“…ALWAYS TAKE CARE OF ONE ANOTHER.”
Aristi Andriotis was born and raised in Cyprus as one of fourteen children. She is a passionate ambassador for The International School of Paphos and is dedicated to her mission to promote, to the world, the high standard of private educational facilities available here in Cyprus.
Interview by Cyprus in Style Magazine: October 2019
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BACKGROUND.
I was born in Statos, a small mountain village in the Paphos district. I was one of fourteen children which, I believe, moulded me into a person more adaptable to dealing with a variety of situations. It also made me more co-operative and willing to listen to the needs of others. Hard work was a trait embedded into us from a young age, but our most significant family value was always to take care of one another. Although my father took on many different jobs to support us, he worked mainly as a farmer and always stressed the importance of a good work ethic and education. My mother was the rock of the family. She is a remarkable individual: strong, selfless, humble, loving and patient. She brought unity and structure to the family and continues to advise us. “With love, honesty and patience, you can achieve anything in life”, she says, now aged 93.
At the age of twelve, I moved to Paphos so that I could attend high school. In our mountain village there was no secondary school, so we had to move away from our family home. This was quite normal, then, for people from the villages. I loved returning to school every September and relished the idea of meeting new friends and acquiring new knowledge. We understood, that to progress in life, a good education was essential. Most of my siblings went on to higher education.
I finished my school education at the age of 18 and sat my entrance examinations for Greek universities. After much deliberation over a period of 6 months, I decided to specialise in humanities and studied English Language & Literature at the Aristotelion University in Thessaloniki.
WHY DID YOU RELOCATE TO AMERICA & HOW DID YOU ENJOY IT?
Upon completion of my studies, I returned home but realised that Cyprus did not offer the opportunities in my field at that time. I then decided to move to America where I had family in New York. There, I continued to study and completed my Masters Degree in Media and Communication. It was the mid 1980’s and there were many avenues to explore in the media business in New York. I spent some time working for a local radio station which brought me in touch with audiences from all over the world.
I was later offered the chance to work for a citywide human services organisation as a summer intern. I enjoyed the role so much, and was delighted when I progressed through the organisation to a high level.
It was a multi-service, non-profit organisation which implemented programmes to help immigrants, senior citizens, the mentally ill, families and young people. Thus, I was able to be assimilated into the fabric of New York and make personal contact with various communities. It reinforced how the public sector, can work in synchronisation with the private sector to achieve amazing results.
We developed specific programmes for segments of the population which needed help. The organisation grew over the years and we widened the scope of services offered. This shaped my leadership style and taught me how services operate from the ground up. We must always stay in touch, allowing staff and stakeholders to contribute at all levels. I pride myself on listening to what people tell me and always take their views into consideration.
I loved working in a multi-national, cultural environment. In New York there are over 500 languages spoken but everyone preserved their own identity, whilst at the same time working together.
New York’s remarkable ethnic and racial diversity, its immigration history and its institutions have combined to make it a receptive city in many ways. Despite this, unfortunately, I could see that a lot of the people were very lonely. They had no further support, family values disintegrated, and this was poignant for me to witness. I also could not resign myself to the crime rate and feared for both my husband (whom I had met in New York) and young son, Nicos. Children were brought up to be suspicious and fearful, not trusting people around them. That was not the upbringing I wanted for my child and that was one of the reasons why we decided to return home to Paphos.
HOW DID YOU START AT ISOP?
On my return from America, I was presented with the opportunity to become a part of the old International School in 2000. I started as an assistant to the Managing Director.
With my background in education and development programmes, I had the relevant experience to give advice. Back then, the school only had 120 or so students and it was in a much smaller, old building. I really enjoyed working at the school and could envisage great potential for development and improvement.
I was later entrusted with the role of the Managing Director and started to make improvements, with the co-operation of the Head of our school, the support of the Board of Directors and an admirable team of staff. Our primary goal was to enhance the curriculum, improve the facilities and increase the number of pupils.
Some of the original staff members are still at the school and we even have one member of staff who has been here since 1987. Despite our growth, most of the staff remain with us for long periods of time.
With Cyprus joining the European Union in 2004, this brought an influx of families to Paphos. British families wanted to follow the British curriculum, which is what we offered. Today we have students from all over the world. Our students are attracted to our school, not just for our fantastic facilities and excellent academic record, but also for the way we offer pastoral care to each and every one of them. I believe that through balance and harmony, excellence can be achieved. We never neglect the pastoral welfare of the pupils, as we want them to develop as individuals. Through our 32 year history, with teamwork, optimism, prudent planning and considerable investment on behalf of our shareholders, we have succeeded in becoming one of the market leaders in education.
WHAT ARE YOUR HAPPIEST MOMENTS AT THE SCHOOL?
There are too many to mention but when we moved to our current new location, that was an inspiring personal highlight for me. I am always very proud when I see our children receiving awards – not just academic ones, but also awards for commendable behaviour, artistic expression or athletic performance. We are a disciplined school that promotes good manners and respect for one another. I really enjoy watching the children arrive at school and seeing how happy they look. They enter with open minds to receive what we are going to teach and instil in them.
TELL US ABOUT THE NEW BOARDING HOUSE AT THE SCHOOL.
This September, we opened our Boarding House. Our aim is to position ISOP as the premier boarding and day school in the region. It will allow further development of visiting schools, exchange programmes and residential summer school on campus, benefiting not only our school but also our town. We are pioneers in this area as our Boarding School is the first, purpose-built, on-campus facility in Cyprus.
We decided to build the Boarding House after seeing the growing demand for boarding when the children’s parents were away. It might be that some parents will only use it occasionally, but they know they have this facility available to them. Also, the demand from pupils overseas meant that we needed to offer a safe, secure environment for them in the form of our new Boarding House.
Our state-of-the-art facility was designed by the well-renowned architect, Andreas Vardas. It was constructed by Aristo Developers within one year and cost over 3 million euros. It is equipped with all the systems necessary for the pupils’ safety and comfort.
More importantly, the Boarding House is designed to offer a homely experience for our students (age 12-18) and is built to environmentally-friendly international standards, which is important to us throughout the whole school. They are offered a choice of single, double or triple rooms.
Our Head Chef offers nutritious and well-balanced meals through our newly-refurbished school cafeteria/restaurant. A live-in, experienced House Head and Senior House Parent, who previously worked in and ran prestigious Boarding Schools in Switzerland, are already in place, supported by the academic and pastoral team of the school, as well as the nurse, the counsellor and the housekeeping staff. They, along with our admissions staff, are eager to welcome the students and are available to give tours to anyone interested in visiting the house.
WHAT ARE YOUR CORE VALUES AT THE SCHOOL?
They are the quintessential principles which enhance and deepen the soul of any institution. Teamwork, responsibility, respect, generosity and honesty are some of our values. Our mission is to promote a well-rounded education in partnership with families and the wider community; to create an inspirational environment in which equal opportunities empower students to achieve their personal best; to enable our pupils to become critical, independent thinkers, who embrace life-long learning and leave their indelible mark as global citizens.
Our motto,‘PAN METRON ARISTON’, is derived from ancient Greek wisdom, and expresses our commitment to balance, moderation and harmony through education.
WHAT DOES YOUR JOB INVOLVE?
Apart from overseeing everything at the school, I am also very much involved with other establishments in promoting our educational facilities in Cyprus to the world. Presently, my vision is for people from abroad to realise what excellent private educational facilities we have here in Cyprus.
We need to promote our country, highlighting the quality of our education. People are pleasantly surprised to discover the high standard of our infrastructure and academic achievements. We are opening up new avenues of co-operation globally.
HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR PUPIL’S ACADEMIC SUCCESS?
Our students frequently win prestigious awards from Cambridge Assessment International Education and Pearson, reflecting their academic excellence. Recently, we had a student who gained the highest grade in the world at IGCSE Mathematics. We are pleased to say that we reach academic excellence every year. Most of our graduates are offered a position to study in their chosen university and follow the academic path of their dreams.
HOW ARE YOU SUPPORTED IN YOUR ROLE?
I am proud to collaborate with an inspirational Board of Directors, an excellent Management Team as well as a staff of over 130. We have highly qualified, committed teachers whom we recruit and select carefully according to our requirements. We are also supported by a dedicated administration team. We are forward-thinking and bring in new ideas to develop, creating a friendly, family atmosphere.
HOW DO YOU RELAX AWAY FROM WORK?
I love getting together with family and friends, enjoying their company, but I have limited time to do this. I also enjoy cooking, baking and gardening. When I have the chance, there is nothing I would rather do than to take a trip within Cyprus. You can find hidden treasures, go back to your roots and escape the fuss and buzz of big towns. I enjoy the villages of our island where we can experience authentic Cypriot food and absorb the genuine traditional wisdom of the local people. It is my dream to see a free Cyprus one day.
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE PLANS?
I aspire to see The International School continue to provide a rich and varied learning experience for our students, within a safe environment – one which nurtures a sense of being included. Our vision is to excel beyond the boundaries of excellence in levels of achievement, both academically and holistically.
Our next major project is the development of our theatre which will become a hub of culture, not just for the school, but also for the whole of Paphos. It will have a capacity for 300 people; plans have already been drawn up and the permits applied for.
I will also continue to travel abroad to promote the school to a larger audience. I have just returned from such a trip in the UK and my next one is to St. Petersburg.
Interview by Cyprus in Style Magazine.
Written by Sarah Coyne