“TTO is an amazing educational system we have at school”
Deirdre van Ree, English teacher, is going to be the head of TTO (tweetalig onderwijs).
door Marieke van den Berg en Ilke van Alfen
Could you introduce yourself?
I’m Deirdre van Ree. I am from Ireland, but I have been living here for almost fourteen years. Out of those fourteen years I’ve been working at Kandinsky since 2009, which is almost eleven years. I’m an English teacher. In the last few years I did my masters, I have been a coordinator, and then next year, I’m going to be the head of the TTO (tweetalig onderwijs) programme. I’m married to a Dutch man, hence my name van Ree. I have four children, one girl and three boys.
Could you maybe tell us something about your past? Where did you for example grow up?
In a little town right in the middle of Ireland. It’s halfway between Dublin and Galway which are the big cities. When I grew up there, there were only about 2000 people living in my village, so everybody kind of knew everybody. Even though it was considered a big town because we had a secondary school, so all the people from the neighbourhood came to our town.
And what about university? Where did you study?
I went to university first in Galway, in Ireland. I did my propedeuse there. I started to train to become a teacher in German and maths, but I decided that I wanted to go travelling. Then I trained to become a fitness instructor. I ended up working on a cruise ship as a fitness instructor and that’s where I first met my husband. After I met him, I did go back to Ireland for few years where I worked with the Irish navy and went to college to become a computer programmer before I eventually moved to the Netherlands.
"When you’re around young people you feel these positive vibes the whole time, and I just think it’s important to be in that atmosphere."
So when did you decide to move to the Netherlands?
When I left the Irish navy, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Back then my husband was still my boyfriend, and we were doing the long-distance thing, so I said: “you know what, I’ll come here for a year to learn Dutch’. Well, one year turned into fourteen and I’m still here.
How did you end up at Kandinsky College?
It started at a birthday party. When I moved to the Netherlands, I found it hard at the beginning to get work as I didn’t speak Dutch. Then somebody at that birthday party asked me if I had tried bilingual schools yet. I hadn't, so I sent a couple of messages to bilingual schools in the region. The Kandinsky College answered first, and after I spoke with the school, I could start as a language assistant!
And what do you enjoy the most about working at the Kandinsky College?
The students and the people. I think that’s what makes it unique. I love working with students, because I think they keep me young. I always have to be alert. I think it’s also nice because there’s this positive energy. When you’re around young people you feel these positive vibes the whole time, and I just think it’s important to be in that atmosphere. It makes me feel good and keeps me on my toes.
We also had some questions about school activities, because is it true that you organize a lot of school trips to other countries and other (international) activities?
Yes, since I am the coordinator, (which I have been since 2011) I have been organizing trips for this school focused on the bilingual students. Every year, we do quite a big number of activities. I always organized the trip to England in the first year, and the exchanges in the second year. Initially I would do it all with Mrs Conrad, then I did it on my own for a while and now for the last few years, I’ve been doing it with Mrs Klink, the p.e. teacher. I really enjoy organizing everything and it is really interesting because you, especially with the exchanges, have to make contacts with schools abroad. This is generally nice but can also be frustrating when there’s time differences and you’re trying to contact people.
"I think it’s important that all our students learn how to talk and communicate with these people from different places in the world."
Do you have a personal favourite trip?
I personally love the first years’ trip to England, because normally it’s their first time away from home on their own. Watching them grow and develop during this week and using their English makes it all worthwhile. It’s also nice to see the second years go on their exchange, when they have to stay on their own in a house. That’s also a sort of milestone for them.
I suppose I love how the kids become more independent on these trips and how they’re able to stand up for themselves at the end of the week. Of course, we also have trips in ‘de bovenbouw’, but I think it’s different at that stage because they’ve been on one or two already.
Why do you think it is or isn’t important for students to get a broader view of the world?
I think we all know that most people come from this area of the Netherlands. And although the population of the world is growing, the world is getting smaller. The past year was a perfect example of this. You can contact people from all around the world in a split-second using technology. I think it’s important that all our students learn how to talk and communicate with these people from different places in the world. Especially with people who have a totally different culture. There are different customs in different parts of the world and I think it’s necessary that we understand each other so we can live in a world that’s, I suppose, connected.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t travel. There is a big chance that even if you work in a company in Nijmegen, you will work alongside somebody from a different country or background, or people with different norms and values. But you should be able to work, understand and respect each other and respect the norms and values of both people. Having a broader view of the world will hopefully enable our students to succeed in accepting others for who they are.
Head of TTO:
Next year you're becoming head of TTO, but what exactly does that include?
Up until now, I’ve been a TTO coordinator, so I’ve been more hands on organizing the trips. As the head of TTO I’ll be more focusing on the quality of TTO that we have here at school. I’ll also be communicating with the coordinators to make sure we have all we need for TTO education.
Questions like ‘Are we covering all the pillars. What do we need to implement? What do we need to amend? How do we develop TTO?’ or even “Are there new things we want to introduce to TTO?” will be questions I’ll look at. And of course, reviewing everything we are doing at the moment.
Who are the coordinators going to be now?
Elize van Klink and Luc Bouman and we will also have two new coordinators next year, Monique van Luffelen and Pepijn de Jong. I’m really looking forward to the five of us working together.
Why did you decide to become head of TTO?
I’ve been a TTO coordinator now for many years, and I’ve always worked at the TTO department. TTO is a big part of me. I think TTO is an amazing system that the Dutch education system provides; it gives students the chance to improve their level of English while still getting their gymnasium certificate or mavo certificate. It’s just that something extra for those students who really want an extra challenge. Of course, the trips and extra activities all add an extra element. For me, because I’ve been involved in it so long, it just felt natural to take the next step.
How do you see the future of TTO?
How do I see the future of TTO? Wow. How do I see the future? I think TTO has been at our school for longer than twenty years now. It has grown and developed within these twenty years, so the basics are there, we have a good foundation. I presume having a good foundation leads to a stronger future in that sense. There are changes in TTO, a new standard that we have to lead up to. I suppose when I think of the future, I want a strong TTO department where all the students that leave Kandinsky, whether they’re MAVO, HAVO or VWO, leave Kandinsky really assured that they are, of course really good at English, but also that they’re confident in who they are and that they know their place in the world. That they’re able to step out into the world knowing, ‘Yes I am a world citizen, and I know who I am and I want my place in this world.’ I’m aware that they still have a whole future ahead of them, but for me the future of TTO is making sure that the students leave school as that strong, confident world citizen.
"I want a strong TTO department where all the students that leave Kandinsky, whether they’re MAVO, HAVO or VWO, leave Kandinsky really assured that they are, of course really good at English, but also that they’re confident in who they are and that they know their place in the world."