Antigua International School
Teaching kids how to think, not what to think
As the founding director of a new, international school in La Antigua Guatemala, longtime educator Jim Pastore is confident that the 21st century curriculum will launch kids on a lifetime of learning that will prepare them for the jobs of the future, those that may not even exist today.
“My concern is that our students will be over-prepared for the universities of the future—and that’s a nice worry to have,” said Pastore, who next month will welcome an initial 60 students to Antigua International School.
Eventually to enroll some 400 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, AIS caters to children of Antigua’s diverse cultural and socio-economic population of entrepreneurs, local Antigüeños, ex-pats and “internet warriors,” who can easily telecommute from Guatemala with clients worldwide, Pastore explained.
Among the new students will be the three children (ages 8, 11 and 13) of Ellen Mueller, a 15-year Antigua resident who expects AIS to deliver the same type of top-notch education she received growing up outside of Boston.
“I love their motto—‘teaching kids how to think, not what to think’—so they will strive to be creative, critical thinkers,” Mueller said. “I feel relieved that AIS is opening in Antigua, it’s the answer to my children’s needs.”
The new school also fills a void in the community, she added. “Antigua is so rich in culture, people and history, but what’s been missing is a high-quality education. AIS promises to offer a world-class educational experience with excellent teachers, challenging curriculum and an integrative learning process.”
It was the opportunity to launch an innovative, diverse school that lured Pastore back to Antigua—he taught at Colegio Maya in the 1990s. “One of the reasons I came here was because I already knew what Antigua was like,” he said. “No one’s really done a true 21st century school that’s student centered and focused on active learning.” With oversight from a well-traveled, highly educated and passionate board of directors, AIS will be a student-driven, bilingual learning center built on a foundation of robust communication among parents, teachers, students and staff, Pastore said.
“I’m built on the four ‘Fs’—fair, firm, flexible and fun,” he added.
Fluent in English, Spanish and Italian, Pastore amassed his expertise over the years as a teacher and administrator at international schools in the Americas and Europe. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English and education from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s in administration from the College of New Jersey. Pastore spent nine of the past 11 years in Italy as a headmaster and principal; he’s also been a school principal in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and most recently on the island of Antigua in the West Indies.
At AIS, the core curriculum consists of math, science, social studies and language arts taught in English with a strong emphasis on Spanish language for 25% of the academic day. Community service will be emphasized, and the arts and athletics will be incorporated directly into the curriculum.
“We also want to make sure the children know where they live and appreciate all the good things about Guatemala,” Pastore said. “Kids may hear a lot of negatives, but there’s a lot of good. … As they get older they can apply Guatemala as the base for the rest of the world.”
In short, Pastore and the international team of teachers want to create memories—the good kind that will last long after a pyrotechnic science experiment, a role in a school play or an amazing field trip.
“We want to see the kindergartners and first-graders lined up wearing big rubber boots and planting trees and shrubs and then watching them grow, taking data over 12 to 13 years, and showing them off after graduation,” Pastore said.
During its opening year, Antigua International School—a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) institution—will be housed in El Cortijo de las Flores, five minutes from Antigua on the road to Ciudad Vieja. Opening day, Nov. 7, will begin with a festive welcome for students, parents and visitors before students file into their classrooms.
The permanent campus will be built at Finca Medina on the outskirts of Antigua, in time for the 2012-2013 school year.