Future School Leaders: Rachael Leacy

We continue our look at the UAE's Future School Leaders by talking to Rachael Leacy, Key Stage 2 Maths Leader at Regent International School
This article is part of an editorial series on Future School Leaders
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Future School Leaders
This article is part of an editorial series on Future School Leaders

Rachael Leacy is Key Stage 2 Maths Leader and a Year 6 Teacher at Regent International School (RIS). We start our interview with this Future School Leader by asking her about her career so far?

"I did a Graduate Teacher Programme back home in the UK. After qualifying, I worked in two fantastic, but challenging schools in deprived areas of central England. It was definitely ‘in at the deep end’ and I learnt a lot in a short time.

I knew I wanted to work and travel so I took a role in a school in Qatar. It was a brand new school and, well...what a steep learning curve! A week before we opened to students, 30 members of staff arrived with no curriculum, nothing, not even a pencil in the school! It was a British curriculum school but I was one of only a handful with UK experience, so although this was still fairly early on in my teaching career I was seen as someone with a wealth of knowledge.


Rachael in action at Regent International School

I loved seeing that school grow from what it was to what it became in two years and I was happy to be appointed to be Key Stage 2 coordinator, my first leadership role.

The move to Dubai was something of a compromise with my new husband! It was a place we could both pursue our careers and I had the good fortune to find myself at RIS.

The first 12 months here were fantastic, so busy! I was quickly able to take the lead in a some technology based initiatives, something I am really passionate about.

Why do you think you were nominated as a future leader by your school?

Well, it was quite a democratic process in our school! Our Head Teacher said she couldn’t choose between our Middle Leaders (they are all fantastic!) so if we would like, we could put ourselves forward for this. Our names were drawn out of a hat and here I am!

That was lucky! So why did you put yourself forward?

For me, in terms of my future career, the sky is the limit. I don’t really have a set end goal, but I definitely believe that Principal isn’t out of my reach. Obviously it will be a long road to get there but it’s something that I see in my future. I’ve always had career progression in my sights, but I am realistic at how long that might take!

Why did you choose to teach in the UAE?

The UAE is enticing as a place to live, but once you are here and teaching you realise that you are truly at the forefront of education. This country wants the best education system in the world. We’re not talking about top ten education systems, we are talking about wanting to be the absolute best in the world. With that comes all these fantastic new ideas, new initiatives and new ways of working. When I think about my teaching three years ago and all these incredible things I have now learnt, it is incomparable really.


Rachael and her Year 6 students

Do you think that teaching in the UAE has perhaps changed the direction of your career?

Looking at what we do at RIS, I think we are so innovative and open to new ideas that new opportunities for leadership come up all the time, just not always in the traditional areas. There are always new ideas that need to be driven. Has teaching in the UAE made me a better teacher? Absolutely…100%! I don’t think it’s changed my goals as such, it’s just opened my eyes to lots of different things.

How do you see UAE education changing in the next 10 years?

I believe that in 10 years, children will be tapping into education in a very different way. Already, how we teach is changing rapidly. It’s not so much about instruction, we are facilitating an environment where they can learn. A good example of this is ‘Flip Learning’ where I might ask the children to watch a video on a topic at home and come prepared for the lesson, rather than spending a chunk of classroom time going over the same information. I can then quickly see who has ‘got it’ and who needs support and focus on both groups in different ways. It’s all about not wasting time.

At RIS have a school wide focus on critical thinking. The reason for this is that jobs in 20 years from now will be things we can’t even imagine today. So whilst we can’t give them all the knowledge and skills they might need, we can help them to be higher order thinkers. Across Regent and Sunmarke, our sister school, we have a focus on positive education, which means teaching children about emotions and how you manage and recognise them. That emotional intelligence is something future employers will need. I believe these two areas will continue to evolve.

Of course technology will change so much of what we do. It’s really interesting to think about whether we will have traditional teaching and normal schools times in the future or will children start to ‘plug in’ to what they need, when they want it?

I don’t know the answer to that yet, but we all do know that children engage with technology. We see now that this generation of children understand that technology is a tool for learning, not just for games!

Children today see technology as a resource and somewhere where they can access knowledge. We’ve had a Bring Your Own Device programme in school for a while now, so while that isn’t new, it has changed the way we work. My classroom is scattered with QR codes so children can just scan them and go straight to where they need to be. As technology continues to improve, so will the uses for it in the classroom.

Rachael, last question, what do you think is different for your generation of teachers?

I think we are lucky that the internet and social media has connected us to other educators, all over the world. With these connections we have better access to new ideas, emerging best practice and innovations. We can find new ways of teaching and delivering lessons faster and more easily. I think that is a huge difference for those of us teaching today.

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