If you have spent any time on social media, you would have heard of influencers. An influencer on social media normally refers to an individual who has the power to affect the purchasing decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position or relationship with his/her audience. But what about education? Do we have people working in education who could be considered as influencers? I certainly think so. Having worked in education for the past two decades, I have noticed that there is always a group of educators with whom people are actively engaged. These are the educators who are always sharing what works and what does not work in their classrooms or schools. They are not afraid to try new things, conduct action research in their schools and classrooms.
They make it a point of their duty, to ensure that their students are well catered for. They may not be the most popular educators, but they certainly have a following both online and offline. They have distinguished themselves in their areas of expertise within education. In this ‘A Moment With’ feature. we get to know more about Shady Elkassas, who recently won the Middle East Education Influencer Award during the Middle East School Leadership Conference which was held in Dubai on October 9-10,2018.
Shady Elkassas hails from Cairo, Egypt. His father who is a geologist, embedded the love of science in him from an early age. Shady is currently the Assistant Principal for Academics at The Sharjah American International School, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
He describes himself as a visionary with several years of experience in teaching and an innate ability to inspire students. He holds a Master’s of Science in Education from Walden University, an Executive Management Diploma from the American University in Cairo, and a Bachelor of Science degree from Ain Shams University. He is also the proud recipient of the Khalifa Award for innovation in Education in 2017.
It is our mission here at Teach Middle East Magazine to shine a spotlight on those educators who are making a difference to the lives of their students and colleagues. Take some time to learn more about Shady Elkassas.
Who was your favourite teacher? Why?
My favourite teacher was my high school physics teacher. We shared with him our fears and worries about physics which is normally considered a difficult subject. He told us that subjects are neither hard nor easy, subjects are neutral. Hard work is what makes things easy. Ever since then, he changed my views on learning. You could say that he helped me to develop a growth mindset.
What inspires you most?
I am inspired by perpetual technological advancements and the new careers being created by this advancement. I think that a lot of careers will eventually disappear and new STEM careers will emerge. This will transform education by reshaping the targeted skills we encourage newer generations to acquire.
You recently won the Middle East Education Influencer Award, What are three ways in which you share good practice with fellow educators?
I think any educator with a vision is an influencer. I believe that there are three key characteristics of a visionary educator. First, The educator has to keep searching for new pedagogical strategies and research-based practices to be applied in their classroom. Second, They have to observe and collect data about the effectiveness of these strategies. The third pillar and most important pillar is sharing these practices among their colleagues and the education community both online and offline.
Share two major challenges that you faced. How did you overcome them?
One major challenge I faced, was shifting my students’ paradigm about physics. It took a lot of effort to change their perception of physics. I wanted to change their view from physics being a boring abstract subject to cement a belief in them that physics is the key to understanding the world we live in. The key to achieving that was by relating physics to the real world. Additionally, it was important to inspire students by telling them about the accomplishments of great physicists.
Another challenge was encouraging students to develop their problem-solving skills in order to gain a better understanding of the subject matter. For that reason, I have launched the SAIS peer-teaching project, in which students are encouraged to choose a topic they are interested in and explain it in a short video. We collected these videos and created a YouTube playlist that explains the high school physics curriculum.
What are the three key qualities that every educator should possess and why?
I believe that the three qualities that every educator should possess are: passion, collaboration, and continuous development. Education is ever evolving and we must work together to ensure that no student is left behind.
Share two ways in which the work that you are currently doing in your school positively impacts students.
I work hard to keep students connected to their communities by encouraging them to participate in community services and international initiatives such as TEDx, Technovation, and VEX Girl Power which we are currently doing with great success.
I also encourage parents to get involved in their kids’ education. Parents are unique resources that can add a lot of value to an educator’s practice. So involving parents in their children’s education is a great resource.
What is one of your proudest achievements to date?
I am extremely proud to have won the Middle East Education Influencer Award 2018, especially after winning the Khalifa Award for Education in 2017.
What are three fun activities that you do to relax and take your mind off work?
The three things that always take my mind off work are dancing and singing with my little daughter Sarah, watching documentaries about space, especially by Carl Sagan and Brian Cox and watching movies and T.V. series.
What advice would you give an educator who is not enjoying his or her job?
To love this career you must have a purpose. If you have a strong and meaningful goal that you aspire to achieve then the passion to educate young people, will be ignited in you. You need passion to create productive and innovative citizens. Being an educator is hard work, therefore, you need passion to succeed.
By: Leisa Grace Wilson