Dr. Ilene’s Journey – Promoting Reflective Teaching in Kuwait, Part 1

When Dr. Ilene Winokur AlZaid was young, people often told her she’d make a great teacher. She wasn’t quite sure why they said that – perhaps it was her ability to relate to all types of people or her infinite patience – but she respected the teaching profession so deeply that she didn’t feel capable of taking on all the responsibilities that educators have to their students, so she set her teaching aspirations aside and studied business instead.

Years later, living in Kuwait with her husband and three children, Winokur found herself again drawn to education. Attracted to the family-friendly work schedule that a school setting offers, she opted to teach third-grade students at an American school and quickly fell in love with everything about education.

Today, as founder and managing director of Specialized Solutions – the first and only educational consulting company in Kuwait – she’s able to use her passion for teaching, her business background, and Marzano strategies to make a difference in education.

“The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model was the missing link to effective professional development that I was searching for when I started Specialized Solutions,” she says. “I found the model quite by accident after looking at other evaluation models. My doctoral dissertation, completed in May 2013, studied the transfer of training in schools, so I was aware that effective professional development must be tied to a framework that teachers can easily understand, use regularly, and relate to their daily practice.”

Using the Model to Teach the Model
Winokur mentors educators and delivers presentations about becoming a reflective teacher using Marzano strategies. And what better way to do so than to use the model to teach the model?

“I often hear myself using Dr. Marzano’s common language while I discuss concerns teachers and school leaders have about students who aren’t achieving in class,” she explains. “Teachers are surprised to hear that using a strategy at the wrong time in a lesson can sometimes be detrimental to a student’s progress. Many teachers are unaware of the importance of deliberate practice, but once they are shown how the model can support them with its focus on specific areas for growth, they are motivated to try it.”

What Advice Does She Offer?
Teachers tend to be very hard on themselves, Winokur says, so they don’t take time to reflect on all of the wonderful things they do each day in their classrooms. “When I was an elementary principal, I frequently reminded my staff to celebrate their successes while they developed their strategies and gained experience.”

Winokur has also focused on the importance of celebrating successes in her work as a mentor. “I continue to give this advice when I deliver a presentation or coach teachers, but now I have a more productive way to help them. The Marzano Teacher Evaluation Model allows me to give teachers focused feedback that can be acted on almost immediately. Teachers also understand the teacher and student evidence that is listed for each design question and quickly relate it to what they do every day because it is so practical.”

Winokur loves to stay up-to-date on research and new developments in education. Another thing that keeps her drawn to the Marzano model is the fact that it has been, and continues to be, studied extensively. “I am impressed by the efforts of Learning Sciences Marzano Center’s staff to improve the model by making it as practical as possible without sacrificing quality and fidelity,” she says, adding that, as a result, “students will achieve more as their teachers grow.”

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at Winokur’s experiences while working in Kuwait, so be sure to check your inbox for part two of this series! You can also learn more about her by reading her illuminating edublog, Ed.D.ilene. In addition, visit the Marzano Center blog regularly for useful tips on using Marzano strategies in your classroom.

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