Dr. Jay Teston of Nibras International School: “Effective educators must have a commitment to humanity”

Effective educators must have a commitment to humanity. Every day they should live the mission of education and commit to educating children in readiness for their futures. As a part of my interview series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator”, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Jay Teston, […]

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Effective educators must have a commitment to humanity. Every day they should live the mission of education and commit to educating children in readiness for their futures.

As a part of my interview series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator”, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Jay Teston, Principal of Nibras International School.

Dr. Jay B. Teston joined Nibras International School as the Principal in 2020 upon the retirement of his predecessor.

Dr. Jay will apply over 25 years of experience in the USA, UK and China, he has acquired valuable experience as an International School Director, Principal and as a member of several accrediting teams in the Asia-Pacific region to bring Nibras to new heights.

Dr. Jay has exceptional proficiency in being an educator, accreditor, researcher and leader. He is passionate about using academic rigor through effective teaching practices that yield both amazing and exemplary results.

Dr. Jay holds a Doctor of Education degree from The University of Sarasota in Florida, National Principal Certification from Fordham University in New York and a Diploma in International School Governance and Sustainability from the European Council of International Schools in London, UK.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?

From an early age, I knew I wanted to be an educator. I come from a long line of educators, so I had a lot of role models around me growing up. As soon as I could, I volunteered to help in their schools.

My desire to move from being a classroom teacher to a school leader happened when I became a father. It was particularly when they became of school age, that I decided I wanted to grow with them and combine our educational journeys.

As I learnt more about leadership and what an outstanding school looked like I could envisage my vision for schools of the future. Fundamentally I knew from the beginning that I wanted to lead a school I would be happy for my own children to attend, a school where the staff chose to send their own children.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your teaching career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I had started teaching in the middle years — grades 6, 7 and 8. Ricky was a pupil in one of my classes. He struggled a lot in middle school and sometimes found lessons challenging. There were times when Ricky would come to see me after school for support with his learning. To me it was my job, but unbeknownst to me this made a real difference to Ricky’s belief and commitment to his own learning journey. Once Ricky moved into Grade 9 and on to high school, I forgot about him.

Four years later Ricky walked into my classroom with a personal invitation for me to attend his High School graduation. This was the moment when I realised the impact I can have on students, families and humanity.

Since then there have been lots of Rickys, but every day I remember how important my role as an educator is and I am inspired to ensure that I make the best possible impact on each individual.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Having recently joined Nibras International School, I am completely focused on the school.

A change in leadership is an excellent opportunity for a school to revisit their vision, purpose and values. It is also a time to revisit systems and organization across all areas of the school.

The projects we are running across our school will evolve over this period of change, to ensure we are outstanding and the school of choice for our whole community both now and in the future.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view, how would you rate the results of the US education system?

The US education system is excellent. Like the best globally recognized curriculums, it is always evolving and developing. These constant improvements ensure it meets the needs of its communities and prepares students for the challenges of the future. It is grounded on specific principles and aspires not to leave any child behind.

Can you identify 5 areas of the US education system that are going really great?

Yes, the US education system is:

  1. Standards Driven — This means it is written to meet a set of Common Core and specific subject area standards. These ensure our academic levels are high and children are prepared for their next steps in education or work.
  2. Evidence Based — This ensures all subgroups demonstrate growth through state identified assessments and no children, or subgroups of children are left behind.

Our system:

  1. Promotes Critical thinking — Our assessments are open ended to ensure we are measuring how students are expressing their understanding and using their skills
  2. Teaches for Understanding — We teach strategies and methodologies that are adaptable to promote greater understanding

Our teacher training has:

  1. High Teacher Quality Expectations — The US teacher training is a highly effective qualification that focusses on understanding paedology and developing future leaders

These great strengths of the US education system ensure it is one of the most highly regarded education systems in the world.

Can you identify the 5 key areas of the US education system that should be prioritized for improvement? Can you explain why those are so critical?

Thank you for asking such an exciting question, in our desire for Nibras to be a flagship US curriculum school we have already started working on these areas of improvements, but it is great to share them, as I hope this my insight would benefit any US curriculum school.

  1. Literacy Research — Aspiring citizens in all societies need to be literate. They need to understand, read, write, converse, and express themselves fluently.
  2. University Readiness — Our students are challenged to be the best version of themselves. At Nibras our students have aspirational targets that they aspire to achieve as their next steps in their education and plan for their futures. For Nibras students this will mean continuing education at university or college when they leave us.
  3. Emotional and Social Resilience — We understand that children need high attainment academically, socially and emotionally. This has been very clear over the past months of the pandemic when the school community has shown how hard they are willing to work on developing both their resilience and independence.
  4. Technology Enhancement — The new normal will be heavily influenced by new technology tools and innovations, so we have ensured that technology is integrated throughout our curriculum.
  5. Innovation — Schools need to ensure that innovation is embedded in every part of the school; classrooms, outcomes, pedagogy, student language. It must be part of the very breath of the school.

Super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Know To Be A Highly Effective Educator?” Please share a story or example for each.

This is very thought provoking and is going to force me to try to condense my thoughts into only 5 areas.

First, effective educators must have a commitment to humanity. Every day they should live the mission of education and commit to educating children in readiness for their futures.

Secondly, an effective educator must be a learner themselves. They must wear the hat of a learner and walk in their shoes and they must ensure all learning is built through the eyes of the learner. An effective educator learns side by side with a learner inspiring them in their quest for learning.

Thirdly, effective educators will be innovation oriented. Their classes will be delivered creatively, and the outcomes will inspire their students. Students won’t forget these lessons.

The fourth thing they will need to be is organized, mentally and physically, but they should also do things in a well-orchestrated manner.

Finally, the fifth thing an effective educator will need to do is reflect on their lessons and the learning of their students. Through reflective practice educators will work in a cycle of self-improvement enabling them to manage, adjust and develop sustainable change.

As you know, teachers play such a huge role in shaping young lives. What would you suggest needs to be done to attract top talent to the education field?

We are lucky to be part of the International School Partnership, so our prospective staff know that in addition to being part of an amazing school, they have the added benefits of being part of a growing international community of educators. This helps us to attract the best teachers from across the world.

Globally the best way to attract the best people into education will be to give recognition to the amazing job education professionals do, show teachers the respect they deserve and acknowledge the importance of the position they hold in society. We must continue to share the success stories of achievement and celebrate the difference that our educators are making to the lives of students.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As with many of our students, I have travelled a lot but each place I have lived I have done so with a strong sense of purpose and a personal mission; therefore my life lesson quote must be, “Bloom where you’re planted.”

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

My dinner guest would be Nancy Grasmick, the State Superintendent of Maryland. Although I’m not sure she would have too much time for eating, as I would be picking her brain for every detail about how Nancy made sure Maryland was the number 1 state for education in the US.

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Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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