The Head of School, ACS Doha School, on the importance of passion.

How did your career in education start?
From as early as my teenage years, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I remember taking a placement test in high school that would predict possible career paths for my future. I answered as I thought a teacher would so the test results would align with what I already believed would be my pathway.
My first full-time teaching job was in a wonderful multi-cultural community outside New York City. Being 25 years of age and working in a school as diverse as Lawrence allowed me to become the teacher I am today. This experience changed me personally and professionally.

Where do you draw your inspiration? Were there any mentors who influenced the way you work and think?
Not everyone you meet is a positive role model. But there is always learning that you can take away and better yourself.
At the start of my college career, two professors had some of the most significant influences on my life, Sister Francis Daniel Kammer, and Meritta Cullinan. Sister Francis saw me as a good human being and made me feel more intelligent than I believed I was, which allowed me to develop more confidence and push myself to excel. Meritta had a different teaching approach and pushed me but she did not give up on me and showed me how caring people live.
I consistently draw inspiration from passionate educators, hopeful parents, and students who dream of a better life.

As an expat in Doha, what, for you, are the most interesting and unique aspects of Qatar, or your favourite thing to do here?
I enjoy the culinary world of Qatar. Arabic food has become one of my favorite cuisines, and the variety of selections available in areas such as the souqs and food festivals allow me to explore constantly. The Metro has made my life much more convenient and enjoyable. Qatar’s effort to celebrate diversity with international festivals and ensure that pop-up markets and festivals are at Metroaccessible locations is also worth mentioning. My wife and I continuously enjoy being tourists.
Recently, I’ve also been happy to use the biking trails that have been developed across the Lusail area.

With the changing pandemic restrictions, what innovations did ACS International employ to create exciting experiences for the students and faculty alike?
It was always our goal to remain a community school, even though our students had to be remote at times. Thanks to the design of our spacious new campus, students and teachers were able to engage in in-person learning while still conforming to Covid-19 requirements.
Students had the flexibility of collaborative spaces for smaller group projects and assignments. They built on their social skills and engaged in activities, from dressing up as their favourite book characters, to an interactive photo collection, the return of sports and physical activities outdoors, participation in a global initiative with Hour of Code, and their first live recitation of poetry in front of friends and family at the campus’ newly opened theater.
For the periods when students were off campus due to the pandemic, we saw it as an opportunity to build further on the community. ACS Doha introduced bedtime stories for both Early Childhood and Lower School, allowing our youngest students to gather again with their teachers and classmates around bedtime reading.
Parents and students enjoyed the connection with the school and the stories. We even had Aisha AlNaama, a Qatari mountaineer, read to them from a book about her adventures in climbing Mt. Everest. We also included other online community initiatives for students and parents alike. Lower School students could tune in to a live PE lesson every morning to help them keep active and meet their classmates. Middle School students could join online HITT classes hosted by Christopher Quinn, the school’s Athletic Director.
Sowmiya Kasthuri, Dean of Admissions & Marketing, and I also had our Zoom sessions throughout the day with daily check-in links available for the communities to join for any questions or a simple catch-up over a morning coffee.

What advice would you give for someone considering a career in education?
The first thing I would say is to understand the magnitude of this decision. You will serve in a significant capacity to develop students’ and team members’ paths for the rest of their lives. Make sure it’s something you’re genuinely passionate about and enjoy and, more importantly, realise that this path will be filled with everyday learnings. Never take lightly the impact you have on fellow human beings. If you are willing to work hard and care for each person you teach and meet, you can change generations of people as a teacher. ✤