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Transformative Education

Recently I was asked to write an article about the state of global education. As part of my research, I came across a 2017 report by World Bank that warned of “a learning crisis” in global education. The report said there are 260 million children who are not enrolled in any form of school, while those in the world’s poorest countries are receiving an inadequate education that is only widening the gap between those who are prepared for today’s demands and those that still lack basic life skills. The report also spoke of some of the primary reasons for this “learning crisis.” As I read through the report, I realized that the words of the global educators that had met with me in Rwanda in November had said almost the exact same thing. The three main issues they experience are unprepared students, unmotivated teachers, and unqualified administrators.

The students are unprepared to learn because of a variety of situations. For some it is a lack of adequate food, housing, clothing, etc. For others there is a lack of funds to provide for education. For others, the children are needed to help earn money for the family, so they cannot go to school. At ICSV we are blessed to have your children come to school each day. You love them and encourage them; you provide for their physical needs; and you willingly partner with us to provide them with a high-quality education. ICSV students are prepared to learn.

In many countries, it is difficult to find qualified, passionate teachers. It is not uncommon for teachers to take their paychecks and then never return to the classroom. Many have only received a minimal level of education, so they are not prepared for the challenges of teaching. Some are given classes of up to 80 students. At ICSV, we are blessed to have such an amazing group of highly-trained and motivated teachers. We are privileged to have teachers in our classrooms that could have their pick of schools in which to work, but they have chosen ICSV. They love the students and are passionate about their subjects. At ICSV we have motivated teachers.

The administrators at the conference I attended in Kigali were there because they understand the influence that their leadership has on their schools and the students. Some had been asked to lead schools without having an educational background. Others expressed the need for additional support in fulfilling their responsibilities. If a school’s leadership is weak, then the school programming will suffer. At ICSV we are blessed to have such a strong administrative team. It is a pleasure to work with individuals for whom professional development is a priority. I have full confidence in the team’s integrity and expertise. At ICSV we have qualified administrators.

Nelson Mandela of South Africa is quoted as saying that “a good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special” (1995). At ICSV we understand the importance of excellence in education. We also know that in order to truly transform a student’s life, he or she must be taught in a caring environment by nurturing teachers who know how to meet the needs of every student. At ICSV we strive to meet not just the academic needs of the students, but to also develop within them a worldview that encourages service to others and living a life of integrity and respect.

Education for education’s sake is not the ultimate answer for today’s “learning crisis.” A school like ICSV where students are valued and empowered with truth and knowledge so that they can lead fruitful, productive lives is the type of environment that brings about transformation. At ICSV our desire is that every student will be transformed.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director

Mandela, N. (1995). Long Walk to Freedom. Boston: Back Bay Books. Little, Brown and Company.

World Bank. 2018. World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize Education’s Promise.
Washington, DC: World Bank. doi:10.1596/978-1-4648-1096-1. License: Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 3.0 IGO

Three Sister Bed

In my family there are three sisters. I am the youngest of the lot, with my oldest sister being born 17 years before I came on the scene. At one point in our lives, we talked about joining forces to open a Bed and Breakfast called “The Three Sisters.” We are all very different from each other, but if we combined our talents, we would be a force to reckon with.

I was reading a book about life and gardening called “Orchard House,” by Tara Austen Weaver. There I learned of the term “three sister bed.” She described it as a Native American tradition of companion planting, using beans, corn, and squash. The three very different plants each provide a needed element for a successful garden. They serve each other, making each one stronger. This concept reminded me of the importance of community and strong relationships.

Famous American preacher and writer, Charles Swindoll, put it this way. “Always dig a foxhole big enough for two.” A foxhole is that trench that soldiers dig in the ground to protect them against enemy fire. He is saying that it is not a good idea to find oneself all alone in the midst of war. There is no one there to help protect you, to work alongside you, and even to just understand what only you two could about what you are going through.

In Ecclesiastes 4, the writer finds himself lamenting being alone. He wrote, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”

When I was just a baby, a family moved into the house on the other side of the church. (My father was a pastor, and so we lived in the parsonage at the church.) They had a tiny baby girl named Martha. Little did I realize that almost 60 years later, Martha and I would continue to be the closest of friends. She and her husband came to visit us to celebrate my 60th birthday. Even though we have not lived near each other since we lived side by side as infants, I know that I could count on Martha to be there for me through good times and bad. She is like a sister to me.

I have been fortunate for family and friends that I know are there for me. I pray that you, too, have those with whom you could build a “three sister bed” or dig a foxhole “big enough for two.” The three sister bed – what a wonderful example of how important it is for us to live together in community. For some it is literally family, like having three sisters. For others, it is a close-knit group of friends. And for those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we know that we will always have a “friend that sticks closer than a brother.” By being a part of the ICSV community, I can assure you that there are people here who care deeply for your children and your family. In a way, we are like the “three sister bed,” as we each use our special giftings to encourage each other and build each other up.

It is a blessing to be part of such an amazing school. I wish you a most wonderful 2019 as part of the ICSV community!

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director

The Great “I Am”

At the secondary Christmas concert, the students sang a song called “Mary, Did You Know?” It’s a song addressed to Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, asking if she really understood that she was to bear the very Son of God. Some of the lyrics read:
Mary, did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect lamb?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

And finally, it asks if Mary understood that “that sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.”

The Almighty God referred to Himself as I AM. He simply said, “IAM WHO I AM.” It is hard to put into words just how important this name is. It means that God exists – that He was, and is, and is to come. It also indicates that God was not created. He is the inexhaustible source of energy who does not grow tired or weary. God is energy and power. His power comes from Himself, from who He is. His name also tells us that God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is absolutely faithful. He is an absolute God.

Perhaps the greatest implication of God being I AM is that this infinite, absolute God has drawn near to us by sending Jesus Christ to this earth to dwell among us. Jesus referred to himself as I AM because He was not only true man, but also true God.

At this Christmas time, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I want to remind us all of the Good News that the angels declared so long ago, “Do not be afraid. I bring you GOOD NEWS that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.”

By believing in Jesus as our Savior we are forgiven of our sins and released from the bondage of sin and guilt. We are given eternal hope because we are heirs with Christ Jesus who has declared us forgiven. Is this not the BEST NEWS that anyone could share with us?

As this is the last Eagle before we celebrate Christmas, I want to wish you all a most blessed time with your families. But most of all I pray that you will truly understand what Christmas is all about. Just as Mary, the mother of Jesus, pondered these deep truths in her heart, may we take time to appreciate that God sent His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save us. Jesus left Heaven willingly, to humble Himself as a human baby so that He could take our place as payment for our sin. Truly, this is GOOD NEWS! Truly, Jesus is the great I AM!

I look forward to seeing you all in 2019!

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director
(Some thoughts from 1984 article by John Piper called “I Am Who I Am.”)


My husband and I were privileged to sing at the Christmas Concert this week as part of the staff choir. Now, that’s not unusual for me, as I have always been part of different choirs. I haven’t had the chance to perform in public lately, but I’ve sung with church and community choirs, and even played a role with a solo in “Hello, Dolly!” What was very different was that my husband volunteered to sing, and I didn’t even ask him! Believe it or not, we sang to each other at our wedding 38 years ago. Granted, his father wasn’t very encouraging, but Greg did it because he was in love and knew that it meant a lot to me. Basically, I don’t think I gave him the option NOT to sing.

So why did Greg sing at our wedding and then decide that after all of these years it was a good idea to sign up to sing in public again? Motivation! Do you remember how you pursued (or were pursued) by a young, eager lover? Remember the flowers, the gifts, the dates? Motivation. He wanted something(one) and would do anything to get it. For Greg, the thought of being able to say that he had sung in one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Vienna was motivation enough to prompt him to risk it all for that one chance to sing. Again, motivation.

What motivates you? What is it that prompts you to get up in the morning or to take risks or to step outside of your comfort zone to accomplish something? What prompts you to keep trying even when something is hard? I recently heard it said that we cannot motivate others; motivation can only come from within. We can inspire others to want to do something, but we can’t do what only they can do – put in the effort, take the risk, DO it.

Motivation is one aspect of what we call GRIT. At this time of year, our students are probably more motivated by pleasing Saint Nicholas and keeping Krampus away than they are by being good and faithful students. But just like my husband surprised me by singing at Peterskirche, it is never too late to cultivate that inner motivation to accomplish those things that are important to us. We will keep plugging away at teaching your students the importance of motivation here in our classrooms. We hope that you are seeing a difference at home.

I hope that you were able to celebrate Christmas with us at Peterskirche this week, and I would like to invite you to come out next Thursday, December 13, to our Elementary Christmas Concert here at the school. What a special time of year!

Because of His Faithfulness,

Sharon Brobst, Director

Growing the Next Generation of Leaders

What an exciting time to be part of the international Christian school community and ICSV! The excitement of my trip to Rwanda has not worn off, although the bacteria/parasite I brought back with me on the plane has dampened the enthusiasm a bit….sigh….

One reason that I was so excited to go and share with this group of eager Christian educators is because of my vision for ICSV. We have been an established international Christian school for years. We have a strong curriculum and staff. Our processes and procedures are efficient, and we have a solid financial foundation. In short, we need to start helping other fledgling and less experienced schools by sharing our expertise with others. We need to invest in the next generation of Christian school leaders so that they can continue to grow and improve our Christian schools.

Here at ICSV, we are seeking to grow our local talent, as well. We have so many gifted educational leaders right here in Vienna. In addition to our administrative team, we have those serving as department heads, coordinators of admissions, curriculum and instruction, the IB program, CAS, athletics, and more. Even those without an official leadership title are leading students in drama, music, student ministries, coaching, running clubs, etc. As director, I believe it is my responsibility to empower others as they learn and grow in their leadership abilities.

I want to share one specific example. Miss Christine Sipos is an amazing teacher of teachers. She has a passion for professional development and using data to drive instruction. This is the second year that she has served part-time as Curriculum and Assessment Coordinator. Miss Sipos also leads the Professional Development Committee. I know that it can be somewhat inconvenient to have the Wednesday half-days that we have set aside for professional development, but we are building a community that values professional growth and improvement. This week Miss Sipos was instrumental in getting world-renowned author and expert in using technology in the classroom to speak with us via Google Hangout. Matt Miller is author of “Ditch that Textbook,” a formative book for the BYOD movement. Matt desires for teachers to see connections between what the students need to learn and the specific features and benefits of the different tools available. He told Miss Sipos that we are well advanced in our use of technology compared to the other Christian schools with whom he has worked. Miss Sipos and the entire Professional Committee is doing a great job with providing training so that our teachers are equipped to meet the needs of our ICSV students every day in the classroom.

As I mentioned two weeks ago, I believe it is part of my job to encourage others to fan into flame their leadership gifts. At ICSV we are so very fortunate to have such talented individuals who are willingly using their abilities for God’s service.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director

Amakuru? Nimeza!

This has been a most exciting week! I was invited to Kigali, Rwanda by the Head of School there, Dr. Ben Thomas, to help train administrators, many of whom did not have the privilege of any formal training. They came from East Africa, Indonesia, and even Asia. Dr. Thomas’ vision is to use trained administrators to serve as mentors to these leaders. After I return from my trip, I will stay in contact with two or three of those who attended to coach them in their roles.

I don’t know how much I’ve shared with you about the five years that my family spent living in Kenya. It has now been 15 years since I last stepped foot on African soil. For those that have been there, you will understand when I say that once you have lived in Africa, you can never truly leave it behind. The land and people are just so welcoming. Africa wedges itself into your heart so that you take of piece of it with you wherever you go. This accounts for some of my excitement in traveling to Rwanda.

When I arrived and met the people I would spend the week with, I knew that I would be the one who would be inspired by them. I may have more years spent in education and have completed more official degrees, but these brothers and sisters have “street smarts” and a true passion for what they are doing. I met one woman in her twenties who left New York to start preschools in Jakarta for families that could not even afford daycare. She has been there for five years. I met another woman who desperately wants to start a school in Somaliland where her family is being persecuted for their beliefs. Another young American athlete gave up the opportunity for fame and fortune to serve in the slums in Nairobi and in orphanages around the globe. One man is in charge of schools with over 1000 students in Burundi. Another is a pastor from Tanzania who wants to start a school where he lives. These people are champions for Christ!

During the morning before I interviewed for my first principal position, I had read from the letter that the Apostle Paul had written to the younger Timothy. He said to “fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.” At that time, I believe that God was telling me to fan into flame my administrative giftings, as prior to that time I had primarily been teaching. These words of encouragement and exhortation are still true for today. We need to encourage others like those who attended this week long session to fan into flame their leadership gifts. We have the responsibility to share out of our abundance with those around the world so that we can meet our mission of impacting the nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. What an honor it has been to travel to such an amazing country to “pass the torch” to these younger leaders who have dedicated their lives to serving God! Truly, I am blessed.

Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director