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Dr Hana Malhas is a Jordanian citizen with a PhD in Educational Psychology from the Arab University of Amman for Higher Education, an MA in Education from the University of Eastern Michigan, a Diploma in Special Education from the University of Jordan, and a BA in Philosophy and Psychology from the Arab University of Beirut.

Dr Hana founded Mashrek International School together with her husband in 1992, before that she co-founded the Private Schools Council in 1989 and chaired it for three years. She took part in establishing the Children’s Human Rights Center of the Jordan River Foundation and The Children’s Museum of Jordan. Dr Hana is a member of the Injaz Social Leaders Program for youth in public schools, and in 2013, the International Baccalaureate (IB) appointed her as a member of the IB Africa, Europe and Middle East Regional Council. She was later elected as president for the Middle East IB Association (MEIBA) in 2017. In 2018, the National Center for Curriculum Development in Jordan appointed her as a member.

With over 35 years of involvement in education, of which 15 years were spent teaching children with special needs, she has nurtured a strong passion for teaching and learning. In this issue of Teach Middle East Magazine, we chat with Dr Hana and find out more about her work in helping to transform education in Jordan.

Describe your school:

Mashrek International School (Mashrek) is a private, bilingual, co-educational IB World
School recognised by the Jordanian Ministry of Education. It was established in 1992.
Mashrek offers the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) for grades 11 and 12, the Middle Years Programme (MYP) for grades 5 to 10 and the Primary Years
Programme (PYP) for PreK to grade 4. Mashrek is the first fully authorised school in Jordan to offer three IB programmes. In 2018, the school was accredited by the Council of International Schools (CIS).

Mashrek’s progress and success have grown from years of dedicated work and a series of ambitious goals. The founders’ vision and values, along with the support of the staff have taken Mashrek from its modest beginnings in the opening year, with 172 students and 28 employees in a small campus in Amman-Jordan, to become one of the leading schools in Jordan and the region, with 1,450 students and 350 employees prompting the relocation to a larger, more spacious colourful and bright campus, boasting numerous facilities in the suburbs of Amman, surrounded by hills of acorn and oak trees.

What makes your school unique?

Since 1992, Mashrek has been catering to students’ emotional, social, physical and mental welfare. The wholeness of the child’s wellbeing is the pillar of our mission, with a focus on each human reaching his or her full potential, rather than just emphasising on grades and immediate results. We aim to give personalised attention and care to each student so that they can grow to become constructive and proud citizens of Jordan and the world.

What makes Mashrek unique is that we embrace a journey of learning that is comprehensive, including; students, parents and staff, all together that is empowering to create a life-long learning community that will be proactive in the Jordanian and global society. We all aspire to turn Mashrek into an inclusive organisation.

Our journey through implementing three IB programmes, took 15 years of challenging experiences of change and innovation, which strengthened our community by bringing everyone’s minds, thoughts and beliefs together, that was and still is the centre point of creating a sense of togetherness.

Share three of your major strengths as a principal?

Being authentic and genuine, visible and approachable by students, parents, teachers and staff. Having one on one relationships, helped pave the way for our community to grow from good to great.

I am a “walking principal” with a heart full of love and joy towards education, highlighted with open channels of communication within and outside our community. My role is not limited to Mashrek, it transcends beyond, contributing to the educational system in Jordan and the entire region. Opening our doors at Mashrek to all schools and educators to present a model of educational quality, is essential to being a strong support system.

My faith in the students and staff are the backbone for my commitment to education. I believe that this passion, along with patience and perseverance, have taught me that the potentialities and opportunities are limitless when we believe in the human capacity.

Share two ways in which you motivate and encourage your staff

The first thing would be to find one positive attribute in one or more teachers or staff members every single day, to commend and praise, no matter how small or large it is, this will make a tremendous difference in their career.

I always like to include teachers and staff members in the decision-making and planning processes, making them active participants in the development; to have ownership of the change that caters to the best interest of the school, while achieving and maintaining its mission and vision. This is established through dynamic interactive intellectual participation in the new educational direction, as they are a crucial part of its creation and development.

How do you encourage creativity, innovation and risk-taking among your staff?

I like to create an environment that is safe and conducive for staff to take initiatives and risks. I encourage my teachers and staff to voice their ideas while being supportive of bringing these ideas to life. In addition, as a principal, by practicing resilience, confidence and motivation towards innovation, I give the community a positive example as a role model.

What are the three major goals that you will be working on with the staff and students of your school in the academic year 2019-2020?

When we started planning for Mashrek’s new strategy, we had a good understanding of the road ahead; we identified opportunities to enhance, strengthen and build our school, over the next three years (2019-2022). Today we are poised to lead innovation and positive change in education. We are in a position that enables more dynamic learning opportunities that will engage students in intellectual and creative inquiry.

Mashrek will start a new chapter of educational change in Jordan that will begin as a model in the primary years. The focus of this concept will be aimed to establish a leap in teaching and learning to become a model school in Jordan and eventually, the world. This model embraces an open space environment where teachers, students and parents will witness a revolution in space and time. This open learning space concept will encourage all students, teachers, parents and professionals to create and discover their own knowledge. It is an intricate process with many different people involved with different skills coming together to capture elements of their space and learning processes and experiences.

We will continue to guide and encourage our middle years’ students towards learning that is advanced and relevant to real-life in this 21st century. Finally, we will enrich our communication and connection within and outside the school community. We have a responsibility to serve each other and share experiences and good practice.