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In her formative years as a student, Renan Barham felt a stark disconnect in the teacher-student relationship. She found herself longing for a transformation in the education system, one that would replace the conventional "You do what I say" teaching style with a more holistic, student-centered approach. Today, Renan, 33, is not only changing the educational landscape but also reshaping her future through her Masters of Art in Teaching (MAT) at Al Quds Bard College (AQB), a unique partnership between Al-Quds University in Palestine and Bard College in the United States. Her journey has been made possible by the Qatar Scholarship, funded by the Qatar Fund for Development and Education Above All in association with Bard College.
Renan had been planning to get her master's degree for three years. However, due to a heavy workload and a variety of other issues, this goal remained difficult to attain. Then, in 2021, she was awarded the Qatar Scholarship. “I thought it would be almost impossible financially to go back to school; in Palestine, salaries are fixed, and you may have to work three jobs to afford to go to AQB. I am also supporting my mother-in-law, because my father-in-law passed away, so now I am helping to support two families”. Despite these challenges, Renan’s family had her back. “They were so supportive. My mom is a principal at a local school, so she was always encouraging me to do my master's degree.” With this support Renan applied for the Qatar Scholarship, and began AQB’s MAT program.
“The MAT program has been very impactful to me, because learning about all these theories and their applications improves any teacher, whether they are new or have been teaching for five years. It changes the way you think,” observes Renan, who teaches grades K through 11 in English, Mathematics, and Robotics. For Renan, Robotics is a crucial subject in her student's educational development.
It helps my students in critical thinking, as coding requires it. If you start this at a young age, it will help them with many aspects of their life, inside and outside the classroom.
“It helps my students in critical thinking, as coding requires it. If you start this at a young age, it will help them with many aspects of their life, inside and outside the classroom. Now most of my students can do projects by themselves, without my help. Coding does not have one single answer, there are many different ways to solve a problem. It all depends on the way you think.”
As a teacher of a wide range of students and subjects, Renan sees the MAT program as an important mechanism to maintain educational standards and impact. "The best method I use for large classes is the Station Method.” The Station Approach is a method of instruction in which small groups of students move through a series of learning centers, or stations, allowing teachers with limited resources to differentiate instruction and cater to students' individual needs, interests, and learning styles. “I first learned about it from a course in Germany, but at AQB I have been able to explore the method in depth and apply it in my classroom.”
"Humanity will not overcome the immense challenges we face unless we ensure that children get the quality education that equips them to play their part in the modern world." -- HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser