Idah Khan O'Neill: Playing a Vital Role in Teacher Effectiveness and Enhancement | Aga Khan Academies

Idah Khan O'Neill: Playing a Vital Role in Teacher Effectiveness and Enhancement

To state that Idah Khan O’Neill, a Primary Years Programme (PYP) Teacher Coach, at the Aga Khan Academy in Maputo, Mozambique has had a flourishing international career as an educator and teacher coach is an understatement. Originally from Singapore, Idah’s latest educator engagement was at the International School of Billund in Denmark where she taught and also coordinated professional teacher development. She was also a PYP Coordinator.

Always an innovator, Idah and a colleague at the school incorporated playful learning in the school’s rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum in their Primary 2 classrooms. According to the school’s newsletter, this pioneering method created “a rich environment where playful learning flourished in the school’s IB Curriculum.”

Reflecting back on a play unit in her classroom on family finances, Idah said what made it such a successful unit was that the children were not only learning curricular concepts and skills but were also deeply engaged in the process and were motivated to learn more. She added, “I think inquiry is most powerful when it is current and instant. So, when kids have an idea and you are feeling that idea, you cannot quite wait for next week for it to happen. You have got to give it your all for it to really take hold.”

Idah’s involvement as an educator started in Singapore where she was a Montessori school teacher for a number of years before moving to Jakarta, Indonesia where she opened a Montessori school. Having run the school for four years, Idah decided to move back to Singapore to work at the German European School as a Kindergarten teacher. Here she was assigned the role of PYP Coordinator for Kindergarten and was part of a guided management and teaching team.

Armed with a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Studies from the University of Monash in Australia and an advanced diploma in Montessori Education, Idah is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Education at the online University of the People.

Highly self-motivated, Idah is fluent in English, Malay and Bahasa Indonesia. Additionally, she has good conversational proficiency in Mandarin and Danish. Now that she is in Mozambique, Idah says she is looking forward to learning Portuguese.

She relishes the IB programme and cherishes its effectiveness. She is a member of the International Baccalaureate Educator Network, a PYP School Visiting Team Member, PYP Curriculum Connections Service Provider, a PYP Curriculum Reviewer, and a PYP Workshop Leader. 

Her volunteer work reflects her compassion and her caring for others. She was a volunteer teacher in Sumatra, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom. She also travelled to rural India looking at water conservation projects under the Aga Khan Foundation and developed a Unit of Inquiry On Water Use in the Aga Khan Academies and also in local schools.

Idah feels that with her new appointment at the Academy, she is getting closer to attaining her “reason for being” or her IkigaiIkigai, she explains, is a Japanese concept that is usually used to indicate the purpose in one's life or the things that make one's life worthwhile. She states that she would very much like to be part of His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision of the Academies, who on June 2004 said in Mozambique, “above all, it is my hope that these schools will stimulate creativity, intellectual curiosity and honest inquiry so that their students can adapt and thrive in a world of rapid change; can make informed judgments on life’s daily challenges, and place those judgments in an ethical framework.”

She feels she is very fortunate to be given this opportunity. “It is my mission, in my capacity as a Teacher Coach, to be able to help realize this goal through play and creativity with regards to the way we teach and learn.”