The Value of Recognising Untapped Potential

The Value of Recognising Untapped Potential

Dima Ghawi, author, keynote speaker, executive coach


Would you hire a shy 22-year-old Middle Eastern American woman over a confident, well-spoken candidate? The young woman comes across as timid, and she is clumsy in her communication skills because English is her second language, but she has worked tirelessly on her education while balancing an internship and family demands. She is well-qualified but does not yet know how to highlight her achievements. Alternatively, the other candidate is articulate, eloquently expresses their qualifications, comes from a background similar to you, and seems to require less training and mentoring.

Hidden beneath the surface of the young woman is a burning desire to grow. She just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and became the first formally educated woman in her family, despite the heavy cultural barriers and expectations set by her parents and her husband. She was determined to carve her own path and pursue a professional career.

She applied for jobs daily but could not get beyond the first interview. One day, however, she had a different experience. She was invited to an interview with Matt, a bank manager. Throughout the hour-long interview, he kept observing her carefully, and as she answered his questions, her voice shook with fear and nervousness. But it seemed like Matt was listening beyond the words she was saying and detected something more, despite her wavering voice. At the end of the interview, he spoke with an energetic smile: “Everyone has to start somewhere, and I want to give you a chance.” Later that day, he called her with a job offer for an entry-level teller role paying $8 an hour. She was in tears knowing that this job was not just about career growth, but about having the chance to find herself and develop personally and professionally.

Working at the bank did require a lot of daily mentoring from Matt. He needed to provide guidance on even the simplest things. For example, in her small community, women were not supposed to smile in public and had to always act seriously; otherwise, their behavior would be judged and considered inappropriate. Initially, she came to work with a serious look, serving her clients with what was almost a frown. Who would want to work with a teller frowning at them as she is processing their bank transaction? Matt put sticky notes with happy faces all over her teller station to remind her to smile. Some days, he even stood at the end of the line and made funny faces so she would relax and put aside the serious expression.

Matt went beyond providing direction and managing his team. He created an inclusive work culture that allowed all employees, regardless of their backgrounds, to feel a sense of belonging. Because of this, the shy, easily intimidated young woman felt safe and developed into a confident professional, whose talents were noticed and who continued to advance. Upon the first impression, it was easy for her to be put into a box and assigned a label, but instead, she was able to thrive and grow beyond who she initially was.

Four years later, she continued to develop her skills, and her English improved because she was using it every day as she worked with her clients. Smiling became natural to her, and she loved it. She continued to excel, and before long, she was generating the most daily credit card enrollments as part of her first sales role. Her success at the bank gave her the confidence to accept an offer at a financial advising firm, leave an unhealthy and oppressive marriage, and complete her master’s degree in business. Her confidence grew and her talents were now easily recognized and no longer buried underneath insecurity. After another four years, a Fortune 20 company selected her for a global leadership role. This all led to her eventually starting her own company, and now she is empowering leaders globally and teaching executives about elevating their employee engagement through diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As I type this story, I feel a sense of pride. I am this Middle Eastern woman and this journey was my own. It took 24 years to get where I am today. It all started when I had my interview with Matt – the day he looked beyond the surface and truly saw the determination and drive within me. I can’t imagine how my life would have turned out if he had not given me a chance that day. His inclusive leadership style not only made a difference in my life, but I, too, was able to bring value to the bank, and I was not alone. Matt was committed to creating a culture of belonging, and he built a powerful team, resulting in the branch ranking number one for customer service for many years. Imagine the missed opportunities for all if Matt had not made the effort to look deeper and recognize his team’s hidden talents.

Matt was intentional in the hiring process. He hired diverse candidates and did not judge them by their looks or even their fears and insecurities. Instead, he looked for potential and focused on investing time in his team and developing each team member. His approach to management was the same; he cast aside biases and created room for everyone to grow and develop their skills. In return, his employees did everything in their power to serve their customers with a genuine smile.

While the team eventually left the bank for other opportunities, including Matt himself, the impact he had on our lives made a positive mark on each of us and started a ripple effect on how we hire, motivate, and create inclusive cultures for our own teams today. Being a good leader is more than overseeing day-to-day business functions. It is identifying talents beyond the surface, building an inclusive team, and creating an environment where employees can continually develop and thrive.


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.




Dima is a keynote speaker and leadership coach, helping women and men globally advance their careers and expand their potential. Dima connects with her audience by sharing inspiring, emotion-filled stories and deep, relatable messages that draw from her global leadership experience. She motivates audience members to dare to thrive personally and professionally by taking courageous, life-changing actions unburdened by fear. Dima empowers each individual to break free of their limitations and grow in leadership. Learn more:

Mentoring Matters

Mentoring Matters

Fran Prolman, founder, president, and senior consultant, The Learning Collaborative


The term “Mentor” originated from Homer’s The Odyssey. As the story is told, Athena took on the likeness of Mentor, Ulysses’ trusted friend, and was given the responsibility of nurturing Ulysses’ son, Telemachus when Ulysses went off to fight in the Trojan War.  “Mentor” has since come to symbolize a trusted friend, guide, and counselor. Literature often illustrates the mentor-protégé relationship, and in reality, examples of mentors and protégés exist in business, the arts, sciences, the military, education, and additional areas too numerous to mention.  These relationships are characterized by the gaining of skills and competencies in an atmosphere of support, commitment, encouragement, and trust.

It is a well-known fact that those who are mentored outperform and out-earn those who are not. They get promoted more often and report lower burnout rates. Their influence withstands the test of time. For example, the famed poet Maya Angelou has sung about “standing on the shoulders of giants”, and that those giants were a part of her, holding her up every day of her life. When I think about my own career and professional development, I am forever grateful for and indebted to the mentors who paved the way, opened doors, invested in me, and without question, were instrumental in the development of who I am today.  Maya Angelou was right. My mentors were giants, and I have wonderful ‘conversations’ with them in my mind almost daily.  Even though most of them have passed on, they are still a part of me, coaching, cheering, and suggesting; reminding, encouraging, and strengthening my courage and self-trust.  Because those mentors were so wise, inspiring, and meaningful to me, I wrote my doctoral dissertation on mentorship and dedicated it to them (The Mentor-Beginning Teacher Interaction: Teacher perceptions and characterizations of the colleague teacher relationship. Prolman, The George Washington University).  You do not want to miss experiencing this powerful relationship for yourself.

If sheer luck hasn’t yet dropped a mentor into your lap (i.e., a boss who sees something special in you; a colleague who has taken you under their wing; a work acquaintance who sees a piece of you in their former self and feels connected to you), you have an opportunity to go and find one.  Keep your eyes open, build relationships and create the world you envision for yourself. People often ask me what they should seek in a mentor.  There are five steps you should consider as you are on the hunt for great mentors.


1.What is your goal?


Let’s begin with what you are envisioning for yourself.  If you are looking five years down the road of your professional self what do you see yourself doing?  Where do you want to be?  What is your goal?  Start with identifying a short-term goal. Along the way, your goals might change further down the road into a long-term goal you have not yet considered.  As you are thinking about your short-term goal, look around and see who is currently in the role you envision for yourself.  Get to know that person.  Seek their advice. Ask for some coaching or an informational interview. Continue to check in with them periodically. When you feel like a sincere relationship has been built or a real connection has been made, you might cautiously consider asking if they might be willing to become a mentor or leadership figure from whom you might learn.


2. Plan a plan


French author Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said “A goal without a plan is just a dream”. This is your opportunity to plan to earn whatever credentials and training will be helpful to support your next step in your goal-seeking.  Do you need certain endorsements?  Administrative training? Coaching? Becoming a mentor, yourself? Investigate the possibilities for particular learning experiences or internships.  Add these experiences to your resumé which shows your seriousness of intention. Create opportunities with people who know more than you and are already doing the job you envision for yourself.  Interview them.  Ask about what their learning journey was like. Ask if they might be willing to coach you or answer questions along the way.


3. Strengthen and embrace your “inner circle”


 Within your inner circle is the unconditional people who are always in your corner.  They love you even when you are overtired, short-tempered, and snarky.  They embrace your vulnerabilities and believe in you even when you forget to believe in yourself.  They remind you of your great capacity when you are blinded by self-doubt.  They reframe your tendency to beat yourself up to be exchanged with a celebration of your great skills and potential.  They see you as a “glass always half-filled” when you might only see yourself as “a glass-half-empty”.  They are your cheerleaders.  Sometimes they are your parents or siblings.  Sometimes they are your parents or siblings “of choice”. They can be a soul-mate friend who has earned your trust over a period of time and who has trusted you to that same depth over the years.  Quite simply, they are “your person/people” to celebrate with or cry with. They tell you the truth. They are present no matter what.


4. Build your “middle circle”


 While there are only a select few who belong in your inner circle, your middle circle can be a bit broader.  They include your closest work colleagues.  You don’t share your inner-most secrets, most vulnerable and personal parts of yourself to them.  However, they know your professional self to your core, and you have a real intellectual connection with them. You collectively celebrate your working together with creativity, flexibility, and joy. You feel blessed to work with them, and they feel equally blessed to work with you.  You all pinch yourselves with the amazing good fortune of having the privilege to learn from each other and work together at the same place at the same time. You know that this time is a gift because it won’t always be so.  These professional connections withstand the test of time.


5. Build your “outer circle”


When building your outer circle, you begin to play a strategic game of intellectual chess. Stare at your metaphorical chessboard. Who are the people you wish you could be connected to?  Who are the people you know who are already connected with them?  Perhaps you can ask for an introduction, online or otherwise.  I just had this “chess game” conversation yesterday with someone I am mentoring.  I know her goals, and who she should be talking to.  She didn’t know them or even of them.  I offered to send an e-introduction along with a note singing the praises of my protégé.  She can take it from there.  Outer circle people take the form of sponsors, generous people who are willing to make introductions, who believe in “giving it back” to a field that has given them so much along the way.  They are paying it forward by investing in you.


I think about Erik Erikson’s “Theory of Generativity” when he discusses the need for people who are successful and established in their fields to feel like their journey has meant something beyond themselves, that they can have some sense of legacy or influence when they are long gone.  Those people have a need to invest in someone who is rising in the ranks.  Your job is to identify who those people might be.  Build a personal “Board of Directors and Sponsors”.  Strategically study the people whose work you admire, and analyze the degrees of separation between you. Who might be in your orbit who can close the gap? When I finish reading a book that has moved me and my thinking, when I have come to admire and embrace the author wishing I could invite them to dinner to continue the conversation, I always write them to let them know how much their thinking has inspired me.  I don’t do that for any manipulative purpose.  I do that because I believe in singing the praises of other people and formally acknowledge and appreciate the great work of others from whom I have gained inspiration.  Almost always, the author writes back to me.  Sometimes we have a few rounds of back and forth engagement.  In a few instances, we have become friends and collaborators, people in my outer circle.


The Big Picture


When looking back on the inner, middle, and outer circle people of my life, whether they are alive in this world or passed on to their final resting place, they are in me, a part of me, talking to me and keeping me company.  I hear their messages.  I repeat their sayings in my mind.  There is no question that I am who I am today because of their investment in me.  You do not want to miss the opportunity to build this richness for yourself.  You are invited to raise your consciousness to the power of mentors and sponsors.  You are asked to embrace your intentionality as an opportunity to envision and build your world with the right people in it.  You get an opportunity to use specific skills like strategically building an inner, middle, and outer circle for expanding your capacity, making your goals a reality and learning from people who invest in your continuous learning path.


For those of you in Erikson’s last stage of generativity, be generous with your learning, coaching, and sponsoring someone newer to the profession.  For those of you looking ahead to what could be an intimidating or lengthy road ahead, go on a “seek and find” mission to build your support system.  You won’t be sorry.


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to have your thoughts below.





Fran Prolman, the founder, president, and senior consultant of The Learning Collaborative, is an internationally recognized teacher, administrator, author, consultant and keynote speaker. She is known for her depth of knowledge, dynamism, energy, practical application, and proven track record of results. Fran earned her Doctorate in Teacher Training, International Education and Organizational Development from George Washington University and a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Pennsylvania. She has been a two-time Fulbright Scholar in both India and Israel and has presented numerous papers, workshops, and keynote speeches nationally and internationally.

Fran brings you 30 years of experience providing multifaceted work with organizations and school systems throughout the United States and the world. She was the first Understanding by Design cadre trainer designing curriculum training throughout the United States, a faculty member for ASCD, and the senior consultant at Research for Better Teaching training trainers and educating thousands of administrators and teachers in effective learning practice. Fran focuses on building human capacity through a variety of avenues. She facilitates leadership retreats for teachers, administrators, and executives; delivers organization-wide keynote speeches and workshops, coaches to build highly functional teams; assists organizations and teams in the appropriate use of data, designs professional growth and evaluation systems, and brings insight to the change process.

She is a frequent presenter for the U.S. Department of State, European Council of International Schools, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Central and Eastern European Schools Association, Near East South Asia Association of International Schools, African Association of International Schools, the Tri-Association for the Caribbean and Central America and numerous client school systems in the United States. Fran is the author of the bestselling books, Building Your Instructional Leadership and Transforming Schools: Leading and Learning in Complex Systems. Her latest book Women in Leadership: Self-Trust, Self-Care, and Courage has just been published.

Twitter: @drfranny1

How will schools diversify, innovate, and evolve in the future?

Paul Montague, International Digital Learning and Curriculum Manager, Edmentum


How will schools diversify, innovate, and evolve in the future?


Educational provision has been forced to evolve during the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools have adapted and adjusted to the significant challenges of maintaining health and safety, ensuring education continuity, and providing social and emotional learning and wellbeing support. Every school is unique, and each has responded differently. This unexpected, unplanned, and rapid transition to remote learning with little preparation, training, and in many cases, access issues created problems for governments, states, schools, teachers, students, and parents to resolve. Transitioning from face-to-face to remote teaching in the space of a week was a remarkable achievement but is certainly not an ideal way to develop new online teaching pedagogy.


Many experts have differing views on how schools will, and should, emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic. All would agree that it has been a catalyst for change and a disservice to our learners worldwide should we return to ‘normal’ without evaluating how EdTech can be used to complement, enrich, and enhance education. In an article for online magazine, Quartz, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education, commented: “All the red tape that keeps things away is gone and people are looking for solutions that in the past they did not want to see… Real change takes place in deep crisis… You will not stop the momentum that will build.” Speaking during his 2012 TED Talks discussion, he also stated, “Education is not a place; it’s an activity.” So theoretically, it can be delivered anytime, anywhere.


What will we learn from this great global remote learning experiment? We have an opportunity to develop an educational approach that will finally service our learners’ needs and strengths. It is an opportunity for education systems worldwide to reimagine learning to meet the 21st-century learner and workplace needs.


I have had the pleasure of supporting hundreds of international schools while providing planning and consultation meetings. I have watched in awe as bespoke solutions have been adopted and thousands of teachers have adapted and innovated using different combinations of our programs. With their skill, energy, and enthusiasm, educators have continued to engage students in learning as they adapt to new pedagogies, processes, systems, and technologies.


Education technology has had a positive impact on teaching and learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. Its effectiveness has varied by age group, and there is a consensus that online education for the oldest learners has been particularly beneficial. Many schools had already begun integrating technology and developing their own blended learning model, but what impact have EdTech solutions made during Covid-19?


The most successful solutions have common characteristics, which include: facilitating personalized learning underpinned by science, being pedagogically appropriate and aligned to curriculum standards, including elements of instruction (teaching). Progress checks and real-time formative feedback for both students and teachers driven by adaptive technology and the automatic creation of grade and mark books are also essential. A customization tool that enables teachers to add content, functions that reduce the administrative burden on teachers, and the offer of a range of lenses so that other decision-makers within the school can make informed decisions that lead to improvements in teaching and learning need to be incorporated.


My most recent consultations have been focused primarily on evaluating the impact of our solutions, discussing both credit and learning recovery options, and planning education provision for a potentially less-Covid-19 affected new school year in September 2021.


Credit and learning recovery continue to be significant issues that schools are seeking solutions for. Our online teachers can specifically focus on credit recovery by providing a digital curriculum while the school’s staff delivers on-grade-level teaching and learning. This is a powerful partnership that enables the students to recover quickly and protects their in-school teachers’ wellbeing. Some schools are already looking to develop bespoke online spring break and summer schools utilizing our teachers to provide targeted support for their learners.


I am currently working with governments to help their students recover learning and skills by embedding Exact Path. This solution identifies learning gaps, personalizes learning, and provides instruction, practice, and mastery opportunities that adapt to the student while continually feeding back progress and attainment data to teachers. One government is combining Exact Path with FEV Tutor, a personalized one-to-one tutoring service. Our partnership with FEV Tutor means we now have an on-demand tutoring service that can support students 24/7, ensuring engagement is maintained, and motivation increases as they experience more success and improve grades.


What lessons have we learned, and what will, could, and should school look like in the future? Dr. Abdulla Al Karam, Director-General of the Knowledge and Human Development Authority in Dubai, sees, according to The National News, an opportunity for there to be a significant evolution in the way education is provided. Dr. Abdulla envisages that “In the future, there will be as many models of education as there are pupils with a possibility that children could attend several schools at the same time as a shift to remote learning helps usher in a new flexible era of teaching,” Education in Dubai is primarily provided by the private sector and is home to some of the biggest brand names in education. Fierce competition between providers drives innovation and change in Dubai. Schools will respond to new opportunities and create new business models to meet parents’ and students’ changing demands and expectations.


Some international school groups, such as the Inspired Group, have already developed their own online school (King’s College, which is being offered to parents at a different, reduced price point to their physical schools). Theoretically, children could enroll in this school from anywhere in the world. Does this suggest that provision will go even further and enable students to take math in one school, English in another, and science in another while attending a physical school for elective, technical, or option courses?


Our priority at Edmentum is designing learning solutions that help educators become more effective and enable students to learn wherever teaching is taking place. We are perfectly placed to support American curriculum schools as they embark on their journey toward inclusive and personalized learning and are already partnering with schools and educators to provide personalized education models. Our Cognia accredited online school partners with existing schools to offer additional courses, provide credit recovery, and Advanced Placement courses. We also have standards-aligned digital curriculum that supports schools to deliver online, face-to-face, distance, and hybrid learning. This digital curriculum is rapidly replacing traditional textbooks and contains all the learning content a student would require. It has built-in assessments and is customizable, enabling teachers to combine material from different courses or grade levels. Exact Path, which is well known worldwide, is a supplementary adaptive tool that supports math, reading, and language arts development. Our partnership with BASE Education provides digital social-emotional and wellbeing courses. Our partnership with FEV Tutor means that any of our solutions can be supported by additional on-demand tutors 24/7.


Our partnerships with schools add flexibility to their education provision by providing age-appropriate solutions driven by adaptive technology and underpinned by learning science. We support schools to build a truly personalized provision around each learner that can be accessed anywhere, anytime. Teachers are, and will always be, critical to education. Their role may change as they become facilitators of learning, but technology will never replace them. Similarly, Daisy Christolodou (2020), in her book, “Teachers vs. Tech,” points out that “a top teacher knows when, how and why to use each of their tools and techniques and can effectively implement them in different situations and with different students.” To do this, she says, “they combine science (from educational, psychological, and organizational sciences) with art and creativity to produce learning situations that are effective, efficient, and enjoyable for their students and themselves.” Technology will certainly allow teachers to become more effective by relieving some of the planning, administration, and assessment burden, enabling them to focus their skills on improving the quality of learning that is taking place.

Please join me and my colleagues at the ECIS Leadership Conference where we have a session to evaluate the best practice that has developed in international schools over the last year and considering new innovative approaches to both school provision and learning.


What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.



Paul Montague, International Digital Learning and Curriculum Manager, Edmentum







About Paul Montague

As International Digital Learning and Curriculum Manager, I partner with schools worldwide as they introduce Edmentum’s curriculum and learning solutions in their school. We put educators at the centre of everything we do and work with schools to improve digital teaching and learning opportunities.

I am an experienced education professional who has worked with governments, school groups, and individual schools. The focus of my conversations is always school improvement. I have extensive experience of international schools and the UK education system and regularly speak at international conferences and write thought pieces for educational journals.


20 Legitimate Work From Home Companies Hiring Now

About Edmentum

Edmentum is a leading curriculum and assessment company, putting educators at the heart of everything they do. Providing award-winning solutions that support educators and students aged K-12, it’s used across 80 countries, offering schools, school groups and governments the addition of hybrid, blended and distance learning solutions.

Edmentum’s commitment is to make it easier for educators to individualize learning for students using simple technology, actionable data, quality content, and a passion for customer success, redefining the 21st-century classroom. Learn more.


Don’t panic, pandemic PE

Mo Hourani & Luther Rauk


Don’t panic, pandemic PE


Luther Rauk, from the American International School of Muscat and Mo Hourani, from the American Community School Beirut, have started regular online meetings for Physical Education teachers from around the world to connect, share, and collaborate on best practices in a physical education classroom in the midst of a pandemic. The sessions are titled lightheartedly, ‘Don’t Panic, Pandemic PE’

The pandemic has posed numerous challenges for both students and PE teachers, but one silver lining is a new opportunity for PE teachers to connect and collaborate online. Last March as schools closed their doors, teachers around the world were scrambling to figure out the best ways to reach their students and many felt as if they were novice teachers all over again. In those frantic and uncertain times, Don’t Panic, Pandemic PE was born.

Don’t Panic Pandemic PE is a grassroots endeavor created out of collegial support and common passions. Luther and Mo, one in Oman and the other in Lebanon, reached out to each other to inquire about how each was facing the obstacles of teaching physical education online or in a hybrid learning environment. They soon realized that others could add to and benefit from these types of professional conversations.

Many PE teachers have been attending webinars, taking online courses, listening to podcasts, and reading books and articles in an effort to improve their teaching practice. When teachers find something great, they want to share it with anyone that will listen. Don’t Panic, Pandemic PE creates a platform for teachers from around the globe to network through regularly scheduled Zoom meetings, regardless of their current instruction mode (online, hybrid or traditional model).



The purpose of these round table discussions is simple really, to create a safe place for PE teachers to share what has worked or not worked for them and their students. Participants offer up strategies to maintain or improve student learning and make recommendations of people to follow on social media, podcasts to listen to, and videos to watch. Perhaps the most important goals of this group are to build connections, encourage, support, and inspire each other.

In the dedicated discussions about online learning in PE, the difficulties that came up in the discussions about operating online physical education classes can be summarized into (1) the monotony of the classes within their limited environmental conditions. Most teachers referred to the educational content the online platforms such as zoom, google meets and the limits that they allow. most of these platforms didn’t adequately convey the value of physical education. (2) Teachers were going through trial-and-error methods applied from resources generated through connections as the Don’t Panic PE Pandemic one. The trial and error is mixed with a lack of expertise in operating online physical education classes. (3) very limited curriculum guidelines that can drive the online physical education settings and allow for teachers to move the students’ learning through the limitations. (4) how to keep students engaged in regular physical activity to improve their physical fitness and mental health while they are navigating the lockdowns.

When the round table discussions targeted hybrid and in-person learning, the main recurring themes were maintaining the highest levels of safety and sharing the established physical distancing protocols, while providing the best opportunities for students to engage with the other students directly and often. Teachers shared many games, strategies, and activities that can be done in a physically distanced setting. Teacher participants have also discussed allowing for optimal student participation and providing the best opportunities for engagement while students transition between online learning and in-person learning in the hybrid classroom, it was common that teachers made a selection of a number of crucial and optimal learning outcomes that can be taught given the reduced contact time hybrid learning provides.

The weekly Tuesday evening sessions are impactful, as they benefit the attendees, their students, and their school communities. PE teachers gain knowledge about new trends in education; implementation strategies for best practices, increase their confidence, improve online efficiency and share innovative approaches. The topics vary week to week from how to do specific lessons with consideration for COVID mitigation guidelines to managing stress and the social-emotional needs of students in a physically disconnected world.

We have a plan decided for April 2021 to be announced at the end of March. Please join these sessions via the zoom link here or connect with Luther or Mo





Mo Hourani is currently the Head of Physical Education and Athletic Director at American Community School Beirut, Lebanon. Mo played Basketball in Beirut, before moving internationally. Mo has a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership and currently working on EdD in Educational Administration. Mo has also lived in the UAE, Syria, and Jordan prior to recently moving back to Beirut. Mo has a passion for further promoting holistic education, and elevating students’ wellbeing through activities and sports. Mo can be reached at Twitter @HOURANIedu or



Luther Rauk is currently a Middle School PE Teacher and coach at The American International School of Muscat, Oman.  Originally from Minnesota, USA, Luther has also lived and taught in Thailand and Bahrain.  Luther spent four years as the Athletic Director at TAISM where he developed a passion for learning how best to help coaches do their important work with kids.  A desire to make real connections with students again led him to return to the PE classroom in 2018.  To connect with Luther please follow him on Facebook or email him at

Globetrottin’ ADs Student Athlete Leadership Conference

Nick DeForest, Assistant Director, Events Office
American International School Vienna

Globetrottin’ ADs Student Athlete Leadership Conference 2021


Background and Information

The pandemic has been tough but one silver lining to come out of it is top-notch and easily accessible professional development.. People from all walks of life and all professions are finding ways to improve through webinars, online courses, podcasts, and chats. Like never before, international teachers top the list of those that are finding ways to connect with colleagues around the world.

Even before the pandemic, Matt Fleming (AIS Budapest) and I realized that Athletic Directors and Coaches from International Schools were in need of ways to connect regardless of country, conference, or continent. From this, the  Globetrottin’ ADs podcast was born. When we were sent home to our computers in 2020,  our podcast and online resource library evolved into online conferences which successfully attracted more than one thousand participants.

As we moved into the 2020-2021 school year, we wanted to put more out there for ADs and Coaches but realized that one important stakeholder to our development was missing – the student athletes who we serve. With this came the idea of the online Student-Athlete Leadership Conference.


Fast forward to February 12th, 2021 and almost 500 high school students were online live and engaged in presentations given by other high school students from around the world. Over 100 international schools registered for the conference to either join in live or watch the recordings at a later time. Fifteen of those schools had students lead sessions about topics such as competition anxiety, promoting equality, motivation, and the importance of sports. Bookending the student sessions were two amazing keynote speakers; Sebastien Bellin and Greg Dale. Sebastien Bellin, a professional athlete, terrorist attack survivor, and international school student, kicked off the conference talking about his four pillars of life. Later on, the world-renowned sports psychologist from Duke University, Greg Dale, finished the day talking about how to be a leader that others want to follow.



The students involved in the conference, either as participants or presenters, came together as a global community of international school students. They conquered fears, they asked questions, they learned new things, they met new people and realized that they are not alone throughout this pandemic. Fabrizio Vergara, a senior from Escola Americana Do Rio De Janeiro realized “that there are many other student-athletes who are going through the same experiences” as he. Fabrizio loved the conference and said it really motivated him. Eduardo Bentes Rengifo, a schoolmate of Fabrizio, thought “it was a great chance to know what the rest of the world thinks” and “how people approached things differently”.


Since the conference, there has been a flood of thank you emails and a sharing of experiences like those from Rio De Janeiro. Most of the students feel energized and empowered by the voices and experiences of the presenters, and what they will do with that energy will remain to be seen. However, the work put into this event has the possibility to benefit these students tremendously in a number of ways for years to come. It’s common to hear someone say that as long as I get one nugget of information out of a workshop or presentation then it is worthwhile, however, how often does that one piece of information or idea really change the way to live or even see the world? The students involved may not remember the one or more pieces of information they picked up in each conference session, but the overall aspects of the conference do have the potential to remain with them for the long term. The three long-term effects that I see are; global connections, connections across subject areas, and becoming content creators.


Global Connections

Depending on the country and part of the world that you are in, the next like-minded international school might be a flight away. Thankfully social media is connecting the world like never before, but it’s rare for students to see into the minds of other students like them and really hear about the issues that concern them. This event helped students connect and learn about each other regardless of continent, country, or regional conference. It is a global connection like this that may help students formulate ideas for CAS projects or independent (extended?) essays. It may help them ease into transitions to other secondary schools and even open their eyes to the fact that their problems are the same ones many other international school students are struggling with. All of this being done in a relaxed setting where the participants are all there voluntarily and nothing dependent on grades.


Connections Across Subject Areas 

It has been scientifically demonstrated time after time that physical exercise is related to higher academic performance and that competing athletically is an outstanding way to teach the skills most needed in the real world. However, athletics are still not viewed as something that is academic. One of the goals of this conference was to embed the topic of athletics and athletic leadership into that academic realm. Presenters performed countless hours of research for their presentations and many of them related their experience in athletics to different subject areas such as units taught in math, science, economics. Physical education class is, of course, directly related to most of the workshop sessions and many of the schools involved are using the recordings in their PE classes. If so many of our students love athletics, then teachers may just want to incorporate more athletic examples into the classroom. University degrees related to athletics have only grown in recent years with more universities offering coaching, sports management, sports marketing, and athletic administration degrees. This might just be the spark one of our students needs to help them find their career path.


Content Creators 

For the few students who were presenters, the conference will have a more lasting effect because they became content creators. Students are all content creators in some way as they work on projects and make presentations in their classes. Some take it to the next level by presenting to their whole grade or school but not many make something that is shared outside of their school communities, let alone with people around the world.


Becoming someone who creates content for others takes even more preparation and attention to detail. For high school students to have the opportunity to do that not only makes them more prepared for the real world but also makes them become better consumers of content. Knowing the hard work that goes into a finished presentation gives them a better appreciation for the things that they consume.  Perhaps students may even gain a better appreciation for their teachers and coaches.


As Lexi Roberts, a junior at the American International School Vienna, worked through her presentation, she realized it was more important to add personal experience into it so that (she) could really relate to the audience.



This conference not only provided a unique opportunity for students to talk about their athletic passions and relate them to school and life, but, most importantly, it gave their voices a place to be heard by their peers, their parents, their teachers, and their coaches.

Now that this conference is known by students, teachers, and schools, the hope is that in 2021 more schools will embrace it, promote it, and learn from it.



What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.





Nick DeForest is currently the Assistant Director of the Events Office at AIS Vienna, Austria, and host of the Globetrottin’ ADs Podcast. Originally from Ontario, Canada, Nick has been in Austria since 2000 and is passionate about connecting international school Athletic Directors, Coaches, Teachers, and Students from around the world.

To connect with Nick and learn more please visit and/or follow him on Twitter @Nick_AISVienna

Leadership in Athletics

Andrew Koene, Physical Education Head of Faculty
British School of Bucharest

Leadership in Athletics


When thinking about sports and leaders one thinks about the captain or coach of a team. But the real leader is usually behind the scenes watching their efforts unfold during each game, season and year; the athletic director. Athletic directors hire/mentor coaches, develop the athletic program vision, assess the development of the program, and organize the day-to-day operations. Every decision the athletic director makes falls back on them at the end of the year whether it was a positive or negative outcome. Thus, an athletic director must be a leader able to adapt and balance many aspects that influence the entire school.


An athletic director is a dynamic, shifting, and the evolving role of constant decision-making. Based on my experience many athletic directors should reconsider their approach towards leading. Many view the athletic program as a way for them to make a name for themselves by focusing on only winning. They also do not develop a vision or direction for their program. This approach is so detrimental to our field as it only teaches that winning is the reason why our student-athletes should participate in competitive sports. An athletic program should revolve around building lifelong characteristic traits we want to see from our student-athletes and winning should be a by-product of a well-led athletic program.


So, what style of leadership should an athletic director adopt? There are several types of leadership styles: transformational, participatory, value-based, situational and servant leadership. The issue I have seen too many times is the adoption of a one-size-fits-all leadership approach. This narrow-minded approach does not allow athletic directors to adapt to the situation. The most effective leadership style that I have implemented and believe athletic directors should become more aware of is situational leadership.


A situational leader considers the situation, adapts to the abilities of others, and leads based on those factors. By reflecting and adapting to these factors, athletic directors will have an influence on their school, program, and colleagues. The situational leadership model was developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey. It is a framework for leaders to match their abilities to the needs of the situation. Situational leadership is broken down into four components:


  • Directing – This is where leaders tell individuals what to do and how to do it.
  • Coaching – This is where leaders see individuals who have some skills but are not fully proficient. The focus is on helping the individual to improve their skills.
  • Supporting – This is where leaders see individuals who are not fully committed to the end goal and need support to reach that goal.
  • Delegating – This is where leaders only monitor and reaffirm the decisions taken by individuals.


As a situational leader, one must determine what must be accomplished (vision) and review the ability and readiness of the team they are leading. Then you decide which component of situational leadership to apply for the individual/situation you are leading.


Leading should be about guiding and adapting to the abilities of your situation or team to make sure everyone is working towards a shared common goal. Thus, an athletic director must make decisions based on these circumstances and the current situation. Once one can understand, recognize and adapt to these factors your ability to influence and lead will be impactful.


In the end, successful leadership means flexible leadership. Whether you are an athletic director or business executive, you must work hard to understand the people you are leading and the vision of the organization. Situational leadership has allowed me to be more mindful of each situation, individual, and school. As I have reflected on many approaches as an athletic director, situational leadership has rewarded me with more successful experiences than any other approach.

What do you think about the points raised in this article? We’d love to hear your feedback.





Andrew Koene is the Physical Education Head of Faculty at the British School of Bucharest. He is a graduate from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse, where he received his degree in Exercise Sports Science – Physical Education and School of Health Education. He also has his Master’s in International Education, as well as Educational Leadership, from Framingham State University. He is an experienced international educator and leader who enjoys the opportunity to positively impact an entire school community. Through his previous roles as an Athletic Director and Physical Education Head of Department, he has used his leadership skills to further develop teachers, student-athletes, coaches, athletic programs, and school strategic plans.