While education is the most fundamental aspect of our lives, it is now at the crossroads. These days, it is not just about the transfer of knowledge of human existence but about learning new skills that make us uniquely human so we can lead a healthy, productive, and fulfilling life. These skills help us collaborate and communicate effectively, build healthy relationships, lead diverse groups of people and drive innovation. These are the skills that are in the greatest demand today.
Given that many technological aids have been incorporated into the teaching systems worldwide to teach and educate children, we are yet to figure out how to make the most use of technology in a holistic way. When educating our children’s minds, we must not forget to educate their hearts, so they become self-driven lifelong learners.
Nuria Gabitova, Founder of iSchool for the Future, entered the education space to experiment, try and improve with new learning and teaching methods to help children learn how to learn and reach their full potential.
Let’s tap into this journey of education; below are the highlights of the interview
Please let us know about the saga story of your career since its beginning.
I started iSchool for the Future when my son started school. At that point, I sensed that the traditional education system was not set up to meet his foundational social and emotional needs. He had a very high IQ, and his EQ was about average. It would not have been that dangerous if the gap between the two was not that huge, as I learned later.
At that time, I was working in the corporate industry, high tech, and telecom. I didn’t know much about childhood education besides being a passionate, independent lifelong learner myself. But I sensed that something was not right. I started doing my research, meeting with educators, education leaders, and experts, visiting various schools, and learning about different schools of thought. The consistent message that I was hearing was that I was on the right track and that education would eventually evolve in that direction, but it would take years. I realized that it would be too late for my children and their generation, and instead of complaining about the current situation, I need to do something about it now. That’s how iSchool for the Future was born.
After launching it as a pilot and calling it a summer camp, I essentially tested my ideas by mimicking the school settings, Monday-Friday, 9-3, for six weeks during the summer. By the end of it, my son said, ‘Mom, during these six weeks of summer, I learned so much more than in the entire year of school!’. Many of our students and their parents spoke of a similar transformation for their children. I knew I was on the right track. And the rest is history. Since then, we have reached and positively impacted over 6000 students through a variety of community and school programs, and we have worked in over 20 schools. This summer, both of my children (now in High and Middle school) were working in our programs, teaching young children and paying it forward.
I have also partnered with scientists and researchers to make sure we measure our outcomes and collect data to inform our design and keep improving. We have three collaborative publications in academic journals about our work and our STEAM SEL learning framework. It holistically combines Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math with Social and Emotional life skills.
Now, we take this project one step further, aiming to reach 1 million students in the next five years through Transformative Teaching programs.
Tell us about the mission and core values of your organization.
iSchool for the Future is enabling a new generation of Compassionate InnovatorsTM to reach their full potential through STEM, Arts, and Social and Emotional Learning Skills. Staying true to our values, we create an environment for our students and teachers to LEARN with Passion, DREAM with Empathy, and SUCCEED with Excellence.
Being a prominent leader, how do you manage to influence others?
By following our commitment to creating unforgettable learning experiences for both our students and teachers and by living our values every day, recognizing our mistakes, and striving to improve and grow.
What challenges did you encounter during your journey, and how did you overcome them?
There is a saying, “If you need therapy, become an entrepreneur”. This journey makes us face so many challenges – internal and external. But they believe in our purpose, and vision helps us persevere, pivot, and reinvent ourselves on that journey.
Do you provide any global exposure in your institute?
Last summer, we held online Teaching Transformation events. We had educators from 20 countries joining us. There is a big need for what we are set to do. And with the Global Perspective being one of the pillars of the iSchool learning framework, bringing together the perspectives and talents of all educators around the world may just help us create a thriving future globally.
What major factors keep motivating you towards your goal, and how do you inspire educators?
iSchool for the Future was born to help students recognize and tap into their potential. Now, to create a better future, we help teachers recognize and tap into their potential so they can teach with pride, resilience, and passion and count on unconditional support. We are welcoming teachers into our Teaching Transformation program where every teacher can feel heard, seen, cared for, and supported. We strive to personalize their learning journey to their Teaching Greatness and meet them where they are, so they can do the same for their students.
Which activities do you conduct in your organization to maintain maximum student engagement?
We challenge our students to do the hard work, to push their limits that they did not know about, so they can grow towards their potential. We can support and encourage them not to give up, but they must do the work and learn about commitment, grit, perseverance, self-control, thinking outside the box, and motivation.
The 4 Pillars of our iSchool approach inform the design of all our programs:
- Experiential Hands-on Learning – Place-based and Relevant, Student Driven and Teacher-guided, Problem and Project-based
- Personalized Teaching and Learning – allows every learner to thrive and reach their true potential
- Global Perspective – so our students can become Inclusive, Respectful, and Responsible Global Citizens prepared to lead and thrive in the increasingly ‘flat’ world
- Social and Emotional Learning skills that help students become self-driven learners and prepare them for success in school and life
How do you feel when you get to know that others are following in your footsteps, and what else do you do so that people keep following you?
It is not my goal for people to follow me. I hope that enough of us work together and follow the path that positively impacts the thriving Future of our young generations and our societies.
As an inspiring leader, what would be your message to educators worldwide?
Education in America and around the world is at a crossroads. During this time of political and social division, education and the thriving Future of our youth can be the uniting source of healing and hope. This work isn’t easy, but no one is in education for what is easy. The work cannot be done alone, but no one is in education just for themselves. When we work together, we create a tide that lifts all boats. This work will take time, but no one is in education for the quick fix.
This work needs visionaries, teachers and education leaders who know there’s a better pathway if only we are strong enough to take it. And we might need to be the ones to pave this path for others to follow. Only by forging a new road, one built on empathy and innovation, can we create a new and future-ready education system for all – not by chance, but by design.
What is your vision for your institute/organization and you also?
Here at iSchool, we believe that every one of us has an inner genius, and we all need the right environment so we can flourish and be our best selves. We believe that every child deserves a great teacher, and every teacher deserves the support to be great. We are looking to transform education through the Teacher Transformation Program, where every teacher will have access to authentic, ongoing support to be great – professionally and personally. Not by chance, but BY DESIGN. We are set out to invent the Future of Teaching by creating unforgettable learning experiences for thousands of teachers – so they can do the same for their students.