Wagner Takes Global Schools By Storm

Head of School Barbara Wagner smiles with girls from the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa, Photo Courtesy of Theodore Sutherland

“I went to the Tutus’ for Easter dinner,” Head of School Barbara Wagner said, referring to world-renowned South African activist and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose family she spent the holiday with. “It was so nice.”

Wagner spent spring break abroad visiting five schools: The American School in London (ASL) in England; The International School of Geneva in Switzerland; and The African Leadership Academy (ALA), The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy (OWLA) and Roedean School in Johannesburg, South Africa, for a “travel/study trip,” as Wagner described it.

While traveling, Wagner kept Marlborough students, parents and faculty updated with photos and posts on her blog, “Where in the World is Ms. Wagner?” published through the Marlborough School website.

“I thought that Ms. Wagner’s blog really gave you a sense of her travels and how she felt about the whole experience,” Michelle ’16 said. “It gave me the sense that she had a truly eye-opening and touching trip.”

While at the International School of Geneva, Wagner noted that the school reminded her of American schools, since one of the campuses is located in central Geneva, a busy city much like Los Angeles.

“It really had an American feeling,” Wagner said. “But the students come from 65 different nations.”

Unlike Marlborough, the International School of Geneva has implemented the International bacalaureate (IB) program and accepts students on a first-come, first-served basis.

The school is primarily for children whose parents work at the United Nations (UN), and although English is the main language taught and spoken, many languages are offered to cater to the international families. The International School of Geneva also has another campus, out in the countryside that has a stronger Francophone, or French-speaking, program.

At the ALA, students must complete a project that benefits Africa in addition to regular schoolwork Wagner described detailed water recycling programs, as well as initiatives to build green dorms.

After seeing the last school in Johannesburg, Wagner embarked on a safari for seven days. Her group, including a driver and game spotter, would wake up early each morning and return later in the evening to watch the sunset.

“It was so magical… such a relaxing routine,” Wagner said.

The highlight of the trip, Wagner recalls, was observing traditions that reminded her of those at the School.

“At Roedean, the girls curtsy and call people ma’am,” Wagner said. “[But] I don’t think we need to bring that back to Marlborough.”