Dr. Paul Lieblich: Redefining the Significance of Excellence in Education
Dr. Paul Lieblich, Executive Principal, Scholars International Group | the education magazine

In life, we are constantly confronted with a series of occurrences, individuals, and other external factors that have a strong influence on us. There are some which define us; while there are others, which refine us into something more. The same happened with the protagonist of this story, Dr. Paul Lieblich, Executive Principal of Scholars International Group. As far as the educational journey goes, Dr. Lieblich has a Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership from the University of Northern Colorado. Prior to that, he attained a Master’s of Education in Diagnostic & Prescriptive Teaching from the College of William & Mary, and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Bethany College. However, in this aforementioned simple journey, there were two seminal points in his life that molded him into what he is today. Let us, The Knowledge Review, present you with the story of an exceptional leader who turned his life towards the education sector to live a more rewarding life.

The Turning Points

Dr. Lieblich’s first seminal point in the educational journey was his graduation with a major in Economics and a minor in Biochemistry. This was the point when he realized that he would find a career in education a far more rewarding life path. Consequently, he applied to a new master’s program at the College of William Mary. The program was called a Non-Categorical Master’s Degree in Diagnostic and Prescriptive Teaching. The program’s aim was to challenge the narrative about how schools supported learning differences. It prepared educators to work with kids having special needs and to do so within the traditional classroom setting rather than the then common approach of self-contained pullout programs.

The second significant turn came when he went to work in a typical public school with his new capacities. He began to work with children, who were ‘special’. He quickly recognized that most often, children with ‘problems’ were facing issues caused by an education system built around standardization and compliance. Just as importantly, he realized that this “one size fits all approach” was actually harming all students as every child was unique and should be seen as such. With this realization in mind, he set his mind to exploring and ended up playing a noteworthy part in changing the system.

The Contribution

Till date, Dr. Lieblich has led US schools both in the private as well as the public sector. He has also led international schools and school groups in six countries. The US State Department, Office of Overseas Schools, has recognized Dr. Lieblich as a National Distinguished Principal. He has held Headship positions at several leading international schools since 1995, including Lyford Cay International School, Zurich International School, and the International School of Amsterdam.

Moreover, he has worked and been recognized for his co-authorship of the IB Primary Years Program (PYP), including developing and running training programs for the International Baccalaureate Organization. He has also worked with the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) in creating the Global Education Framework. For this, the United States Department of State awarded him with the aforementioned National Distinguished Principal Award.

Currently, Dr. Lieblich is the Executive Principal of Scholars International Group. Additionally, he is leading their new Clarion School, where he is focusing on bringing a future-ready approach to education in the Middle East. The school is guiding students to become independent, critical, thinkers and learners. He recalls his time and quotes, “It is basically the next step to the work I did with the IB PYP”.

The Secret Mantra

Dr. Lieblich reveals that the common thread in all his work that has kept him to sustain his interest and be excited about education is being a solid ‘learner’. “Learning makes me feel alive”. It does not matter what the subject matter is; sailing, carpentry, healthy living, helping children, or teaching, he is always curious and wants to explore more. He further asserts, “I can’t imagine that my students and fellow professionals will not feel the same excitement and motivation that I feel when they are provided the right educational experiences which ensure they develop the mindset, the skills, and the motivation to explore and learn more each day”.

Clarion, the Leading K-12 American School in the Region

The group’s latest school, Clarion, is a pioneering K-12 American school that is redefining what education excellence means using a progressive and distinctive program that deeply involves kids in profound and intentional learning. Its vision is to be the leading educational institution in the region, nurturing each students’ potential so that they take full advantage of life’s opportunities as collaborative, productive, and responsible members of a global community. Aligned to fulfilling the highest tier of U.S. standards, including the Common Core, Clarion School provides innovative, interactive, challenging, and intentional learning experiences facilitated by extremely skilled Master Educators.

The school’s learning foundation was built with support from one of the leading U.S. Graduate Schools of Education and has extended the norms of what a high-quality education needs to deliver. Hence, the school has gone beyond the norms of a UK National Curriculum education or even the more holistic IB framework in order to deliver a program that is rich, rigorous, and relevant to supporting children to be ready for the future.

According to Dr. Lieblich, the past several decades have transformed the education field drastically. Educational researchers have become very scientific and increasingly productive in teasing out the factors which makes for effective teaching and learning. Consequently, there is a better understanding of what works and what does not. A realization that many accepted practices actually have little or even negative effects on student outcomes, while other overlooked practices have been shown to have large and positive impacts on student outcomes. “Unfortunately, so much of what we have learned about these things is not understood by tbe general educational practitioner and is often ignored in running schools”.

The group from its first school, Dubai Scholars, to the latest school, Clarion, has been focused on supporting learning using research-based practices which show a strong effect on improving student outcomes while eliminating those unsuitable practices that do not help students. Dr. Lieblich states, “For us that means ensuring an effective model of ongoing, continuous professional learning activity to support these practices”.

Dr. Lieblich believes that in the UAE, the need for developing and adopting efficacious practices is no different than anywhere else. He also believes that the UAE has a much more forward-thinking and proactive educational authority and thus sees Clarion as being as a model from which other schools can learn to become more effective.

When talking about the future, Dr. Lieblich unveiled that the group is keeping its keen eyes on the opportunities to be a part of a larger ecosystem, which is not limited only to the UAE. It is anxious to develop and spread its wings in Asia, particularly India and Vietnam.

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