The wife and son of IGS founder the late Professor Reg St Leon OAM, Isabell and Carl, cut the ribbon, following acknowledgements of country in Wiradjuri, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish, performances from Year 12 Music students, and speeches.
IGS Principal Shauna Colnan paid tribute to Reg St Leon’s “bold vision” for a multilingual school, where languages were “at the heart of the school”.
Ms Colnan described the consultation and planning process which began in 2015 and included students, the IGS community and BVN architects.
She spoke of the transformation of small rooms and corridors into the flexible Imaginarium, and the creative reconfiguration of internal spaces of the iconic Kerrie Murphy Building into the distinctive Berlin, Beijing, Madrid, Tokyo, Paris and Rome rooms and flexible, collaborative learning pods and other areas, acknowledging the hard work of staff and the support of the IGS Board, parents, caregivers and donors.
“Our students love it,” Shauna said.
Rosalba described the centre as “a long-time dream” and “inspiring,” adding that “students are grateful and very happy, as are many people who have been here from the start”.
Distinguished guests included Japanese Consul-General Keizo Takewaka, NESA Inspector of Languages Melissa Gould-Drakeley, Association of Independent Schools (AIS) Languages Consultant Merryl Wahlin, inaugural IGS Director of Languages Kathy Kerestes, UTS Head of School, International Studies and Education Professor Lesley Harbon, and University of Sydney Acting Head of the School of Languages and Cultures Professor Adrian Vickers.
Also present were Macquarie University Head of Department of International Studies, Languages and Cultures Associate Professor Ulrike Garde, UTS Deputy Head of the School of International Studies Associate Professor Andrew Hurley, IGS Board Member Judith Waldock, PTF President Andrea Belunek, BVN Associate Nicholas Souksamrane, former IGS staff and many more.
Reimagined spaces ‘energising’
Nicholas described the project as “a great challenge” and “a big honour”.
“We soon realised that language learning is so intricate” that diverse learning spaces were required, to accommodate students from Preschool to Year 12, in groups ranging from five students to up to 75 students at a time, and students learning alone or one on one with teachers,” Nicholas said.
Judith said she was privileged to speak on behalf of Board Chair Dr Marie Leech, saying languages were one of the things that made IGS “such a great centre of learning”. Judith describe IGS as “a fantastically energised environment”.
Languages a ‘superpower’
Head Girl Siena Scott-Hickie began her speech in French, switching to English.
“If you had told me as a preschooler that I’d be able to visit Madrid, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and Beijing all in one school day, I would have told you it was impossible,” she said, going on to describe language ability as “a superpower”.
“In an age where we continue to be threatened by narrow mindedness, with the building of walls instead of bridges, and preferring to exit rather than stay and fix our problems, our greatest skill is our ability to communicate with one another.”
She explained that her language skills strengthened her other learning.
“These triumphs are achieved through a core understanding of how we construct language to express ourselves; a skill that will continue to be integral in a society that is constantly evolving.”
The “superpower” analogy was backed up by IGS alumni who were “now language teachers, interpreters, journalists and lawyers, all living proof that learning languages is a power that outlasts our time at IGS and its application only limited by our imagination”.
“With the opening of this building, IGS will finally have a dedicated space for the learning of languages, languages that continue to be taught and supported by super heroes in their own right, our teachers and parents.
“With their help, I can’t wait to see where IGS kids will end up in the future. Who knows. We might even help save the world.”
IGS was pleased to collaborate with Dan the Man catering company for this event. They achieved B Corp certification in November 2017 and set themselves the challenge of being Australia’s first zero waste to landfill event caterer by 2018. This year they started offering waste audits and mentorship to help other businesses in the events industry get to zero.