Distinguished Speaker Series: Petr Sis Inspires ISP

We were honored to host Petr Sis, world renown author, illustrator, animator, graphic artist and storyteller, who exemplified our ISP Mission to Inspire, Engage and Empower all learners for two full days on 8 and 9 September 2022.

Mr. Sis, originally from the Czech Republic, and now based in New York, was our first Distinguished Speaker, a series established in honor of Dr. Arnie Bieber, ISP Director for 13 years, and his wife Marianne. This series is entirely funded through the generosity of our donors. 

We were all enamoured with Petr whose curiosity has driven his life long journey of learning, artistic development, and an incredible body of work that not only grabs and holds the attention of the reader or viewer, but also sparks an interest to dig and explore further.

Petr Sis’ humble, authentic and warm demeanour won over the hearts of all, young and old.

Launching with a parent session, Walls & Bridges, Mr. Sis linked his current research on Comenius, one of the greatest Czech thinkers, writers and pedagogues, to the importance of ISP’s progressive approach to teaching and learning. Not only were our adults captivated with the information that will feed into his next book, but they better understood the importance of Comenius’ contribution to education and a better world through giving wider access to learning, regardless of origin or belief.

Please look at the plaque in the reception of ISP the next time you’re on campus. 

A mesmerising storyteller, Mr. Sis also shared the powerful story of his latest book, Nicky & Vera.  “Nicky” Winton helped rescue hundreds of children in 1939 by transporting them from Prague to London. Vera Gissingova was one of these children. This story came to light 50 years after the fact, thanks to Mrs. Winton discovering the documentation of these efforts along with the BBC’s effort to bring this important story to life

Please also check out an excellent PBS Newshour report about Petr and his latest book, “Nicky & Vera.” Here’s a link to the piece from youtube entitled, The Holocaust’s quiet heroes, survivors honored in new book for children, teens.” Also, here’s the NYTimes review of “Nicky & Vera,”  A Captivating New Picture Book Celebrates the ‘British Schindler’.

If you were not able to attend this wonderful parent session, please watch the full video recording here.

Thanks to the preparation, organisation and facilitation of our ISP librarians, Mr. Sis was able to interface with all learners, from the youngest ones in Early Childhood Foundations all the way through our Upper School students.

From Left to Right: MS/US Librarian, Michael Clark; Mr. Petr Sis; Early Childhood librarian, Ms. Sandra Richards and Ms. Tara, Elementary School librarian in the ISP Learning Hub in front of the Petr Sis inspired “labyrinth”

Artists of all ages were inspired to express significant moments in their lives. 

  • In Early Childhood, they had read Mr. Sis’ books he had created for his son and daughter when they were those ages. Our ECF students then watched him bring those characters to life when he visited their classroom. 

  • With our upper Elementary, Petr shared the courageous tale of changemaker Nicholas Vinton.  Nicholas saved the lives of over 600 children by helping them flee Prague by train before the war in 1939. This story inspired his recent book, Nicky and Vera.
  • To Middle and Upper School students, Petr explained his most famous book, The Wall. Petr recalled his personal journey as a child growing up in Prague during communism.

It was truly fascinating to see how engaged learners were when in a session with Mr. Sis. Whether it was re-enacting what was happening in a story, or modeling his “doodles”, or when sharing anecdotes that brought significant events in history to life, Mr. Sis engaged one and all.

We were once again reminded that authentic inspiration, coupled with powerful learning engagements, results in empowered learners who are compelled to express themselves.

Mr. Sis’ visit culminated in a reception with donors who contributed to the Distinguished Speakers Fund, followed by a screening of “Dreams of Stray Cats” an amazing documentary of Petr’s life and work that was created and directed by Petr’s younger brother, David Sis. Not surprising, there were long lines for the book signing following this heartwarming and beautiful documentary. 

We thank Mr. Sis for agreeing to be our first ISP Distinguished Speaker and for inspiring, engaging, and empowering students, teachers, staff and parents. We look forward to Mr. Sis’ next book about Comenius and his next visit to ISP.