Building Teacher Networks Across Borders

Queen's teacher candidates with a group of students from Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.
A group of Queen's teacher-candidates visited the Iqrah International Model Kiddies College in Abidjan, Cote D'Ivoire as part of the collaboration with 1 Million Teachers, a startup created by Queen's alumnus Hakeem Subair, MMIE'17. (Supplied Photo)
“We want them to know that they do not have a lot of resources but we do. You communicate with one another, support one another and we’ll support you.”

The Faculty of Education has partnered with a startup, created by a Queen’s alumnus, that is providing support for teachers in countries where in-class and educational resources are lacking.

1 Million Teachers is the brainchild of Hakeem Subair, a graduate of the Master of Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at Smith School of Business. The organization’s goal is to help attract, train, and retain 1 million teachers, as well as develop the capacity to train more, in developing countries through its online platform. Utilizing reward-based training, the program aims to transform teachers into life-long learners who are engaged and motivated – positively impacting the future of millions of children around the world.

A number of faculty members from across Queen’s are involved in the advisory team while a group of 13 final year teacher candidates from the Faculty of Education recently traveled to Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire to deliver workshops and engage with teachers interested in the program.

Collaboration and relationship-building is a key theme.

“We’re not going there and saying ‘this is what you need to know.’ That’s not our approach,” says Jane Chin (Education), who traveled with the group and is a member of the 1MT advisory board. “The teacher-candidates are excited because the whole point is to go sit with these teachers, who are their colleagues, and say ‘What do we have in common and how do we support each other?’ They’re really excited to have the opportunity to learn from other teachers.”

All but one of the teacher candidates is in the Educators Abroad focus track of the teacher education program.

As with any project, there is a lot of work that must be done first in creating the structure and connections, as well as the online content for the program.

“All of the teacher candidates involved expressed an interest in teaching overseas or cross-cultural teaching and they have to do a three-week alternative practicum as part of our program,” says Dr. Chin. “This group has worked really hard and has put together 10 modules to be used and sent out through 1 Million Teachers. That is a lot of content.”

The support, both online and on the ground, has helped build a strong foundation for 1 Million Teachers while also providing valuable experience for the teacher candidates, says Mr. Subair.

“The modules are high-quality work,” he says. “The (teacher candidates) are involved in every aspect of the process – the writing, the audio and the editing of the graphics as well.” 

In Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, the Queen’s group will lead a number of workshops while fostering the creation of professional learning communities for attendees, a key element for 1MT.

“We will get the dialogue going – here are some of the things we are thinking about in Canada, here’s some things we think about in relation to the new ideas about teaching, getting students to ask good questions, how do you do it, kind of sharing – but then the ultimate goal is to facilitate these teachers connecting to one another,” says Dr. Chin. “We want them to know that they do not have a lot of resources but we do. You communicate with one another, support one another and we’ll support you.”

The students of Iqra International Model Kiddies College in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivore.

Having grown up in Nigeria, Mr. Subair knows the monumental task facing teachers in sub-Saharan Africa and other locations all too well. In many countries there is little funding or resources provided to teachers. As a result, for many families there is a stigma toward pursuing teaching as a career. Still, he points out, there are those who remain passionate about teaching and educating the next generation.

Through 1MT, these teachers can get the support they need. There’s also a longer-term goal of improving the situation for teachers overall, Mr. Subair adds.

“This is the community. The idea is all the teachers using the platform are part of the community. Imagine having someone like Professor Chin and someone is asking a really technical question about teaching and she’s able to respond,” he says. “There’s an advocacy piece as well. We are engaging with governments and we want to be able to strongly advocate for teachers with governments to change policy such as increasing remuneration.”

This story originally appeared in the Queen's Gazette.