Nibras Interview: Preparing for the Future

Almost four decades as an educator, Michael Cipriano joined Nibras International School as the principal in September 2018. His main focus will be developing well rounded students fit for any US university.
Nibras Interview: Preparing for the Future
By Veathika
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An all-through American curriculum school, Nibras International, in Dubai is currently home to 950 students representing some 77 nationalities.

Michael Cipriano has been its principal since the start of this academic year. He has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Technology Education from Northern Michigan University and a Master of Science Degree in Education Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He began his career in school leadership as an Assistant Principal in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and was named the State's ‘Assistant Principal of the Year’ in 1999. Today, Mr Cipriano boasts 37 years of an experience as an educator, 18 years as a Principal, and seven years in the UAE.

The Nibras head has been a Cluster Manager and Educational Professional Development Specialist in Abu Dhabi, and worked as an Executive Principal in both Doha and Dubai.

We find out more about him and his plans for Nibras.

Have you always wanted to work with children?

I got into education or working with kids at a really young age. I was into sports and as a young athlete I found myself coaching young students when I was in my eighth grade. My father was a coach and I started coaching baseball. I never thought about teaching or getting into education until after I graduated from high school, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life.

When I thought hard as to what I liked doing most - it was coaching and working with kids. My first 10 years of my career was being a coach for Middle and High school and I taught classes things like wood working, autos and architecture and engineering and welding. I didn’t specialize in Maths, English and Science but rather vocational courses and teaching.

What are your plans and priorities for Nibras International School?

One of the real strengths of any American school is sport and extra curricular programmes. What that does is it helps create a sense of community around the school, things about winning and losing, and just getting in and taking part.

Apart from sports, we will look at music and drama and how we can develop children with these talents, and give them the opportunities and pathways.

Developing those programmes is something I will work on and take our school to the next level. It's already in progress: We have now got a football pitch with flood lights, our swimming pool is finished, and while we don’t have a swim team yet, we are looking to develop one by next year. We also have volleyball on our radar.

Outdoor education is another area we are moving forward on. We are looking at the likes of the Duke of Edinburgh programme. A programme like this will help our children to develop skills, self-reliance and responsibility. 

Within the school, we are looking at developing a good strong advance placement programme (AP) across a wide variety of areas.

Students will start to work from Grade 6 onwards, in Grade 8 right now we are looking to incorporate that they take at least one advance placement course in order to graduate and get an American High School diploma. This is our first year of having AP level courses and we want to make sure that students are able to take and choose what they like.

What’s your leadership style?

Develop collaborative teams and get people to work together. I never claim to be the smartest guy in school, there are some KG classes where I can go in and I’ll be at the same level!

I believe in distributing leadership and empowering teachers. I usually say to teachers, "Here’s where we want to go, what are the thing you need to get us there, what are the resources you need and how do we work together to reach that goal?". I believe very strongly in professional learning communities where groups of teachers work together.

What makes an American curriculum school different to others?

A US based curriculum is a more broad based approach than you'll find elsewhere. There are a wider variety of classes and/or subjects that students select. For example, a student in a US school has to take four years of English, but if a student loves to write, we’ll have a class specifically for that. However, the key strength of the system is in building and developing the whole student. American universities want students to have a wide variety of experience over their four years of high school. So it is a four year plan that we are trying to develop within our high school student body.

What’s the one idea that you would like to bring to Nibras?

I would love to develop a strong, integrated approach where the English, Maths, Science and Social Studies teachers work together as a team. It’s a scaffolding kind of approach where teachers work as a team rather than individual subject teachers, they plan together as a group with a focus on how, together, they work towards specific goals.

With this kind of system, there are no set timings for each subject as you are learning English or calculating a Maths problem as a part of a bigger project. Learning is integrated. You cannot put a system like this in place overnight, but it is something we can work towards over the next two years, and slowly break down the barriers.

And now the important questions!


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