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"Communication and building mutual trust are the be-all and end-all of my work"

TUC graduate Ingo Gebhardt is the head of the smallest, at the same time youngest and first international high school in the city of Chemnitz

On August 21, 2023, the International Stefan Heym Gymnasium in Chemnitz begins the new school year. Ingo Gebhardt, who has been in charge of the city's youngest high school not far from the Schloßteich since 2022, is pleased that even more life is now moving into the historic walls of the former paper and cardboard factory "Robert Winckler" on Seumestraße. "Last year, we had 17 students in our first fifth grade, but this year, the number will triple as 42 more boys and girls join," Gebhardt anticipates. The Stefan Heym Gymnasium is designed for a two-class operation with a total of about 400 students. "This means that up to 25 children can study in a class from grades 5 to 12," explains the school head, who will be facing even more work in the future: "Scheduling, teaching, and discussions with students and their parents – all of this needs to be managed. Communication and building mutual trust are the be-all and end-all of my work."

The 43-year-old, who studied education at Chemnitz University of Technology (TUC) from 1999 to 2005, found his way to the school's private educational service provider, F+U Sachsen, after professional stints in Saxony and at his alma mater. In addition to the Abitur, students can also earn a globally recognized international diploma (International Baccalaureate) at the school named after the world-famous Chemnitz author Stefan Heym. "It was and is very exciting to help shape the high school with many ideas and creative freedom," says Gebhardt. "I was able to draw on a lot of experience from my studies and my professional years at Chemnitz University of Technology," he adds. Now he can finally implement the theoretical principles that he learned at Prof. Dr. Volker Bank's Professorship of Business and Economic Education.

Improvisational skills were also in demand last year when the school started: "Since the construction work wasn't quite finished, we used the first week for a trip to the school camp in Chemnitz's Küchwald Park. Everyone liked it so much that we will repeat this at the beginning of every school year and are heading there again for a getting-to-know-each-other trip."

Currently, Gebhardt is planning lessons with 14 teachers, but hardly any of them have a full-time position. Many also work at other institutions of the same educational service provider. Besides being the school head, in everyday life, he is also a sports teacher and the class teacher of the first fifth-grade class. "Some of my former fifth graders will now become mentors for the students who are new to the high school. I am very much looking forward to this experience," says Gebhardt. Internationality and diversity are firmly anchored in the school concept. English will increasingly become the language of instruction in selected subjects. "Children should experience cultural diversity as the norm with us and thus be strengthened in their personal development," says Gebhardt. There are also plans for physical activities during school hours. Gebhardt also believes it's essential for students to critically engage with current events – for example, during project days – in line with the school's namesake.

In the future, Gebhardt wants to cooperate more closely with TUC. A few months ago, the high school was in contact with TUC's Creative Center as part of the interactive exhibition "Experience Mathematics & Technology". Further contact points arose through the project "RADerFAHREN" of the Professorship of Business Administration – Corporate Environmental Management and Sustainability (headed by Prof. Dr. Marlen Gabriele Arnold). This project primarily addresses education for sustainable development in the field of local urban mobility and focuses on mobility education and traffic education for children around ten years old, their legal guardians, and teachers at primary and secondary schools in Chemnitz. Gebhardt also plans to use the many services of TUC's "student portal", including the student workshop of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, the student laboratory "Wonderland Physics", and the services of the University Library. "The advantage is that I am well connected with many areas of the university," says the school head.

(Author: Mario Steinebach, Translation: Brent Benofsky)

Mario Steinebach

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