Name: Dr Dirk Bennhardt
Role at GSIS: Principal
Previous Country of Residence: Germany
Could you introduce yourself a bit (background & profession)?
Germany is a wonderful place to live and work. Nevertheless, I have always been interested in getting to know foreign countries, different cultures and people with different ways of living. I consider myself lucky that my studies in Physics and Mathematics have already exposed me to many international exchange opportunities. For example, my wife, my two daughters and I, took the opportunity to live in Greece for 5 years, where I taught at the German School of Athens which was a fantastic adventure.
I then chose to pursue a teaching career at the “Helmholtz-Gymnasium” in Dortmund because there was such a strong and diverse mix of many cultures at this school. For the last seven years, I have had the privilege of being Principal at this school.
Now as Principal of GSIS Hong Kong, it is a very special honour for me to help shape the excellence and diversity of the school and its community, and lead it to success in the next stage of its life, fully embracing the changing world.
We are very excited to have you join our GSIS community. What are you looking forward to the most this year?
I’m looking forward to being part of the excellent team at GSIS and achieving the best for the students through collaboration and clear objectives.
What are your plans for GSIS this school year?
The educational work in the two streams of GSIS has consistently been on a higher level that only a few schools in the world could be proud of. The resulting achievements of the students have been almost unparalleled. In partnership with the Board and the GSIS team, I will put my wholehearted efforts into further expanding our students’ educational opportunities to ensure that they continue to encounter formative experiences through both the academic and pastoral aspects of their time at GSIS. I will also focus on building on our relationships with external partners and all stakeholders for the benefit of the school community.
Can you tell us more about your previous working experience in Germany?
In Germany, I have worked in different educational roles. I was involved in teacher training for many years, did subject advisory work for the Ministry and the district government, and finally was Principal at a school with more than one hundred years of tradition. However, the most important part of my job has always been working with the students.
Have you always wanted to work in education? Why?
I have to admit that at the beginning of my scientific work at University, I was so fascinated by the scientific findings of Mathematics and Physics that I devoted myself completely to Science as a Theoretical Physicist. Through teaching at University, I found that it is even more challenging to get young people excited about Science than it is to fathom new knowledge. This is what inspired me to pursue a career in education and I have never regretted this decision.
Where did you grow up and how was your schooling experience?
I grew up in a suburb of Dortmund, Germany, and discovered my love for the natural sciences at an early age, attending a secondary school with a focus on Science.
To this day, my love of exercise has also remained. I believe that young people increase their cognitive possibilities through physical activity and therefore recommend that all parents make sure that their children also get the opportunity to play sports and enjoy outdoor activities.
Who had the greatest influence on you growing up?
My parents gave me strong foundations for everything that I am today. It is undeniable that without my nurturing childhood given by my parents and the freedoms granted, I would not have become the person that I am today. I would also like to make special mention of my PhD advisor, Prof. Dr. Dr. Peter Thomas, who deeply impressed me with scientific excellence, outstanding empathy and especially with his sense of responsibility towards our environment.
Our alumni community at GSIS is very excited to meet you. Do you have any words to share with them?
Like you, I have a special connection with my old school and continue to be supportive when it comes to educating current students. My connection is so strong that I later served as Principal at my old secondary school, the “Helmholtz-Gymnasium” in Dortmund, for seven years! Of course, I am still a member of the school’s association and I consider my connection to my school as something very honourable.
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