Alumni Interview

HENNY - "AIS MEMORIES" (an interview by Andy Behrendt)

Henny, thank you for joining us on exploring the history of AIS and its spirit.

As a former teacher with one of the longest years of service and memories going back to the early times of AIS, can you tell us how you became a member of the AIS community?

As a student for Physical Education and Geography at the University of Vienna, I sometimes acted as an AIS bus chaperone in the early 60´s. Arriving at the AIS parking lot - seeing the school building in this nice location at the edge of the Vienna Woods and the very young teachers welcoming the students - I thought it must be great to work at this school.

It was years later spring ´66 that I learned from my friend Manfred, who was in contact with Hans (Phys. Ed. teacher since 1962) about an open position for Physical Education. I applied for the job and after an interview with the director my dream became true. I became a member of the AIS P.E. department at the beginning of the schoolyear 1966/67.

After March 1973 I stayed at home for six years to take care of my two children and also because the P.E. position was occupied then. I kept intensive contact by substituting and refereeing and I was so happy to be able to return as a permanent teacher in 1979, staying at AIS for the next 23 years.

Already during my High School times, I wanted to become a teacher, especially for Physical Education allowing me to work with young people being passionate for sports. Being an athlete myself on the Austrian national gymnastics team, I experienced so much support from my coaches which inspired me in my role as teacher and coach at AIS.

This clearly shows how passionate you are about your job and the children. So, how did it continue, I remember you had various roles during your career.

At first, I taught K-12th grade, and after 1996 focused on Middle- and Highschool. During the early times, girls and boys where taught separately, and later AIS introduced co-education programs first for Middle School and subsequently High School. Already in the mid 80´s, a special Health course was integrated in the P.E. program.

Teaching each grade level was a valuable experience for me. I was excited to see their effort, improvement and smiley faces. It was a pleasure to see so many students growing up - and even their kids, who always asked “how did mom do in your class? “ and to see students returning and working at AIS in different positions.

As a teacher my personal goal always was to offer a program with a variety of activities, which maintain all general goals of Physical Education with the emphasis on students enjoyment, individual progress (physical, social, intellectual), satisfaction and encouragement to a healthy life style.

Many people remember you very well and I would be interested to hear how you see yourself as a teacher?

My personal approach was to take the beneficial criteria of both teaching strategies, strict and easy going, into account, to drive performance and encourage achievement equally, without forgetting about having fun as well.

In all the years the fact that I had the opportunity to contribute towards the development of the Phys. Ed. offerings, was highly motivating and rewarding. The very positive feedback of directors, evaluations of principals, chairpersons and students confirmed that I made the right choice of profession.

Henny, you were not only a teacher, I remember you also coaching various teams with many great achievements for AIS.

Yes, in addition to teaching classes, I was fortunate to be involved in coaching during many seasons. In my early years: Volleyball, Basketball and Track and Field (Volleyball ISST Champions in 1969, 1970 and 1971). The ISST Tournament 1969 was a very special one because the boys Soccer Team (coached by Manfred) also won and it was the first time, that the same school won both titles.

Later, my coaching activities focused on High Jump, Long Jump and Triple Jump and I was the co-coach of the Varsity Volleyball coach Wendy Wilson (ISST Champion 1990). Throughout all these years, AIS had very successful Track and Field Teams and individual athletes in the ISST Tournaments for which the school can be proud of.

During my many years at AIS we also had many nice annual school ski-trips during the February break, teaching young kids the art of skiing. We also participated in the International Schools Skiraces in Seefeld, also known as the Heinrich-Harrer-Cup where he himself took part in the award ceremony back in the 80´s. Here AIS was also very successful in the few years of going there, winning multiple medals in various disciplines.

Spending over 36 years at AIS, how would you explain the evolvement of AIS in the years you taught there?

Due to my long-time connection with the school I could see the tremendous changes. The school transformed from a more American oriented School to a more International School with increasing enrolments of International and Austrian students.

Between 1966-2002, the number of students increased from about 460 to 780, the teaching staff increased from 38 to 76 and the Phys. Ed. teachers from 3 only Austrian staff to a total of 7 international members.

In the early years the atmosphere was professional, but very familiar and relaxed. We knew each other very well and the building was smaller. With all the increases in students and staff, the communication between Elementary-Middle-and High School was not as close anymore.

Due to this constant increase in number of students and faculty- and to meet all requirements of an excellent school, the extension of the building was necessary and enormous.

In 1966 the P.E. classes took place in the “old or lower gym” and on the soccer field. Changing rooms, sanitary facilities and two little P.E. offices were located next to the lower gym. Later, these rooms were rebuilt for the Nurse, Zeitgeist, Yearbook, Athletics Director offices and afterwards for fitness-weight and equipment room.

In 1985, finally the project for the „upper or new gym“ started. We celebrated the official opening on Dec. 6th 1986. The new building also included an activities room, better changing- and sanitary facilities and two bigger P.E. offices.

In 1999 we got another great addition: The sports hall – or also known as “the bubble”. With the new buildings, improved outdoor facilities with a new soccer field (changed from grass to artificial-turf) for track and field, a new basketball area right next to the new gym above the soccer field and lots of new equipment the Phys. Ed. department was able to teach a great variety of activities.

For MS and HS: besides Volleyball, Basketball, Handball, Indoor Hockey, Gymnastics, Rhythmical Activities, Track and Field, Soccer and Softball, we also offered Archery, Outdoor Hockey, Frisbee, Table Tennis, Badminton, Step Aerobics and Wrestling again.

The Behrendt Family is well known to the community and is still connected to AIS. How did you spend your years after your retirement?

After my retirement in 2002, I very much enjoyed substituting several years and then visiting the school at least once a year. Lately, I only had contact with former students, mainly friends of my children Andy and Babsy, who also attended AIS from K – 12th grade (during 1978 to 1993) and who enjoyed their academic classes and teachers and the athletics sports program so much. Although not so actively, I still feel very connected to AIS.

AIS was more or less the second home for the Behrendt family, my husband Manfred was also a Phys. Ed. teacher for 19 years, so we could say that as a family we spent a total of 81 years at AIS.

A highlight definitely was the AIS 60th Anniversary Celebration Event 2019. It was so nice to see and chat with so many people from the past.

Did the AIS experience and community have an impact on your live?

Absolutely, I am very thankful and feel fortunate to have been part of the AIS community for 36 years. It was a pleasure to work with all the people in the different positions and to get to know so many wonderful children and parents from so many countries and cultures. This experience surely enriched my life. An experience which also had a very positive impact on my children and how they see the world and its cultures.

I do have very fond memories of all my 23 colleagues in the Phys. Ed. department, the Middle School faculty and several High School and Elementary School teachers.

My special thanks go to Hans Soukal and Andy Harrison - great teachers, chair persons and athletics directors.

Last but not least I would like to mention that my students played a very important role - no matter if enthusiastic or a little less, calm or wild - our respectful, nice relationship made my teaching job - an enjoyable one!

AIS — an unforgettable time!

PS: photo, courtesy of Nancy Clementson Laines. Danke!