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Rosita Fugarino – Teacher at the German International School New York

The Swiss-born Rosita Fugarino is working as a primary school teacher at the German International School New York (GISNY) in White Plains for 22 years. She trained as a teacher in Zurich where she worked for a few years before she followed her calling abroad. During our interview with CityKinder Rosita tells us what she loves about GISNY, why the school is a great option for Swiss children, and talks about the most important aspects when it came to raising and educating her own kids.

You’d like to read the interview in German? Just klick here.

Dear Rosita, please tell us: what brought you to New York in the first place?

I always dreamt about working abroad as a teacher for a few years. Therefore I applied to different schools while still living in Zurich – and finally I decided for the German International School New York. Originally I only wanted to stay one or two years. However, I loved it so much that I stayed – it’s been 22 years and counting…

Which grades are you teaching?

As a primary school teacher I’m certified to teach grades 1 to 4. At the moment I have a 2nd grade class where I teach German, math, art, religion, and geography. The children have English lessons as part of their curriculum taught by a native speaker. In addition to elementary school kids, I also teach religion in grades 5 and 6.

 In addition to the regular curriculum you also run the Swiss AG (Club). Can you tell us a bit about that?

The Swiss AG meets weekly and is offered for grades 1-5. We learn about Swiss geography and history while speaking to the kids in Swiss dialect. In addition I offer children in grades 6-12 excursions with a Swiss theme. For example, we visited a Swiss fashion designer in Brooklyn and toured the Swiss Consulate in New York. Another time I took them to JFK airport where we were invited to learn about the Swiss Airlines operations.

The excursions as well as the Swiss AG are free of charge and are open to the whole student body, however we are trying to attract mainly the Swiss students.

What differentiates GISNY from other (international) schools in the NYC metro area?

The ambiance is very cordial and friendly. Open communication is very important to us. In addition, everyone at this school is open to different cultures and very tolerant – that applies to teachers, parents and students alike. In general I feel that everyone strongly identifies with the school and its community. This is facilitated on one hand through our strong sense of community and on the other hand by teaching all grades from Pre-K to „Abitur“ (German High School Diploma) under one roof. A huge advantage, especially compared to public schools, is the focus on bilingual education and the fact that 2 cultures (American and European) are not only taught in our daily operations, but can also be experienced. This also makes it easier for families to return to their home countries, especially if the children have to continue school.

How are you incorporating both cultures in the day to day curriculum outside of regular school hours?

Apart from extra-curricular activities like the Swiss AG we offer community activities like our school parties and events. We are constantly trying to find the right balance between the US and European Holidays. While we would for example never miss Thanksgiving, we try to celebrate Easter and Christmas according to European traditions. For Easter we crafted Easter baskets with the kids in my class and parents hid Easter eggs the kids had to find. In December GISNY always hosts their „reknown“ European-style Weihnachtsbasar with mulled wine and waffles. One of the highlights is the Swiss Raclette-Room which is decorated like a Swiss chalet where visitors can enjoy Swiss music, cheese-raclette and wine.

What does the school do to help new students and parents arriving from Switzerland get situated?

In regards to the kids, it surely helps that the classes are small and the school itself is not too big and feels like a large family. Another great feature is having „Buddys.“ where each child gets assigned a Buddy to help them through the first few weeks. Resident parents also look out few newcomers and help them to integrate quickly for example through excursions, regular breakfast meetings and other events that support newcomers to make new friends fast. Also there are several email lists and info sheets with important addresses and information.

How far do kids travel to come to school and what makes White Plains and the surrounding towns so attractive?

Most students actually live in White Plains or in nearby towns. However, we have several families who live in Connecticut, New Jersey or New York City. For children coming from Manhattan the parents have organized a school bus picking them up in the morning and taking them back in the afternoon. Most families live close by though, as it’s a great place to raise a family. Children can enjoy nature, often have their own backyard and play outside. The beach is also very close. The surrounding towns are very picturesque and not as loud and hectic as in the city. I lived in New York City for a few years, but I’m happy I moved to Harrison, a town next to White Plains with my family.

You know GISNY not only from a teacher’s perspective, but also as a mom. Both your children went to school there – your daughter started in Kindergarten and graduated there. What do you like the best about GISNY?

In addition to the positive atmosphere I already mentioned, it was important to me that my children speak German and English fluently and learn how to navigate between the American German as well as Swiss German cultures. I speak exclusively German to my children at home, but as the general environment is mostly English, it takes extra effort to keep up the German language and culture. GISNY was the perfect solution for this problem. My children speak both languages fluently without mistakes and feel equally at home in both cultures. My daughter now studies in Munich. It’s a private university where the curriculum is taught in German and English – same as GISNY.

Dear Rosita, thank you for the interview!


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