Sandy Mackenzie, the new director of Copenhagen International School, has extensive experience working in school administration across the planet. His impressive CV reveals stints working as the head of schools in Atlanta and Shanghai. Not only that, but he has worked for CIS before – as the Head of Mathematics and DP Coordinator from 2002 to 2004, so he is more than familiar with the school’s ethos. Over the summer, he replaced Jennifer Weyburn, who has moved to become the Head of Packer Collegiate School in Brooklyn, New York. We caught up with Sandy to find out more about his background and future vision for the school.
Interviewer: Ben Hamilton
Can you tell us a little about yourself. For example, where you’re from, where you were working before and whether you have a connection with Denmark?
My home town is Edinburgh in Scotland although it is some time since I lived there. When I was a youngster, I came to Denmark on summer holidays to visit family friends. During that time, I tried to learn some Danish so that I could participate in conversations around the dinner table. After beginning my career as a mathematics teacher in Scotland, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to come to work at Copenhagen International School as Head of Mathematics. My leadership career began here in that role and I also became the IB Diploma Coordinator. My personal life took me back to Scotland where I remained for eight years, tasking on the role of Deputy Head at Morrison’s Academy in Crieff. I then moved to Shanghai, China before living in Atlanta, Georgia, USA for the past five years. There, I was Head of Secondary School at Atlanta International School, a PYP-MYP-DP IB school with 90 nationalities in the community – so excellent preparation for becoming Director of CIS.
CIS has now been based at its new home in Nordhavn for two full academic years. How does its premises compare to other schools you’ve worked at?
We are so fortunate to have the most amazing facilities and resources in Nordhavn. As well as winning architectural awards, the building is a fantastic place for young people to learn. We are keen for every student to develop a global mindset and an international viewpoint. Literally they sit beside classmates from around the world and look out the window at containers that will transport goods around the globe. From the impressive atrium to the well-equipped theatre, three stunning gyms and purpose-built designed laboratories, teachers and students can design learning with all the best resources. I have worked in impressive, old schools and newly-built premises; the campus we have in Nordhavn is both visually stunning and designed with young people’s learning in mind. There is a combination of serenity and vibrancy that I have never experienced anywhere else. When the Metro station at Orientkaj opens in a few months’ time, the campus will become even more accessible and connected to the city.
Many people have observed that CIS is a school of the future: sustainable living in an holistic environment. What has particularly impressed you about the school?
Although our building is state of the art, the truly impressive aspect of CIS is its people. When I walked through the doors during my interview process, I knew that I was at home. Teachers are dedicated to the holistic development of their students and genuinely care about them and their learning. Young people at CIS learn from each other and feel safe, secure and included so that they can develop their identity. The mission of the school is to educate champions of a just and sustainable world. One of the aspects of the school that continues to impress me is that we are living that mission every day.
Many of our readers have Danish partners. What should they say to them to persuade them that an education at an international school like CIS is a better choice than the local Danish school?
At Copenhagen International School, we have many students who speak Danish as a mother tongue and they continue to develop their language and literature skills in this language. In fact, almost every student at CIS studies Danish as a language and also learns about the culture of this small but fascinating country. We find that many Danish parents choose CIS because they want their child to be educated in an international, caring, inclusive environment where their child can develop their identity as a Dane with a global mindset who has a sophisticated intercultural understanding.
Looking to the future, what can we expect from CIS?
Over the course of this year, we will be developing a five-year strategic plan and vision for the school. The process to develop this vision will be collaborative: involving stakeholders and listening to their views. CIS has a rich 56-year history as one of the founding schools of the International Baccalaureate, and it is well known around the world to be forward-facing and progressive. We will build on this foundation of tradition and alignment with our host country to continue to provide the very best education for globally-mobile families and internationally-minded Danes. The world has changed in recent decades; to be successful in the workplace in 2030, young people will need to be resilient, adaptable and skilled communicators who possess intercultural understanding and a global mindset. We will ensure that every student has the opportunity to develop as a champion to make this world more just and more sustainable.
What would you advise parents interested in learning more about the school?
Come to see us! Inside the walls of the school, there is a tangible sense of who we are –something special that is hard to find anywhere else. We would be delighted to arrange a visit; you can learn more at cis.dk.