A Conversation with our Principal: Bernice Ressel

Deutsche Schule Melbourne - Principal - Bernice Ressel

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am originally from Gelsenkirchen in Germany. It is a city in the North Rhine-Westphalia state and Ruhr area.

For as long as I can remember, I have been enthusiastic about bilingual education.

So after I became a qualified teacher in English and German, I travelled the world – working in Oxfordshire, Germany and Tokyo.

What drew you to DSM?

I joined DSM in September 2015.

What appealed to me most about the school was its small size and progressive approach. I also loved its welcoming, tight-knit community, which grows stronger every day.

DSM truly embraces diversity. It brings people of all nationalities together, while exposing children to a global network and the many opportunities it holds.

What does success mean to you?

Being the best you can be.

I believe that true success is personal and academic. That is why as the first principal of DSM, I aim to inspire our children to reach their full potential as students and members of our multicultural society.  

So although we strive to achieve high academic outcomes, we also want to create fun and diverse learning experiences. This can only be achieved through close collaboration between parents, teachers and staff.

To inspire, nurture and challenge. They are the three pillars that form our vision – and shape our mission.

How important is it to involve parents? 

Engaging parents is critical to achieving our vision.

Although we have created an environment for students to learn and embrace different cultures, it is their parents who ultimately decide to enrol them here. Parents are also the ones who encourage their children to take what they learn beyond the school gates.

In 2017 we established our Parent Association (PA), where families can take on active roles and bring fresh perspectives to our many school initiatives. Our PA encourages a productive culture and contributes to our warm, cohesive community.

What impact does the broader community have on DSM?

Being part of the local and German-speaking communities is key to our success. By contributing, it is easier for our students to become confident global citizens.

With the support of the broader community, we’re able to host a variety of cultural activities that our families, teachers, neighbours and staff greatly enjoy.

These include our annual DSM Carnival, ‘WoW Yarra’ program and Australia vs Germany friendly soccer. But the favourite event is our Christmas Market, which attracts more than 3,000 visitors each year.

A conversation with our Chair: Florian Dehne

Deutsche Schule Melbourne - Chair - Florian Dehne

What inspired DSM?

I moved to Australia in 2002 from Hannover, Germany. After our first child was born, we wanted to nurture her multicultural identity.

Around that time, the Principal of the German International School in Sydney came to speak with Melbourne’s German-Australian community. He was so passionate about bilingual education and his ideas really resonated with me.

I believe this experience planted the seed for DSM.

Can you describe the journey so far?

DSM started out with only 14 students. Now we teach over 100 children – representing a level of growth that exceeded all our expectations.

In the early days, our staff, Board members and volunteers worked closely together to establish and develop our school operations. Over time, their roles have evolved significantly.

Today, our Board is responsible for governance and ensuring DSM stays true to its vision and mission.

I have been coach and confidante to Bernice and other key staff for many years, and I hope to continue this role for a long time to come.

How did you develop the leadership team for DSM?

Since the start, we wanted to find capable, motivated people who are the right cultural fit for DSM.

Every Board member and leader has the school’s best interests at heart. They fulfil their roles with passion – and do everything with empathy and respect.

As a result, we have created a positive, productive team who is committed to leading DSM into the future.

How would you describe the DSM of today?

We are in a great place, in more ways than one.

Our academic outcomes are exceptional. But even more importantly, our students love coming to school every day.

Although students move on to local secondary schools after Year 6, we are still able to empower them through our German Language Program for Secondary School Students. This helps them succeed in VCE German and obtain their B2 or C1 qualification according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) – their key to studying in German at a university in Germany, Switzerland or Austria. 

What does the future look like for DSM?

We are constantly growing, which brings opportunities to do more… and do better.

Since we began in 2008, we’ve aspired to expand from a primary school into a secondary school too.

Why? Because we want to enrich our students’ lives even more. Our goal is to offer a Mixed Language IB that is approved by the German government and equivalent to the 'Abitur'.

I am excited to say that we have already started planning, approaching key stakeholders and seeking approval.