“I felt refugees were an underserved demographic through no fault of their own, increasingly so through the Migration Crisis. Not having access to education was a problem that wasn’t going away and very few people were willing to help.” – Therese, Sky School Course Leader
Meet Therese, one of Sky School’s dynamic Course Leaders. Her belief in equal access to education led her to partner with us in designing a new and promising course for Sky School learners - Participation for Positive Change.
In the summer of 2018, after 11 years of teaching Geography and being a school leader in Boston and Shanghai, Therese moved back to the UK to work as Head of the International Primary and Middle Years Curriculum. As a competitive swimmer and half marathon runner, she has always been up for a challenge, with the most recent being obtaining her Master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and of course leading the development of one of Sky School’s most recent courses!
Prior to working with Sky School Therese had never worked directly for the benefit of refugees. Equipped with a solid teaching and curriculum building background however, she already possessed the skill-set needed to help the organization make an impactful difference in the present and future lives of countless refugee youth and adults.
A desire to network in her hometown of London and a yearning to use her educational experience and skills to help refugee youth, brought Therese to a networking event one evening. It was here that she met Sky School’s co-founders and learned about the groundbreaking work of the organisation. Fast forward several months later, and Therese found herself in Singapore, co-leading a curriculum development hackathon to develop one of Sky School’s newest courses, “Participation for Positive Change.”
Sky School hackathons bring together a small group of educators and students to intensively develop Sky School courses over a weekend. Therese comments, “Leading the Hackathon was a fantastic development opportunity. Everyone brought such different strengths to the group and I felt like everyone was able to make a really valuable contribution. I think that everyone learned a lot from each other and enjoyed contributing their own knowledge and experiences to the course design. I also loved having students in the group; I thought it was brilliant that they were confident enough to work alongside some of their own teachers and other adults and make really valuable contributions from a student perspective.”
As course leader, Therese has subsequently worked with the Sky School team to ‘tidy up” the course and ensure that it can be launched this summer in various Sky School sites. The “Participation for Positive Change” course contains lifeworthy learning which encourages student agency related to the disciplines of Geography and Politics. It includes learning about how learners can participate in positive change in areas such as power and politics, migration, globalization and sustainable development. Therese explains, “All of these are issues that learners who are refugees have faced or will face in their lives and in the writing process we hoped that the learning opportunities will enable students to make a difference in their own communities and lives.
When asked if she would recommend volunteering with Sky School to other educators, without hesitating, Therese responds with an enthusiastic, “Absolutely yes! I have already recommended it to lots of people! Aside from meeting an amazing community of people who are passionate about both learning and providing opportunities for learners who are refugees, it’s been a huge professional development opportunity and I’ve learned so much.”
Reflecting on the work and mission of Sky School, Therese feels Steven Spielberg put it best at her graduation ceremony when saying. “The only answer to more hate is more humanity. We gotta repair -- we have to replace fear with curiosity. ‘Us’ and ‘them’ -- we’ll find the ‘we’ by connecting with each other.”