American International School of Thessaloniki, Greece

Dr. Giampapa's March Director's Report

Events of the Month


Total Students 270

Winter Music Concert February 9

The Annual Winter Music Concert was a superb success this year! With more than 35 student participants from Elementary, Middle and High School, the gymnasium was transformed into a proper music hall as students performed a range of pieces from the classical oeuvre, including Bach, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky and modern selections from the rock and pop genres. Under the direction of Dr. Gundega Smite, students had the opportunity to demonstrate their love of music and their beautiful multiplicity of skills. Thank you to all families who came out to support our students and our Pinewood Music Department. We look forward to preparing for our next concert. 

Faculty Professional Development ½ Day February 12

Students were dismissed early on this day in order for faculty to participate in specifically designed professional development projects and workshops to promote growth and improvement in our teaching and learning environment at Pinewood. In brief, the teachers were involved either in IT integration in the classroom or curriculum design and standards work. Below is a snapshot of each group’s focus.

  • EARLY YEARS PROGRAM: Introducing the use of ICT for teaching & learning in the EYP classroom.
    In the spirit of TTT (Teachers Teaching Teachers), Ms. Natalie Pinakidou led a workshop with the EYP teachers based on a questionnaire that was administered to gauge prior knowledge and interests. The content of this workshop was in line with the ICT Action Plan for developing and enhancing ICT in the classroom.
  • ELEMENTARY: Using tablets to enhance teaching & learning in the Elementary classroom.
    Also in the spirit of TTT (Teachers Teaching Teachers), the Elementary teachers, who have just received one new tablet per classroom (Grades 1-5), conducted a self-directed workshop on best practices, ideas and coordinated goals for using tablets in the elementary classroom. The content of this workshop was in line with the ICT Action Plan.
  • ENGLISH DEPARTMENT: English Curriculum Design in Grades 6-12.
    The Secondary English Department worked collectively on vertical alignment of (1) literary studies/genres, (2) formal writing instruction and (3) assessments across English classes in Grades 6-12. From this workshop, they have produced a document that outlines these three areas and will be used for the development of specific content through continued curriculum design during the summer 2016. This work is part of the English Curriculum Review process currently taking place.
  • SCIENCE DEPARTMENT: Laboratory Safety and Rules.
    After the installation of the new ventilation system in the chemicals room of the Science Lab, the Science Department continued to work on safety procedures and rules for the lab by reviewing lab safety resources from the U.S. and collectively preparing earthquake preparedness procedures and a set of rules for the lab. This is in line with the MSA visiting team recommendation to "review the safety features in the current science lab to insure they meet government safety standards." Further safety upgrades are currently underway, too.
  • MATHEMATICS DEPARTMENT: AERO standards, transitions & textbook alignment.
    The Math Department continued its work on the AERO standards, paying particular attention to both vertical alignment from Grades 6-12 and textbook alignment with the standards. In addition, they examined the transition between Elementary and Secondary mathematics in order to come up with curriculum suggestions, if needed, to make the transition the smoothest one possible. This work is in line with the accreditation monitoring issue requiring each course to identify where the standards are being taught throughout the year and in preparation for the introduction of a curriculum mapping program.
  • SOCIAL STUDIES DEPARTMENT: Curriculum content alignment in 5-12.
    The SS Department worked on aligning content and skills in Grades 5-12 as a re-visiting of the previous curriculum review from 8 years ago. They will create a document of content and skills to be used to guide our curriculum planning each year.
  • ARTS DEPARTMENT: Collaborative project development between art-dance-music.
    The teachers in this department worked together on their cross-collaboration projects. In addition, each subject has adopted new standards specific to their programs, and they continued to work on the alignment of these standards with their curricula, too.
  • PHYSICAL EDUCATION DEPARTMENT: AERO standards alignment with curriculum.
    The teachers have adopted new PE standards and worked with their curriculum to align these new standards with the curriculum.
    The World Languages teachers worked on the Action Steps that they presented in their Secondary World Languages and Cultures Action Plan in order to have a list of proposals - recommendations for the coming years.

Model United Nations February 12 - 14

Secondary students participated in the annual MUN competition at Anatolia College in Thessaloniki. Pinewood’s very strong MUN team represented Jordan and Angola. In addition, several members were part of International Court of Justice Advocates. A special congratulations to Antonios Zarkatzias ’16 for winning Honorable Mention for his work in the Security Council and to Maria Poimenidou ’16 and Niya Kafedzhiyska “17 for winning their court case as Ethiopia in the International Court of Justice. Thank you to Mr. Ian Harrington for his advisorship of the Pinewood MUN team.

National Honor Society Induction Ceremony 2016 February 17

The NHS Induction Ceremony is a celebration of scholarship, leadership, service and character among our Secondary student body. Congratulations to the 14 students who were inducted into Pinewood’s Chapter of NHS this year. Mr. Peter Baiter, Pinewood’s Director from 1982–2004 joined us as keynote speaker. Mr. Baiter was an ideal speaker to address our students as he is a graduate of Princeton University and the parent of two children who were inducted into Pinewood’s Chapter of NHS in the ‘80s. Mr. Baiter chose to focus his speech on the competitive and challenging place of college admissions, but ended by reminding students to follow their passions no matter what sorts of hoops and hurdles they are forced to jump through and over in order to get accepted to the universities of their choices. To read a transcript of Mr. Baiter’s speech, visit the National Honor Society page of our school website.

Pinewood Book Week February 22-26

Each year, Pinewood celebrates everything literary during Book Week. With the generous time and organization of the EYP teachers, Elementary teachers, Secondary English Department and Library support, we enjoyed many very special events for our students, all of which shared the goal of instilling the joy of reading and writing into the hearts and minds of our students. In the Early Years, students enjoyed reading The Gruffalo stories, Elementary students created beautiful book banners (now hanging in the Elementary hallway) from some of their favorite books, dressed as their favorite fictional character and enjoyed a presentation by our own Ms. Konstantina Kapanidou, Visual Arts teacher, about her most recently illustrated children’s book and the role of the illustrator in creating a story and Elementary Greek classes created informative posters about the importance of reading. In the Secondary School, Grade 10 students performed a highly charged excerpt of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, Grade 9 students presented literary analyses of books read from the gothic genre and Grade 6 students, who were learning about the importance of characters in fiction, presented their favorite characters from a book or movie and explained what we can learn about humanity from those characters. In addition, several students read their own publications from this year’s We Are Writers! Thank you to all of our teachers for inspiring our students to read and write!

German School Sports Tournament February 24-26

Pinewood participated in the German School sports tournament this year with Girls’ Volleyball, Boys’ Soccer and the Cheerleading Squad. Although our teams did not place this year, our students’ dedication to playing their best, sportsmanship towards all participants and visible school spirit are things to be commended. Thank you to the Cheerleaders for your support and fantastic performances, too. Also, thank you to the families who came out to support our teams.

Rare Disease Day February 29

Rare Disease Day takes place on the last day of February each year. According to the Rare Disease Day website, the main objective of Rare Disease Day is to raise awareness amongst the general public and decision-makers about rare diseases and their impact on patients’ lives. Since Rare Disease Day was launched in 2008, thousands of events have taken place throughout the world. One of those events this year was organized by our very own Pinewood Grade 5 students. Under the leadership of Kalypso Isaidou, the students created informational posters to post around the school and held a very nice bake sale to raise money to be donated to the Rare Disease campaign! Thank you to Kalypso and her Grade 5 classmates for bringing this important campaign to the forefront of our minds. 

Meredith O’Connor, Anti-Bullying Spokesperson, at Pinewood March 2

Singer, songwriter and anti-bullying spokesperson Meredith O’ Connor visited Pinewood to present her anti-bullying message through pop music. Meredith, who is from New York, tours around the world to sing songs with messages like, ‘be yourself’, ‘stand up for what you believe in’ and ‘embrace your weirdness’. In describing her music, O'Connor says, "My music is definitely pop, and at first had a country feel. Since I was a child actress in the musical theater world, it is influenced by that too, with a bit of rock. I want to keep my songs interesting and different, but still catchy. The song, 'Just the Thing' is about accepting who you are, and loving what makes you, you. It is a fun upbeat track, and has a similar message to it like the game does, but the game is more of a ballad or anthem. 'Just the Thing' is lighter and fun. It can be to a boyfriend or girlfriend, or to a best friend that really gets you. When I wrote it I was thinking about that, and close relationships with people who love you for your weirdness.” You can listen to Meredith’s songs on YouTube at

ICT Integration Workshop: i2Flex March 11

We were delighted to welcome Dr. Stefanos Gialamas, ACS Athens President, and Dr. Maria Avgerinou, ACS Athens Director for Educational Technology & eLearning, to the Pinewood campus last week. Our colleagues from ACS Athens led an interactive seminar on the innovative blended teaching methodology of i2Flex for our Secondary teachers. The event addressed 10 of our faculty in Middle and High school divisions, and focused on what it takes to successfully implement i2Flex from the perspectives of leadership, instructional design, professional development, and evaluation. Specific classroom examples from various ACS Athens classes were shared. Our teachers were asked to bring a lesson plan to the session and participated in a hands-on activity on how to make the transformation from a traditional face-to-face lesson to a blended (i2Flex) one. Our teachers left the session inspired and with a sense of confidence about how to proceed with the integration of technology into the teaching and learning environment. Survey results from the workshop will be shared later. Thank you to Ms. Natalie Pinakidou for organizing the workshop for our teachers and for her leadership as a co-chair of the ICT Action Plan team.

Dr. Vatopoulou – Sexuality Education Program March 11

At Pinewood, we recognize that an effective PreK-12 comprehensive sexuality education program is an important part of every child’s schooling. As such, this goal is part of the Student Services Action Plan, which focuses on student life skills support in the form of health education and formal presentations and seminars for students in PreK-12. With this goal in mind, we were delighted to welcome Dr. Anastasia Vatopoulou to Pinewood to survey and present the topic of sexual health to our Grade 9 and 10 students. Dr. Vatopoulou’s support is so very valuable in working towards adopting, implementing and institutionalizing comprehensive sexuality education programs at Pinewood that are research-based, medically accurate, age-appropriate and support sound student decision-making. I thank Dr. Vatopoulou for her collaboration on this initiative. 

Carnival Party March 11

Our annual Carnival Party was a great success again this year. Students in the EYP and Elementary enjoyed games and a costume contest for best original costume in the gymnasium. All in all it was a fun celebration for our students. A very big thank you to the Elementary teachers and the EYP/Elementary parents who put everything together to create a memorable experience for our young students! 

ROOMS - Pinewood IB Visual Art Exhibition

Young visual artists from Pinewood exhibited at TABYA artworks they created during their International Baccalaureate Visual Arts course. The artists have explored a variety of subjects and challenges in order to create multi-layered artworks experimenting with techniques of painting, digital art, photography and printmaking.Using TABYA’s separate spaces, the exhibition “ROOMS” was an attempt to display both the distinction between the different methodologies that these artists used, as well as the links between the subjects explored. Marialena Dionelli, a second year student, displayed a mature group of artworks exploring the subject of movement with links to the Spiritual. All first year students, Anna Gjoleka, Inna Gjoleka, Sofia Nikolaidou, Marianna Petra-Calfacacos, Maithili Rajput, Sibora Ramizi and Anastasis Tziatas, have explored subjects of Self-portraiture, social and political issues such as terrorism and refugee inclusion, along with female stereotypes and visual deception. Congratulations to our IB Visual Arts students for their articulate discussions about art during the opening night. Also, thank you to Ms. Konstantina Kapanidou, our IB Visual Arts teacher, for curating the exhibition, preparing the students with such passion and for collaborating with the other Arts Department teachers in innovative ways. 

STEPS – Pinewood IB+ Dance Performance

With close to 100 student performers and countless choreographies, young dancers from Pinewood performed in the 3rd annual IB+ Dance Performance with commitment and creative flair again this year. Our IB Dance students, Katerina Asteriadou, Aigli Dapi, Juliet Rheault, Olga Ziaka, Dimitris Biskas, Mria Daskaloudi, Kalina Dimitrova, Hannah Johnson, and Georgia Rheault, performed final pieces as part of the requirement for their IB diploma while all other Secondary grade levels performed pieces learned during PE class. As I referenced from “Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning” both during the Art Exhibition and the Dance Performance this weekend, we are delighted to provide opportunities for our students with authentic learning experiences in the arts that engage their minds, hearts and bodies in ways that make learning real and meaningful for them. Indeed, we believe, as this report identified decades ago, how involvement in the arts provides unparalleled opportunities for learning that enables students to reach for an attain higher levels of achievement. Kudos to Ms. Christina Pagidou for her tireless efforts to bring dance into the Pinewood curriculum in creative, cross-disciplinary ways. 

Making Music Matter at Pinewood – Mikis Theodorakis

In Pinewood’s ‘Making Music Matter’ campaign to make music ‘visible’ this year, March’s Composer of the Month is Greek composer Mikis Theodorakis. I invite you to visit the bulletin board in the reception area of the main building or the reception area of the EYP to learn about Greece’s best-known living composer. And, if you are at school between 8:00 – 8:30 in the morning or 3:00 – 4:00 in the afternoon, you will hear the composer’s music playing in the reception area.

Notable Upcoming Events

Ear Exams for EYP & Elementary March 15-16

As part of our Student Services Action Plan to provide specialist examinations for our students, Dr. Thomas Vlachonasios, Consultant and ENT Surgeon, will be visiting Pinewood School on Wednesday and Thursday of this week to conduct ear examinations for EYP and Elementary students. A report will be sent home with your child after the examination this week.

Pan-Hellenic Forensics Tournament March 17-20

This week, our Forensics Team, made up of 17 high school students, will travel to Athens to compete in the annual Pan-Hellenic Forensics Tournament. Our students will be competing with students from private schools throughout Greece. Thank you to the following teachers and parent for preparing our students for success this year: Mr. Ian Harrington, Ms. Athena Yannoulis, Mr. Takis Oikonomopoulos and Mr. Kingsley Johnson. You may be wondering about “Forensics”, i.e., what is it? For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, forensics competitions are contests between individuals or teams in various argument and advocacy skills. Participation in Forensics helps students become effective communicators and builds debate skills, essential skills for life. Our students will be competing in the following events this weekend:

  • Impromptu: Students are given a topic, usually a single word or phrase that may be a person, thing, well-known saying, a less well-known quotation, current event, or an object. They then compose a speech based on the prompt. Impromptu speeches generally run about four to six minutes in length.
  • Debate: Debate is a team event that advocates or rejects a position posed by the resolution. The focus of the debate is a clash of ideas in a persuasive manner that can be understood by a “lay” judge. Good debaters should display logic and analysis. They should use evidence when needed. They should win their case and refute that of their opponents. They should communicate effectively, using the fundamentals of good speaking.
  • Duet Acting (Comedy): Duet Acting involves two people, two chairs and a script. Each acting pair performs an eight-minute scene, typically using only two characters. The pieces may be either serious or funny, and the extensive use of movement is permitted.
  • Original Oratory: In this category, a student writes an original speech on a topic of his/her choosing which is either informative or persuasive, memorizes it and presents it orally to the audience.
  • Oral Interpretation of Literature (Comedy & Drama): Oral Interpretation is close to, but is not, acting. The student sits in a chair and reads from a literary source (book or other manuscript) and tries to express the author’s intent through his/her expressions in voice and tone.

Greek Independence Day Assembly March 24

You are cordially invited to attend our annual Greek Independence Day Assembly. Our students in Elementary, Middle and High School will be presenting poems, songs, dances and other presentations in commemoration of Greek Independence Day, which is held on March 25 each year. Our Greek Department, including Ms. Vicky Tzima, Ms. Amalia Spiliakou, Ms. Filiana Zafeiriadou, Ms. Sophia Konstantinidou, have designed the event to celebrate our respect for Greek culture. In addition, the Music Department, under the direction of Dr. Gundega Smite, has prepared students to share selections from the Composer of the Month, Mikis Theodorakis. We hope you will be joining us for this annual celebration.

Pinewood Science Day April 6

Science Day is a school wide celebration of the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) that is hosted by the Science Department each year. All students in Grades 1-12 will have the opportunity to display scientific projects that they have been working on and parents are invited to come in to listen to the multiple student presentations taking place throughout the day. In addition, each year, the Science Department, under the guidance of Ms. Georgia Paliouris, invite a guest scientist to serve as the keynote speaker for the event. This year, we are delighted to welcome Dr. George Dimitrakopoulos, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics, Division of Solid State Physics, Aristotle University. The title of Dr. Dimitrakopoulos’ talk is, “Light and Innovative Nanomaterials: The Story of Compound Semiconductors” and is sure to be an innovative presentation of his work in the field of Electron Microscopy. All parents are invited to attend all parts of the day’s celebration of the sciences, including the student awards ceremony for best science projects, followed by the keynote speech, at 13:50 in the school gymnasium.

Administrative Activity

Mr. Dimitris Terzidis, Secondary Principal, Mr. Costas Kois, EYP/Elementary Principal and I had the distinct opportunity to travel to Luxembourg on March 10-13 to attend the European Curriculum and Teacher Leadership Summit hosted jointly by the International School of Luxembourg and Rubicon International, an educational leader in curriculum mapping and professional development. While there, we attended sessions for school leaders about articulating the curriculum process, keeping the written curriculum active, relevant and unified, developing inquiry in the elementary classroom and aligning curriculum to assessment data to facilitate learning. In addition, we arranged for a consultation with Rubicon International as we embark on a new school wide curriculum mapping project to ensure that our curriculum is aligned to our standards, assessment and teaching and learning environments.

The Marketing Committee is working diligently on initiatives to market two areas of our school to the local community: Early Years Program and IB. In order to achieve our objectives, Ms. Alkioni Kloussiadis and the committee have designed special-interest flyers to be distributed throughout the Thessaloniki area in efforts to raise awareness about the rich programs that we offer to 3-year olds, 4-year olds and 5-year olds as well as the dynamic International Baccalaureate Program that we offer to students in Grades 11 and 12 (the final two years of high school). In addition, the committee will begin preparing a Library Dedication and Naming in memory of Pinewood Librarian Mary Glyn Waddill Hick from 1969 – 1995. As taken from her obituary, Mary Glyn was a woman with a huge heart and a bubbling enthusiasm for life. She could make friends anywhere, regardless of age or language barrier…These qualities would prove invaluable, as life took her from the little town in Eastern North Carolina where she was born to thirty-two years in Thessaloniki, Greece. Her career was spent as the librarian at Pinewood, where she served as librarian, mom, counselor and friend to thousands of students over the years. Using her degree in Library Science and a passion for her vocation, she built the Pinewood Library into the largest library of any international school in Europe [at the time]. More information to follow for the dedication.

Directly related to enrollment initiatives, the Finance Committee is working on budget proposals for the 2016-2017 school year. A budget proposal or proposals will be presented at the April Board of Directors meeting for review and vote. In addition, re-enrollment billing information will be sent to all returning families as we begin to prepare for pre-payment collections for next year.

The Facilities Committee is working on several initiatives. Firstly, we are looking into all recommended actions from the re-accreditation visiting team report, which includes safety features in the Science Laboratory and Art Studio, items related to the entrance of the school and requests from faculty. In addition, we are putting together a grant proposal for added security equipment from the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Schools.

I am delighted to announce that Dr. Stefanos Gialamas, President of ACS Athens, will be joining us in June as the Commencement Speaker for the Graduating Class of 2016. Dr. Gialamas has a close friendship with Pinewood as his children attended Pinewood and he served on the Pinewood Board of Directors during his time in Thessaloniki as Provost of the American College of Thessaloniki. Dr. Gialamas, who has been President of ACS Athens, holds a B.Sc. in mathematics & Physics, an M.Sc. in Statistics an M.A. in Mathematics and a Ph.D. in Mathematics (Knot Theory). He is currently working closely with Pinewood for several initiatives, one related to student services and the other related to integrating technology into the teaching and learning environment. A full biography will follow as we get closer to the commencement date in June.