ISB Then & Now: An Interview with Edna Ortiz
Edna Ortiz has been a part of the ISB family for over 10 years. She started working at ISB’s Spanish immersion playgroup in 2005, when it was in its first location in Park Slope, and she has taught in the ISB Summer Program throughout the years. Edna now lives in Popayán, Colombia. Though this may be a long way from Brooklyn, ISB still remains close to her heart. This summer, during an extended visit to New York with her family, Edna returned to ISB as a teacher in the summer program and was joined by her children as CITs. Her younger daughter also took part in the ISB Summer fun as a program participant.
What were your first impressions of ISB when you began with the playgroups?
I loved it because it was very cozy! It was a very family environment, which is something that I have always loved about being in Brooklyn. I have always felt that if you are in other parts of the city, if you are in Queens or Manhattan, you feel like you are in a city, but in Brooklyn especially, it feels like more of a family neighborhood. I had this same feeling about ISB. I felt very welcome from the beginning; I was very happy to have that job. I had been a teacher for a long, long time, and I said I would never go back to teaching. Then, when I started working in with the kids in the Spanish playgroups at ISB, it was the most rewarding experience ever. I just loved the family environment and the connections I made to other families. I’m still good friends with Jen Henriquez, who was in one of the founding families of ISB. My children and her children are still friends.
How has ISB changed over the years?
It has changed so much. When I started at ISB, there were two little classrooms that they rented in a church, in Park Slope - 7th Avenue, if I’m not mistaken. Then the school moved to Prospect Heights. The new [Court Street location of the] school is beautiful! I feel a little nostalgic not to have been there for this growing stage, or for the opening of the Middle School, but it is amazing to see how it has grown! Rebecca is a very smart person, and she has a very good team of people around her who understand the vision of the school. I admire people who have a vision and who have the ability to project creatively what will happen in the future.
You mention ISB’s vision. Do you remember what the vision for the school was back when you were working in the playgroups, and do you feel that the school is achieving that vision today?
Yes, definitely! As I remember, the most important part of ISB’s vision back then was global education and that involves many aspects of childhood in relationship with the surroundings, not just their local community, but also thinking globally. Looking the school now, I think that it is very interesting how ISB has grown to be exactly that!
ISB is in a very unique place in terms of geography, because of Brooklyn and New York. I see Brooklyn as a cozy and familiar place, as I mentioned before, but it also has this energy from people living there from other cities. It also seems to me that there are many people who want to stay involved with and feel the energy of the city but also have a familiar space, a quiet place, and tranquility. I think that Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Carroll Gardens, the areas that ISB has been moving around in have been perfect.
In terms of family, many of the families that have been part of ISB have also had moments in their lives when they have traveled, and this is so, so important for showing the children that they can relate to the rest of the world. It’s not just my house, closed doors, that’s it. I definitely believe that ISB has achieved this very well. It does a great job at welcoming families from other countries, welcoming returning families, and connecting internationally with other families.
How was your children’s experience working at ISB Summer?
It was great! Antonio was helping out in Leticia’s group, and Isabella was helping in my group. They loved it! I’m not sure how neutral I can be in answering this question because I love ISB so much, and having my children working there was like having the next generation of ISBers! It made my heart explode!
I see that my children felt very connected in the classroom. They see the benefits of being bilingual. They understand the meaning and the value of being children without frontiers. They embrace that very much. They have also been working with me for a long time and can connect to the other children and understand what children need in terms of having fun. I loved seeing Antonio teaching and helping because he can also act like a little boy. He loves to play and joke with the little ones. Isabela is more calm, but she can better understand what kids need, for example. She can see it on their faces. They both had a great experience, and at the end of the summer, Antonio was even asking me if he could spend even more time at ISB!
What was your and your children’s favorite part about ISB Summer?
I think that meeting the other CITs was very interesting for them. It, by the way, was also very rewarding for me! One of the CITs (Mina) used to be Antonio’s classmate years ago. Another CIT (Paola) was in my ISB Summer group four years ago! It was surprising for me to see her as my CIT, and she was so great! It was so emotional for me to have Mina and Paola helping me around. Also Juanita! I met Juanita when she was so young, about 12 or 13 years old. She used to come and help us sometimes during our very first summer camp, and this year she was my assistant teacher. I couldn’t believe it! That is something that I really love about ISB. It’s like a meeting place for some of us. We can say to each other, “How about we meet at ISB next year?!”
Teaching in ISB's summer program is something that I love doing. Maybe I will stop when my hairs turn gray! I have learned so many things in my life through my work at ISB. I hope one day to pass the torch on to my children, so that they can continue to share the vision that it’s is possible to live in a world where we all coexist and be tolerant of each other. ISB is a place that I will continue to come back to for as long as I can.