of her favorite programs taught how to write in Chinese characters.”
Wanting to encourage their daughter’s interests, the Bowdens signed Annaliyse up for French lessons. When she flourished in her classes, Chellie asked the tutor for recommendations, then signed her up for summer camp at Dallas International School.
“She loved it so much she wanted to go on Saturdays and Sundays too,” Chellie said. “We’d planned to send her to a private Christian school but enrolled her in Dallas International School for first grade instead.”
Beginning at that young age, Annaliyse’s school day consisted of rigorous academics taught 60% in French, 30% in English and 10% in Spanish. She learned not just to recite a few foreign phrases but to speak, read, write and even think in English, French and Spanish.
“It’s not a matter of students thinking in English, then translating into another language,” said Director of Community Development Lorraine Gachelin. “They can actually think in multiple languages. They learn the culture, diplomacy and sensibilities that go with them, so they leave here prepared to contribute to a global world.”
“DIS is the only international school in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex,” Ms. Gachelin said. “By offering this unique education from preschool through high school in English and Frencch, we teach a solid foundation of skills that covers all the fundamentals offered by other prestigious private schools, while giving our students the advantage of acquiring third and fourth languages throughout their school career.
“Our rigorous academic program successfully integrates the renowned French national curriculum, the best practices of American education and the comprehensive International Baccalaureate program,” Ms. Gachelin said. “Our multicultural environment and active community of students, teachers, staff and parents creates more than an education—it enables students to develop critical thinking skills, creativity and a flexibility of mind that will benefit them for life.”
“We are a monolingual family,” Chellie said. “My husband and I were both born and raised in Texas. Annaliyse spends her days with children from forty different countries and many socioeconomic backgrounds. Her classes are small—often one teacher to ten students—and she’s taught by the same teachers for several years, so they understand her learning style.”
Annaliyse is in high school now. After studying Spanish for vfive years, in addition to her French and English, she’s now learning to speak, read, write and think in Mandarin (while some of her classmates are doing the same in German). All of her teachers are native to the language and culture they teach. And she has traveled to Quebec, Paris, Washington D.C. and China on field trips and has participated in an exchange program to Florence, Italy. Because the curriculum at each Mission Laique Francaise school is aligned, she was able to pick up where she’d left off at DIS in her new Italian school.
Chellie is excited to begin her Dallas International School experience all over again, now that her grandson is enrolled in the PreK program. Sophie Anwar is one of his classmates.
“We were looking for diversity for Sophie,” said her mom, Shari Anwar. “Most of us took a foreign language in school, but few of us could actually speak that language afterward. DIS kids are immersed in English, French and Spanish. When a child is taught to think fluently in different languages, it actually opens up new neuropathways of their brain. Sophie spends her days with so much diversity around her.”
Shari marvels at the atmosphere on the DIS ccampus.
“Parents are an integral part of the school and the teachers also teach manners, so when Sophie walks to class in the morning, I see her greet other students’ parents by name,” she said. “Parents are encouraged to come in and share their expertise—to plan an instrument, dance, bake or whatever they enjoy. Sophie sees kids bringing food for lunch she’s never seen and she wants to try it. She’s learning that cultural differences are a good thing.”
Dallas International School is accredited by the French Ministry of Education, the International Baccalaureate Organization and the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest and is a part of the dynamic Mission Laique Francaise, a non-profit organization, established in 1902, which works to spread the French language and culture by creating and running schools outside of France.
Because they also belong to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial School (TAPPS) students compete against a large network of other schools in athletics, arts, academics and speech.