ISN Nice's 'spotlight series' highlights the work of our teachers and staff.
This week, read our interview with Dominique Dubois, IB Diploma Programme Coordinator and teacher of Chemistry and Maths for the IB DP.
Please could you introduce yourself and your role at ISN
My name is Dominique Dubois, and I am the IB Diploma Programme Coordinator at ISN as well as teaching Chemistry and Maths for the IB DP.
Could you tell us a little about your background?
I am a chemist by trade. I did a PhD in the USA, and then I came to the region to work at the Euro-American Institute of Technology which was part of CERAM, and later became SKEMA, the business school in Sophia Antipolis.
I was giving private tuition to an ISN student when the possibility to change my career and move into a teaching role came up. That was in 2003 and I have worked at ISN ever since. I have taught Chemistry, Maths and Science across Middle and High School, and I was the IGCSE Co-coordinator and then Coordinator for six years. I have been in my current role as IB DP Coordinator for two years.
Tell us more about your role as IB DP Coordinator
I am responsible not just for the detailed organisation of the IB DP curriculum, including course choices, examinations, timetabling, and results, but also for the pastoral side of the final two years of High School, along with other members of the team like our Director of Pastoral Care, our School Counsellor, and the homeroom teachers.
We guide our students to take agency over their learning and to grow in autonomy. The IB DP does not have a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and we work on student’s strengths, address their weaknesses, and broaden their perspectives over the two years of study.
This can be a very stressful period for them, as they learn to balance their academic work with their personal lives. We help them plan their time, organise their research, and teach them stress-management techniques. We are an inclusive school, and we have a personalised approach for every student: their mental wellbeing is of utmost importance to us.
Alumni often come back to visit us after graduation and say ‘The IB wasn’t easy, but I felt so prepared during the first few weeks of university compared to my peers.’
Can you share with us one of your classroom philosophies?
I have always loved explaining things. That is probably how I ended up changing my career path from a chemist to a teacher; it gives me such satisfaction to see the moment a complex topic clicks for the students. And in order to reach that lightbulb moment, I’m convinced that students need to be consistently stimulated, otherwise they will lose their mental capacity to learn.
A fun way to concretise this concept in the classroom that I have used in the past, is to present a grading system in the following way:
Everybody starts the class with a grade of 100%. I say to them ‘I trust that you’ll do your best on this topic, therefore right now you have the top grade.’ After the first piece of homework, their grade may go down, maybe to 70, and then I say to the class ‘Well, how are you going to get it back up to 80, or 90, or even 100?’
First, they need to decide the grade they are aiming for and to be realistic– not every student can get 100% of course – and then they have to make a plan to address their weaknesses and find their own path to getting to the level they want.
Through this method, the students begin to understand that there is a huge value in reflection, corrections and consolidation. They take ownership of their work, and as a teacher, I guide them and give them opportunities to improve, but I do not force them. They soon realise that they have control over their grades, and this has a big impact on their learning.
What is the best thing about your job?
I am proud that I contribute towards helping students achieve their dreams. It is not just about seeing them pass every exam, but I want to help them set and attain their personal goals too. I see the hard work of the whole team pay off when we look at where our students have gone after their time at ISN. Then I know we have done a good job.
How would you define the community at ISN Nice?
This is a place where everyone should feel like they belong. We encourage students to take an active role in their learning, to be at the centre of their growth, and we don’t leave anyone behind. If we feel like someone is losing interest in their studies, or is having personal issues, we notice it, and we work with that student to kick-start their love of learning again. One of the best feelings is when a student comes back after graduation, and thanks you for what you did for them.