With a vision for innovative education and transformational leadership, Dr. Lara Nabil Abdallah stepped into the world of education and has been instrumental in taking education to greater heights in Dubai. She is the School Executive Principal of Dubai Modern Education School, one of the most prestigious and family-oriented co-education schools imparting US as well as MOE (Dubai Ministry of Education) curricula for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 since 1996. Dr. Lara has been the driving force behind transforming the education and fetching laurels for the school, located in Algeria St, Al-Mizhar.
The journey so far
Dr. Lara was born and raised in Lebanon and attended the Lebanese University from where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Applied Mathematics/Statistics and developed a deep passion for learning and teaching. The professional experience she gained throughout her middle leadership journey led her to a new chapter as the School Executive Principal of Dubai Modern Education School in 2018.
Being a global citizen and educator inspired her to pursue a Master’s Degree in Education (Management and Leadership Policies, 2014) and Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Education (STEM Education, 2018) at the British University in Dubai. Earning her Ph.D. degree propelled her to engage in research studies and to publish educational journals on various topics such as Gender Gap in STEM Careers, Characteristics of a School Leader, Effectiveness of CPD Programs, Assessment Policies, among others. As a way of giving back to the society, she decided to share her professional knowledge and skills through a website she launched (www.edueveryday.com), which enabled her to widen her connections and to learn from fellow educators worldwide.
Her efforts paid off in 2016 when she was given the Best Paper Award for her research titled: A Study on the Perceptions of UAE Private Secondary School Mathematics Teachers on the Impact of CPD Program Improvement. “My research abilities and skills empowered me to produce data-driven action plans that are still being used in many of the institutions I worked for,” she shared.
For a person of Dr. Lara’s caliber, the career options were aplenty, but she opted out for education field to share her knowledge and upgrade education. The fact that her mother is an educator played a huge role in shaping up her decision. “Growing up and being able to witness her commitment motivated me to pursue the teaching profession. Ever since I was in university, I have had this dream of becoming a Mathematics teacher who not only discusses math formulas and equations but also shares the beauty of Mathematics and the practical applications of math concepts in real life. My goal has always been to empower present and future generations with the knowledge and the skillsets that enables them to make the world a better place. This vision alone is enough to a great source of inspiration. I envisioned myself as an educator who makes a difference in the lives of the students towards their pursuit of knowledge and success,” informed Dr. Lara.
The role model and the greatest thing learnt
For Dr. Lara, her mother is her biggest teacher, confidante, and role model. Her mother has become a source of inspiration and a constant reminder of what commitment means for education. She has always been a passionate and innovative teacher. Her dedication to teaching and learning is very well acknowledged among her peers and her students and she says that she has always considered her mother as her mentor, confiding in her with her daily concerns as a school leader and use her invaluable counselling whenever possible. In considering the influence of mother as a role model, she says she is constantly reminded of her quote: “Once you stop learning, you stop improving.”
“She has instilled in me the value of lifelong learning – to continuously seek new opportunities for my continued professional growth and development as an educational leader,” said Dr. Lara.
The global institute
Dubai Modern Education School, founded in 1996, is a private co-educational institution located in the Al Mizhar community and serves students from Dubai and the surrounding Emirates. One of the unique features of DMES is that it houses two schools: a US curriculum school and a MOE School. DMES is a family-oriented and inclusive school recognized for its strong partnership and relationships with parents and families and non-discriminatory admission of students.
Since 1996, the founders of DMES have conceived an educational goal of being a globally recognized institution pursuing the highest standards of education, which then evolved into a strong, unified vision for the school: “Empowering learners to contribute to the global community through innovation, exploration, and citizenship.”
From the beginning of her tenure as the School Executive Principal (SEP), she has been working hard to upgrade and innovate the academic and the operational programs and practices in accordance with the school vision. She has a strong belief that innovation is the catalyst to transform the teaching and learning process. The ultimate goal for her is to mold students to be competent and knowledgeable in the 21st century workplace. In sync with modern technology, she developed data-driven action plans with specific SMART goals and success criteria aligned with standards and requirements of the UAE regulatory and international accreditation bodies.
Under her professional and dedicated leadership throughout the first year as SEP, DMES have had numerous achievements and recognitions: increased participation in global contests, revamped technology-based systems and structures for the academic and operational aspects of the school, upgradation of school and learning facilities with SMART Board technology and the NEASC Accreditation Candidacy for the US School.
On online educational content that is need of the hour
As a school leader, Dr. Lara acknowledges the unprecedented challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a huge effect on delivering education to students. From the point of view of a school principal, she firmly believes in the need to adopt various learning models to ensure continuity and quality of learning, one of which is through distance/remote learning. Embracing this transition from traditional classroom experience, she has been keen on not only providing quality remote learning for her students but also ensuring their utmost safety and wellbeing.
Empowering the needy through education
One of the principles she follows as the School Executive Principal is to “walk the talk”, and that is to become an exemplary role model for the leadership teams and the school staff. Working hand in hand with the team always, she is promoting a culture of collaboration or “team spirit”. As school leadership is distributed, she and the school leadership teams at all levels are committed to optimize students’ achievements. The goal of every school is to provide quality education to each and every student, and as a school leader she is constantly reminding herself and others of the importance of these goals, which directly lead to discovering new methods that deliver best results. Championing for the rights as individuals and the individual academic and personal needs of each student is the driving force behind her decision-making process.
One thing she would like to change in the country’s education system
“If there is one thing I would like to amend in the current education system in the UAE, it would be changing the general view of having only one definition of academic excellence which is solely based on student’s performance on benchmark assessments. It is my belief that the measure of student growth, achievement, and success should be varied and authentic; educators should ensure more provision of performance-based assessments and technology-based approaches to showcase students’ 21st-century knowledge and skills and promote ‘living innovation’,” said Dr. Lara. With the current need for technology-based learning, the transition from the traditional paper and pencil assessments to more technology-assisted assessment opportunities of learners should be highly promoted.
For aspiring educators
An educator has to be a ‘lifelong learner’- someone who continuously grasps all the available opportunities for post-graduate education, professional development, and training. Keeping abreast with the new trends and best practices in education is a key to progress and evolve in this profession. Be mindful of the evolving needs of students who belong to the Gen Z – the high-tech generation. As these students have a different mentality compared to the previous generation, it is imperative to utilize a wide range of approaches and methodologies for teaching and learning. There is a need for a variety of activities and methods that technology can support so that students get motivated, organized, cooperative, empowered, creative, and innovative.
“I humbly acknowledge the long journey ahead and the milestones that I need to accomplish”, said Dr. Lara about the future. Pursuing another doctorate degree in education, widening her professional network locally and globally, engaging in all available professional development training and courses for her career advancement are just few of her professional goals. Under her guidance and leadership, DMES shall be consistently moving forward towards “living” the school’s Mission, Vision, and Core Values. “We shall continuously align our academic programs and operational services with the standards and requirements of regulatory and accreditation authorities with a focus on COVID-19 prevention and control. We are aiming to obtain the NEASC Accreditation to produce DMES graduates equipped with internationally-recognized diploma and qualifications,” she signs off.