Governance and Leadership
The International School of Berne (ISBerne) is a fully accredited, International Baccalaureate® (IB) World School providing education for 275 students aged 3 to 18 in Switzerland’s capital. Since 1961, our private, day school has had a long-standing reputation for innovative and highly qualified teachers, world-class facilities, a diverse community, and excellent academic results. Get to know our Leadership and Board of Directors:
Senior Leadership Team
Appointed the Director of ISBerne in 2018, Denise Coates is an outstanding and experienced school leader originally from the United Kingdom. Ms. Coates was formerly the Director of Knightsbridge Schools International, Morges, and the Teaching, Learning, and Curriculum Lead for the Knightsbridge Schools group. She is also an International Baccalaureate (IB) Lead Educator for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa region.
Margrit Schürch is a graduate of the Berne University of Applied Sciences in Economics and Business Administration. She has more than thirty years of financial and management expertise in various industries. Prior to joining ISBerne in 2008, she was a Manager at Ernst & Young in Switzerland. She also spent a number of years in Dubai and UAE working for a German insurance company and later in regional management of the Gulf and Pakistan for a European airline.
Pedagogical Leadership Team
Our Pedagogical Leadership Team oversees student learning, student pastoral care, communications, and the smooth daily running of the school.
Head of Operations and Communications
Originally from the United Kingdom, Dom Thomas has taught in international schools in Turkey, China, and Azerbaijan for more than twenty years. He has previous International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme (PYP) leadership experience in both China and Azerbaijan, as well as being a Visiting Team Member and Workshop Leader for the IB.
Upper School Principal
Tom Phillips has worked in International Baccalaureate (IB) schools in the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, before he joined ISBerne initially as Subject Area Leader of Individuals and Societies with a specialism in Geography. Hailing from the UK, he is currently completing his Master of Arts degree in Education with the University of Nottingham in England, in addition his Bachelors of Arts degree in Human Geography. Tom has particular interests in developing learning materials for DP geography teachers and promoting the IB learner profile.
Kirsty de Wilde has significant International Baccalaureate (IB) experience, serving as a Visiting Team Member, Workshop Leader, and Extended Essay Examiner. She introduced the Middle Years Programme (MYP) across five schools of the English Schools Foundation, Hong Kong. She holds a Bachelors of Arts (Hons) degree in Literature from the University of Stirling in Scotland, and a Masters of Arts degree in Literature and Education from Bath University in England.
Board of Directors
ISBerne is owned by Pansophic Learning, an international education company. As such, the ISBerne Senior Leadership Team meets quarterly with the ISBerne AG Board of Directors. The Board has four representatives from Pansophic Learning and three elected parent representatives. This unique blend on the governing board gives perspective and balance to the business decisions involved in operating a school that thrives. Get to know the Board Members for the 2022-2023 school year:
Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer, Pansophic Learning UK
Maria Szalay serves as the ISBerne AG Chairman of the Board and brings more than 20 years of strategy, operations, and development capability to ISBerne. Currently, she is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer, Pansophic Learning UK. Previously part of K12 where she was instrumental in growing the company from a pre-revenue startup to a $900 million public company. In this time, Ms. Szalay served in a variety of roles including product management, product development, operations, strategy, and corporate development.
Before joining K12, she was practice director at Operon Partners, an e-business consulting firm where she led consulting teams assisting clients with business strategy, product management, and business transformation consulting services. She worked directly in client organizations developing business plans to obtain funding and assisted with the implementation of online initiatives, with specialized expertise in integrating these solutions with their bricks-and-mortar business.
CEO and Founder of Pansophic Learning UK
Ron Packard is CEO and founder of Pansophic Learning and he is well known as an educator, entrepreneur, and visionary. He is the author of ‘Education Transformation’ – a book that demonstrates why technology is critical to the future of education.
Mr Packard was the long-time CEO and founder of K12 Inc and in that role oversaw the growth of K12 from an idea to a billion-dollar business. It is now one of the world’s leading education companies. Before K12, Mr Packard was vice-president of Knowledge Universe and CEO of Knowledge Schools, one of the USA’s largest early-childhood education companies.
He was instrumental in the successful investments in Learn Now, Children’s School USA, Leapfrog, TEC, and Children’s Discovery Center. He has also received the Education Industry Association’s James P. Boyle Entrepreneurial Leadership Award.
Executive Vice President, Pansophic Learning UK
Martha Burnige is a senior education executive with more than 10 years of experience working with schools and education institutions. As well as being a governing board member of ISBerne, she is also a board member of iCademy Middle East.
After seven years as a lawyer in London with two leading education law firms, Stone King and Veale Wasbrough Vizards, she became the in-house lawyer for Prospects Services, a large UK education, and training group with a turnover of more than £80m.
In 2013 she was recruited by a former client, Mosaica Education, an international education company operating charter schools in the US and private schools overseas, where she worked on international business development focused on the Middle East. In July 2015 Mosaica was taken over by Pansophic Learning. As Executive Vice President, Martha Burnige is responsible for all UK operations and is a trustee and a member of the executive team of Aurora Academies Trust, a group of five UK schools sponsored by Pansophic Learning.
Senior Vice President, Finance & Accounting, Pansophic Learning UK
Steve Goetzinger has broad experience in all aspects of accounting and financial management. Steve is a hands-on manager with expertise in small to mid-size high-growth companies. He has vast experience in education, software technology, service, and manufacturing industries.
Steve’s specialties are Financial and SEC reporting, GAAP accounting, IPO, mergers and acquisitions, financial analysis, technical research, accounting software implementation, taxation, risk management, and equity administration.
ISBerne PSA Board Member
Jackie Wilkinson is a citizen of the UK and Switzerland. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Birmingham University in England before becoming a Chartered Accountant. In 2014, the Wilkinson family joined ISBerne. Her daughters, Ellie and Izzie, are now both ISBerne graduates, and her youngest child Josh attends our High School. Before joining the PSA Board, Jackie has been an active member of our Parent-Teacher Committee.
"The school’s success lies in good, honest, and respectful communication between all the invested parties, the school management team, staff, and parents. The Board is the vehicle that allows this and enables us to make a contribution towards creating not just in the short term but also in the long term a successful and happy school."
Svanhvit Jona Reith
ISBerne PSA Board Member
Svanhvit Jona Reith originates from Iceland and earned her Law degree in Germany. She served as a Senior Legal Advisor in Customs and Trade for many years. In Fall 2020, her family joined ISBerne, and her sons Matthias and Adrian currently attend our High School.
"It's a privilege to be a part of such a committed community with motivated students, hard-working and inspiring school staff, and caring parents. I am very impressed with the setup and familiar environment within the ISBerne community and in particular with how well the pandemic situation has been managed."
ISBerne PSA Board Member
Karim Raouda comes from Toronto, Canada, and earned his Political Sciences and French Literature degree from the University of Toronto. He worked as a Public Affairs Officer with the European Glass Federation and then continued his policy-related work for the Government of Canada as a Policy Analyst for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario and eventually as the Program and Policy Advisor for the Ministry of Education at the Provincial level. He is currently the Managing Owner of Blue Point Group and the VP of School Partnerships for Snowbird Schools.
"My family and I have proudly been a part of the ISBerne community since September of 2021, when our son Felix started his first school season in ELC2. We were grateful that Felix has the opportunity to be surrounded by compassionate teachers and staff, especially after months of Covid uncertainty and restrictions at home."
Faculty and Staff
ISBerne has a faculty of 54 full and part-time teaching faculty representing 12 nationalities. Not only is our faculty diverse, but most have also spent significant time teaching and living in foreign countries, acquiring familiarity with the customs and language of their host country. This extensive cultural knowledge enriches our inclusive community when working with a diverse student body.
Our staff is not only well-travelled but, more importantly, they are well trained. Most of our faculty members have received two or more degrees in their teaching field. In addition to hiring well-trained and experienced faculty, ISBerne prides itself on supporting regular Professional Development opportunities to all staff.
Our preschool programme fosters in each child a love of learning and sense of self through a play-based curriculum.
From Kindergarten to Grade 5, our programme offers unique learning experiences to acquire knowledge, build skills and develop character.
During this time of rapid intellectual and personal change, our students strengthen their independent learning skills and pursue their interests.
We offer multiple academic pathways to meet the wide range of High School students' needs, talents, interests, and goals.
Teenagers who have completed obligatory schooling in the Swiss educational system can join ISBerne for a Bridging Year.