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“Be A Self-Learner And Be Ambitious”: An Innovative UNRWA Teacher Wins Multiple International School Awards
“I always wanted to help teachers by enhancing their teaching techniques and to improve students’ experimental skills along with their understanding of science,” says Wissam Abdallah, Deputy School Principal of UNRWA Shajara School in Tyre, Lebanon. “I use interactive learning tools and new techniques, such as virtual labs to enrich students’ learning and enhance their understanding of complex scientific concepts and theories.”
Wissam’s interests are rooted in applied and practical sciences and encourage his commitment to the development of the school’s science lab by applying new techniques, particularly using IT technology. His methods have enhanced students’ learning abilities and helped them to conceptualize scientific theories that are often difficult to grasp.
Most notably, Wissam is keen to make learning fun through the introduction of e-learning games, interactive e-quizzes, videos, and worksheets, as well as virtual lab sessions and virtual tools. “I continuously search for new techniques and interactive tools that can be used in the teaching and learning. As a teacher, it is important to be a self-learner, take initiative and be ambitious with strong perseverance. One also needs to be up-to-date, continuously improving knowledge, skills and teaching techniques,” he notes.
The UNRWA education programme in Lebanon has been implementing the Agency’s Education Reform Strategy, which was designed to meet 21st century needs and help students become innovative, critical and creative thinkers. A ‘Teacher Policy’ was developed, which recognizes the central role of teachers in quality education and seeks to strengthen professional teacher and career progression.
In 2006, Wissam’s career started with the World Links Arab Region, a professional development supporting course from UNRWA, where he embarked on a journey to identify new teaching and learning IT technologies. In 2013, Wissam’s school was chosen to participate in the UNESCO “Learning for all” competition where their project “Technology: A Students Friend” won first place in the IT Education domain, and third position overall.
In 2017, his school was chosen again to participate in the International School Award organized by the British Council and their project won the competition (2017-2020). “In 2018, the UNRWA Shajara school under my supervision joined eTwinning community and our project, “Glimpse of the Past/Cultural Heritage”, won three National Quality Labels (Lebanon, Italy and Azerbaijan) and three European Quality Labels (Lebanon, Italy and Azerbaijan).“
Continuous support from the European Union contributes to the success of UNRWA education programming and enables teachers like Wissam to provide quality education, even in the most trying circumstances. The EU have equipped the most vulnerable and marginalized UNRWA students with tablets to enable their access to digital learning and ensure that Palestine refugee students are not left behind. The tablets allow students to access the innovative iLearn UNRWA digital learning platform used for interactive and engaging teaching and learning.
When UNRWA schools closed in 2020 due to COVID-19, the Agency’s education programme switched to remote learning. The UNRWA Educational Development Centre has formed a technical team to prepare self-learning materials to be used in remote learning and Wissam was selected to be the team leader. “My role was to lead the team in digitalizing the self-learning materials, solve the technical problems that were arising, support the technical team and teachers through capacity building and training sessions” he said, “I was responsible to find and introduce new interactive learning tools like e-learning games, interactive worksheets and quizzes, in addition to my role as UNRWA Digital Learning Platform Coordinator,” he added.
In 2021, Wissam was selected by the eTwinning National Support Organization in Lebanon as an eTwinning Ambassador and later as an eTwinning Mentor. In this role he supported pedagogical and technical issues and provided on-site and online training. “All these competitions and professional development opportunities offered by UNRWA were crucial to my knowledge, experience and skills. They helped me identify new teaching/learning techniques and technologies,” said Wissam, “Education is a lifestyle. Education is the future,” he concluded.
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