For most students at DESC, Ms. Edgar is an English teacher and member of the school’s Teaching and Learning team. However, what they very likely don’t know, is the very same Ms. Edgar also has another significantly more, ‘regional’ role.
For over three years, Edgar been the director and ‘main-driver’ of SPARK, the region’s biggest teach/meet and professional learning support group.
She is instrumental in developing, organising and running free teacher workshops which bring together ideas, concepts and collaborations. Edgar and her colleagues have set about fighting the UAE’s monetisation of knowledge and teacher development, no easy task in a country with the highest number of private schools in the world.
How long have you worked in the UAE?
What made you choose the education sector?
Right from early childhood teaching is all I have ever wanted to do and I believe I will always have one foot in the classroom, wherever my future ends up in education. Teaching can at times be the most exhausting, demanding and challenging job in the world, though I can’t think of many vocations where you get to work with such brilliant young minds on a daily basis and I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What do you think are the greatest challenges facing the industry in the UAE?
There is increased competition with many new schools opening over the next few years, also the global challenge of recruitment and retention of talented staff. The UAE has done a terrific overall job of raising standards over the last few years, though there is still the issue of quality and the disparity in the effectiveness of schools across all emirates.
What are the key milestones in your career so far?
My first key milestone in my career came when I became an Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) in the UK, I don’t think up until that point I knew what direction I was heading in education, but here I found a real joy in the leadership of teaching and learning, which led me to other milestones such as my first role in Senior Leadership and to my current role, which is looking after research and evaluation. I have been fortunate to work in three very different schools over the course of my career, which each in their own way have contributed to the educator I am today.
What do you think is your greatest achievement, in education, to date - and why?
I have been most proud of my voluntary work with SPARK over the past three and a half years. We are a ‘Teach Meet’ organisation who have put on 20 free professional development events for teacher since March 2013. To include events in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Doha and Bahrain. I have a real interest in the further advancement of cross institution collaboration as part of professional development and in promoting and developing ways to support educators to share best practice. Leading SPARK has left me constantly in awe of the generosity of other educators and their willingness to share ideas.
Name three things which get you up and motivate you each day?
The students are my biggest motivator, I am fortunate to work alongside a group of fantastic students and staff that make springing out of bed in the morning a pleasure. Every day is different and exciting. As an expatriate living here without my family, the people you work closest with become your family and I want to play my own part in ensuring that our students leave DESC with every available opportunity open to them, through the experience we provide.
What would you still like to achieve in your professional life?
I have been giving this a lot of thought recently as I hit a milestone age…if I had the money or was able to secure investment I would quite like to start a school from scratch in the UAE. I have been fortunate to work with some very talented people in my two schools here and would love the opportunity to put these people into a building, starting with a very small number of students to form what would be a formidable institution. Failing this I see my future in educational leadership in some capacity or in research and development.
What is your advice for others hoping to emulate your success?
One of the things that distinguishes those who truly make a difference is passion, drive and hard work. I have always found truth in the expression that ‘hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard’. The passion that drives hard work comes from doing something you really love doing, so it’s imperative that you find what you love! Be prepared to fail along the way; don’t avoid failure, embrace it. You may have to go the long way round to get what you really want, but never give up.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of working in education?
Teaching can have a negative press at times, thought there are many enjoyable aspects to working in education. It is demanding, yet highly rewarding. Once you manage to cut through the paperwork, the joy is in watching the students develop over a number of years and knowing that you make a difference.