Choosing to Teach | Aga Khan Academies

Choosing to Teach

05 December 2017

Sandra Fonseca presently facilitates the Teacher Preparation Program (TPP) at the Aga Khan Academy Hyderabad. She is also a teacher and part-time professor on secondment from the Ontario Ministry of Education, Canada to the Aga Khan Academy. She shares her experience of working with new teachers who are part of the innovative training program which is an initiative of the Academies Network - begun in Mombasa and now functioning and making a huge impact across all three existing academies. 

The TPP institute at AKA MombasaThis November, I participated and assisted in the “Choosing to Teach” institute at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya. Having taught and mentored teachers for over 20 years at schools and the faculties of education in Canada, the U.S, India and the West Indies, I was delighted at the opportunity to interact with new teachers, drawn from universities across Kenya.

The “Choosing to Teach” institute is three-week professional development initiative and the beginning of an 18-month TPP at the Academy. The program reflects the vision of His Highness the Aga Khan to develop local teachers and to create a culture of teaching excellence that will serve the local community. Jonathon Marsh, Manager, Professional Development and Tom Abuto, Program Coordinator, lead the TPP, which runs across the academies in Mombasa, Maputo and Hyderabad. This initiative benefits from the tremendous involvement, time and mentorship of teachers and administrators at the Academies. Throughout the institute, teachers were challenged to think critically through workshops conducted by academy teachers and visiting educators, classroom teaching, research and extracurricular activities.

The institute culminated in a portfolio presentation where the participants shared stories of their learning journey and reflections with the academy staff. As I sat and listened to each story in Mombasa, I sensed a quiet confidence in their voices and demeanor as they proudly elaborated on some of what they learned - their Philosophy of Education, Bloom’s taxonomy, the use of Translanguaging, the benefits of Inquiry based Instruction, the need for Differentiated instruction, and their understanding of Effective Feedback.

“What I learned here in these weeks has really changed me as teacher. The most important thing I learned was to be a reflective learner,” said Fiona, a participant at the Institute. Iyad talked about his favorite Kikuyu proverb, “To come out of one’s house means learning”, words that helped him move out of his comfort zone. Phelly shared her journey with sketches of feet to illustrate her first tentative steps to the many small steps she took each day. Angela compared her experience to a tree with the roots grounded in her prior knowledge and the branches representing where she wanted to go using the knowledge and skills to help the community. Patrick shared a picture of a cat looking at a reflection of a lion in the mirror – something that makes him aspire to be bold and courageous.

On the last day, Head of the Academy Ray Zinsli, chief guests Mr. Bosire who represented the Regional Director of Education Mr. Abdi Kadir Kike and the County Director of Education, Teacher Service Commission, Mrs. Mwakisha spoke candidly about the ‘hard work’ of being a good effective teacher. Mr. Bosire and Mr. Mwakisha spoke about the Kenyan context urging these young teachers to be ambassadors for Kenya, and to always ensure that the learner is at the heart of all decisions in education.

The TPP is an impressive program and the cross section of students at the institute would easily be on par with the best students from the universities where I have taught. While it would be cumbersome to name each of the students and their achievement, each one was a shining star in their own right. It was a great honor and privilege to work closely with reflective, dedicated and open-minded teachers - determined to make a difference in the lives of the learner and the community. For these new young teachers - the stories of their learning journey does not end here but is a story that is just beginning.

I hope that the TPP program grows exponentially as it draws talented students from universities across Kenya, Mozambique and India that will act as future change-agents to transform education. I am certain that future research into the benefits of the program will reveal substantial gains for education.