It took about two hundred days and eight thousand miles away from home to solidify my realization that I wanted a career in education. After that, I extended my teaching contract in Colombia, had the opportunity to manage the Bahraini chapter of the world's largest youth organization, AIESEC, and successfully fulfilled the role of a university teaching assistant.
I did not intend or plan to be an educator. In fact, I have earned a bachelor degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Computer Graphics from New York Institute of Technology. What set me on an exploratory path of the field of education was working for the Ministry of Youth and Sports as a Graphic Design Instructor during college. After graduating, I decided to embark on an inquisitive journey to test my skills, explore my passions, motivations and career options. That journey led me to ambitiously seek a teaching certification and move to Manizales Colombia to volunteer teaching English as a Second Language in an underprivileged school called Latino Americano Bilingue. Working in Manizales, Colombia tested my passion for learning and teaching under challenging circumstances. Because I was not just teaching ESL in a foreign country, but I was also informally studying Spanish as my third language. The result was extraordinary; I woke up every day at 4:30 AM without an alarm to start my school day at 6:55 AM. After six months of volunteering and learning Spanish, I was sure that I loved what I did and I wanted to get a job teaching, so I ended up working for 18 months at one of the largest national private institutions specializing in Teaching English as a Second Language, Centro Colombo Americano.
Given that I have worked in the youth development sector in Bahrain it was natural for me to get involved in it when I moved back. That gave me the opportunity to work the world largest youth organization, AIESEC. Luckily, I embodied the organization’s vision to promote the fulfillment of humankind's potential through student and graduate exchange programs just like the one I went to Colombia on. Fast forward a little over a year later; I was elected to be the Managing Director of AIESEC in Bahrain which was an organization with five offices and about 120 employees at the time. Shifting from a teaching role to an administrative role for an organization that serviced students helped me understand some of the students' needs outside of the classroom. That contributed to the development of my views on some of our current educational systems, curriculums, and roles. I firmly believe that educators are not only responsible for transferring knowledge and academic skills, but they are also responsible for preparing students with the skills needed to conquer the variety of complex challenges they face in their postmillennial daily life.
I took that thought to my next job as a Media Production Teaching Assistant at Ahlia University where I aligned personal development goals with the academic curriculum goals I was teaching, and the result was astonishing. My students looked forward to my classes and learned more than just media production; they learned and improved their communication skills, teamwork skills, time management skill, and even self-awareness through constant reflection and application strategies. I found them thanking me for learning skills they have called crucial for their college life. That made me realize that we don’t prepare high school graduates with enough skills to thrive in college and fulfill their potential. That idea led me to get one more certification under my belt and work as an Academic and College Counselor at a private British school. Moving away from the classroom broadened my horizons towards the importance and the impact that could be done by administrative policies and decisions towards the students' educational experience. Working as an educational administrator and serving in multiple school subcommittees put me in a position to solve challenging problems and create sustainable policies that affect teaching and learning. As I was the first person hired in that capacity, I had to build programs and community connections from the ground up. I initiated a High School Community Service Program to complement the new high school certification requirements, as well as a Student Council to give the students a representing voice at the school and participate in the policy-making process. I am happy to say that I ended the school year by leading the counseling department to an outstanding score at both the National Quality Assurance Accreditation and Middle States Association Accreditation.
Working with high school students and seeing how they approached change and growth made me reflect and research about how elementary students could be superheroes if they were exposed to life skills that people naturally learned later in life like my high school students and university students. That thought sent me to the first organization I worked for completing a full circle. I successfully pitched an idea of a summer camp program focuses on life skills called “What if all adults disappeared?” to the Ministry of Youth and Sports. The program targeted students in early stages to teach them life skills like self-care, decision making, time management, money management, and home management.
All of these experiences did not only allow me to explore a wide range of teaching methods and expand my knowledge about the learning experience, but also came in handy when I worked as a Quality Assurance Coordinator at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany. I was able to work closely with four of the district's 21st Century Learning Centers and implement successful after-school program strategies to increase both student enrollment and academic achievements significantly. During that experience, I learned about multiple after-school programs and the important role they play in promoting healthy lifestyles and life skills to students from low-income communities. That experienced affirmed the thread of thought that I was exploring. The thought that our educational systems are slowly turning into profitable organizations that pass students from one stage of learning to the other is disturbing. Important life skills are now replaced with theories that are not all applicable to today’s diverse life avenues. Educators and policymakers somehow forgot the essence of education and keep on graduating young adults who are in debt, working multiple jobs, with low life management skills.
The idea of tracing where the disconnect between schools teaching character and skills that are needed in today’s world to just teaching theoretical concepts with minimal applications happened, keeps haunting me. I knew that I had to start right at the beginning of our educational system. That led me to accept a job as an Assistant Pre-K Director at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany collaborating with the City School District of Albany to deliver Pre-K programs in sixteen classrooms at six different schools. From my preliminary observations and learnings, students are learning important and relevant skills such as gross motor skills, literacy, basic math, science, creative arts, technology, and most importantly social-emotional skills.
Accepting the challenge of inspiring another human being wakes me up every morning. No
other jobs provide you with such a noble challenge and a chance to make a difference. After completing my New York State Certification in School Building Leadership, I plan on working at an elementary school to continue the quest of improving educational experiences and explore when the disconnect between teaching for life versus teaching for standardized tests and rubrics that measure abstract theories begins.
Other areas of education I am interested in researching and learning about are areas that I wish existed and applied during my schooling experience. They include education of LGBTQ+ people, the impact of experiential learning, and minority learning styles, which I believe are very relevant and essential to the way our 21st-century student communities and educational experiences are being shaped.