AUC, ExxonMobil: Teacher Training for a Better Egypt
When Mostafa Helmy (MA ’15) began teaching English at Amr Ebn El Aas Experimental Language School in the 10th of Ramadan City four years ago, he wasn’t aware of the benefits of integrating technology into the classroom. It wasn’t until he became a recipient of the ExxonMobil Postgraduate Professional Educator Diploma (PED) Fellowship at AUC’s Graduate School of Education that he discovered how the use of modern technology can create a meaningful and authentic learning experience for students.
While at AUC, Helmy earned his PED with a concentration in integrated technology for classroom teachers. Today, not only does Helmy apply his PED educational experience in the classroom, he also encourages teachers at his school to adopt new strategies. “A high-quality education is vital for Egypt’s future, and that is why I dedicate a lot of my time to training teachers at my school on how to integrate technology into lesson plans and curricula,” he said. “I am keen to make a difference in Egypt’s educational system, and this will only come about if instructors acquire effective teaching skills that create a dynamic learning environment for students.”
For Helmy, the PED diploma has enriched his ability to apply innovative learning tools. “The biggest impact this diploma had on me is that I am constantly thinking of new approaches to using technology in the classroom, which enhances student learning as well as my role as facilitator,” he said. “The most important skills I have gained from this program are how to develop effective teaching strategies and learning objectives to achieve higher levels of thinking.”
Helmy is one of 135 ExxonMobil Egypt scholarship recipients trained by the Graduate School of Education in the past six years. Hailing from different parts of Egypt and diverse educational institutions, these graduates are set to make a difference as teachers and educational leaders. “The PED Program at AUC is very important for Egyptian educators because it introduces a style of learning that we don’t get at government schools or universities,” said Violet Samaan of the Technology Learning Center. “We learn new teaching concepts, as well as the social life inside schools like cooperation, collaboration, team work and other 21st-century skills. It provides real application and tutorship for our professional lives and contributes to our progress.”
Building a New Generation of Educators
With the firm belief that an educated population is a critical requisite for social and economic change, ExxonMobil established the ExxonMobil Egypt Scholarships at the Graduate School of Education in 2010, which were renewed in 2012 as the ExxonMobil PED Fellowships. The PED program provides educational training in the concentrations of early childhood teaching and learning, adolescent teaching and learning, educational leadership, inclusive education for diverse learners, STEAM (integrated STEM + the arts), and teaching with technology.
“At the Graduate School of Education, we are focused not just on instructional knowledge for its own sake, but knowledge embedded in sets of holistic skills that are transferable between educational subjects and settings,” said Ted Purinton, associate professor of international and comparative education and dean of the Graduate School of Education. “The PED program is very unique in that it offers a comprehensive and standards-based teacher education curricula to both public and private school teachers in Egypt.”
ExxonMobil’s support has been instrumental in getting public and experimental school teachers into the program. “Partnering with AUC has been an easy choice: a reputable educational institution present in Egypt since 1919 — almost 100 years,” said Nihad Shelbaya, public and government affairs manager at ExxonMobil Egypt. “Each beneficiary of the Professional Educator Diploma easily impacts 100 students per year, and as the years pass, this number grows rapidly. Graduates of this program are equipped with skills that allow them to make positive contributions to their communities, as well as improve the quality of the teaching experience they provide to students. Building the capacity of teachers has proved to be the missing link in the chain of education development.”
And that is one of the main goals of AUC’s Graduate School of Education — to fill that missing link. “We aim for our teachers to become facilitators of learning, not deliverers of disconnected content; we work with teachers to create environments that allow students to see themselves as instigators of their own learning,” said Purinton.
Making a Difference in the Classroom
For many PED teachers, the program has helped them not just enhance their professional qualifications, but more importantly, employ best practices in the classroom, thereby improving the learning experience for students.
“This professional diploma helped me enrich my abilities,” said Marwa Ibrahim, who teaches at Helmiat El Zeitoun Experimental Language School. “I've learned how to motivate my students to learn, engage them in all activities and assess them using a rubric. I really enjoyed the courses given, and I can see the big gap between my performance before and after the program. I recommend that every teacher benefit from this diploma.”
For Phoebe Barsoom, an instructor at El Motafawkeen STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics] School, the value of her AUC experience lies in the positive impact she is able to make. “I consider myself really fortunate to have been granted an ExxonMobil fellowship,” she said. “The PED program provides educators with practical strategies and leadership skills, and gives them opportunities to change in their careers. I have started implemented ongoing assessments, differentiated instruction and rubrics in my own teaching.”
ExxonMobil Egypt’s partnership with AUC reinforces the sense of community engagement shared by both institutions and addresses the critical need for the private sector to collaborate with educational entities, Shelbaya explained. “At ExxonMobil, we believe that a company’s business cannot grow in isolation; instead, we believe in the importance of growing with the communities in which we operate,” she said. “Looking at our community today, it is clear that nothing is more important than the opportunity provided by access to quality education and development. Partnering with AUC in the PED program to support public school teachers serves the Egyptian educational system, reinforces our sense of community engagement and addresses a critical need that, if developed, will help enhance the future of the country.”