On the 23rd February 2019, Mark Duncan, an inspiring, influential and intelligent educator, unexpectedly passed away at the age of only 31. It has saddened and shocked the educational community across the Middle East region where he was based.
Mark was originally from Cheshire, UK. He studied Business Management at Sheffield University and then completed his Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at Manchester University before taking up his first teaching role at Queensmead School in Ruislip. Mark quickly excelled and was promoted to middle leadership as Head of Business, Economics and Law. He was a firm favourite amongst his colleagues and pupils alike.
A former teaching colleague, Paul Crossley invited Mark to relocate to Dubai and join him in developing Learn IT, later known as 365 Edu Agency, a company focused on the effective implementation of technology in the classroom.
Mark worked extensively in the UAE region with Google and Microsoft, eventually becoming Executive Director of 365 Edu Events, arranging educator training events across the UAE and worldwide. Mark hosted these events and educational conferences, the focus of which was sharing excellent practice with technology to enhance and transform teaching and learning, which Mark was passionate about. He was a confident presenter, introducing and sharing information about new and exciting technologies to enhance education in the classroom. He was extremely keen to collaborate with other educators and his passion led him to work closely with some of the region’s leading experts in education. Their tributes can be read below.
Mark also made excellent use of social media to build a strong network of educators. He regularly reached out to teachers and leaders on Twitter and LinkedIn. Mark was also known online for celebrating and promoting the success of others and was often very humble and modest about his own achievements.
Mark lived with his wife Hiba in Dubai. I first met Mark at a 365 Edu conference in Doha, Qatar. Mark was a generous and accommodating host with a friendly smile and warm manner. He always invited and welcomed feedback from his colleagues in order to continuously learn and improve as an educator and event organiser.
The last time I saw Mark was at an event he hosted in Dubai and, despite the conference being held on a Saturday, there was a huge number of attendees. The event was no doubt so well attended due to the reputation and profile Mark had established in the region and it was a great success. Mark was also keen to show support of events and of teachers by extending sponsorship.
Mark was incredibly successful in hosting educational events and had planned many more for the future. It was clear this was just the beginning of an incredibly successful career as he had so much drive, enthusiasm and potential. Indeed, he was scheduled to present at the high profile GESS Dubai 2019 but sadly passed away just before the event.
Anyone who has watched Mark deliver a presentation will have seen that, even though he had left the classroom, he was still very much a teacher at heart. I watched Mark deliver a presentation to a large audience in Dubai about Flipgrid, an online video discussion platform for schools. Mark explained how to access and use the technology clearly in a structured, step by step way without patronising anyone in the room. He provided many examples of how Flipgrid could be applied in the classroom. He was an engaging teacher, bursting with enthusiasm for teaching and learning whilst sharing his knowledge, wisdom and experience with others. Everybody that worked with Mark has commented on his warmth, his patience and, overwhelmingly, his willingness to give them time.
Mark made a huge and positive impact on education in this region and the tributes made to him after his death demonstrate how appreciated and respected he was by those who had met and knew him and worked with him. In using his classroom and management experience and working with so many educators in the Middle East, he not only improved the quality of teachers and the delivery of their lessons but also enhanced the education of thousands of pupils across schools in the Middle East and beyond.
I firmly believe we can continue to learn from the example Mark set. Firstly, we need to collaborate and work together as educators. Mark loved teaching but recognised it can be a difficult and demanding job and having a strong support network of educators and friends around us is therefore important. Mark supported educators and celebrated their talents, success and achievements too. Support and celebrate those around you.
Secondly, Mark made it very clear he was aware of the challenges teachers face when using technology but urged teachers and senior leaders to not let this discourage us – we need to embrace new technologies, take risks and ultimately everything we do should be for the benefit of the students in our classroom.
Finally, just like Mark did, we should embrace every opportunity we get. Mark was passionate about sport, travel, education and spending time with the people he loved and that is what he dedicated his short life to doing. We need to focus on what makes us happy and grasp every opportunity that we have, as life is so precious.
Our thoughts and prayers go to Mark’s wife Hiba, his parents Ian and Stella, his sister Louise and all of his many family and friends who loved him dearly.
By: Kate Jones
Tributes from educators that knew and worked with Mark
“I worked closely with Mark regarding the 365 EDU events running in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 2018 – 2019. He was a pleasure to work with, always upbeat and ready to crack a smile even when under pressure. He will be sorely missed, and I offer my heartfelt condolences to his family.” Andy Turner, International School Group / District Tech Leader for Aldar Academies.
“I first knew Mark when he messaged me on Twitter to invite me to present at an event. His special, caring personality was really apparent. I appreciate the respect Mark demonstrated to other people’s cultures and his continuous support of me on a personal level not only at conferences. The most funny memory I remember was when we were presenting to an Arabic audience and suddenly he asked me to be his translator for two days and we agreed seconds before the presentation that anything that had numbers or analysis (which I am not confident with, even in Arabic!) I will skip them! How polite he was and how he appreciated people was the most significant thing about his personality.” Samah Darweesh, Teacher of Arabic at JESS Dubai.
“I first met Mark in early 2018 and was struck by both how personable he was and how passionate he was about what he did. He always seemed so relaxed and able to take everything in his stride with ease. His passing is a tremendous loss for the UAE education community.” Steve Bambury, Head of Digital Learning and Innovation at JESS.
“I first worked with Mark 5 years ago, whilst he was working for Brams. Mark came in and demonstrated some of the features of the Google Suite and it was his expertise, enthusiasm and energy that drove me towards achieving Level 2 Google Educator status. I will always be grateful to Mark for helping me make those initial steps. Mark was always so sincere with his opinions and viewpoints which was refreshing. I couldn’t believe the sad news when I heard that Mark had passed and my heart is full of immense sorry both for the personal loss felt by Marks family, friends and colleagues but also for the huge loss for Edtech in the region. Thank you Mark for all you did. Rest in peace.” Ben Rothwell, Head of Technology and Innovation at Victory Heights Primary School Dubai.
“I was lucky to get the chance to work with Mark on organizing the 365Edu event in Dubai earlier this year. Mark was without a doubt one of the most flexible people I worked with – no idea or request was ever too much for him and he was always up for trying new things. One of the most striking things about Mark was the fact that he always approached everything with good humour and a big smile.” Andrew Nolan, Chief Development Officer.