Ilene Winokur Alzaid, Ed.D is a passionate educator and supportive mentor who has lived in Kuwait since 1984. She was an Elementary School Principal, English Foundation Program University Director and Accreditation Steering Committee, Chairperson.
I met Ilene at ISTE last year in San Antonio. It was like we had known each other for years. We decided to be silly and took a fun selfie. She is now the President-elect of the Global Collaboration Network at ISTE and we’ll be connecting at ISTE again in June. I added a few excerpts from the podcast below:
About you, your family, and your move to Kuwait
My background is a little up and down. I graduated in 1977 from the University of Buffalo in History. I ended up going back for my MBA where I met my husband, Abdulmohsen Al Zaid. I had several jobs working in different parts of the US but our phone bills were getting high. I ended up following my husband to Kuwait in 1984.I had to learn the language because I only knew a few words of Arabic when I moved there.
For the first five and a half years, we lived with my mother-in-law who didn’t speak any English. It was really important for me to absorb the culture and learn the language. Because I was home and raising our kids, I was able to spend a lot of time with her. The culture was so different that I had to integrate into it slowly. At this time of the podcast, I have three children, 32, 30, and 27. My oldest son, Barrak, moved to Thailand and is an artist involved in juried projects in the region. My other son, Meshari, was working HSBC in Kuwait but got accepted to grad school in the states. My daughter, Haya, is a design thinker working in Boston. I have a 93-year-old mom in Buffalo so I have a few reasons why I go back to the States.
from left to right my children: Meshari, Haya, Barrak Al Zaid
Becoming an educator
I raised my children in Kuwait and didn’t go back to work until 1995. In 1995-96, there was a new small school opening with only 85 students. I became their third grade teacher without any background in education, so I knew I had to go back and get the certification. I went back through a program at the College of New Jersey who brought professors to Kuwait and got my ESL certification.
Attendees from TESOL Kuwait at TESOL International Conference 2017 in Seattle.
All schools in Kuwait are multi-cultural, and all children learn English starting in first grade. Kuwait recognizes bilingualism with English is an unofficial second language. I am a member of TESOL. A big part of my learning is that I became a member of ASCD. I started reading about differentiated instruction and personalized learning. Learning about all kinds of new things that I didn’t know before and needed to learn for my ESL students. I needed a better way and a hands-on strategy to deliver the content so they could understand it and be able to connect to them. I ended up moving to the problem- and project-based learning. With all of that, I got interested in professional development because I was developing myself.
IAFOR International Conference on Language Learning in Dubai
Dr. Ilene Winokur, FPU Director, Heba El-Hadary, EFU Coordinator, and Kelle Hutchinson, FPU Accreditation Coordinator in GUST’s English Foundation Unit (EFU) presented at The IAFOR International Conference on Language Learning in Dubai from February 16-18 on “Effective Program Review Using Data-Driven Analysis in an Intensive English Program in Kuwait,” for higher education faculty from Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia.
The EFU curriculum provides students with an array of opportunities to demonstrate mastery of the curriculum. The ongoing Program Review Process provides administrators and instructors with the information necessary to make vital educational decisions in the classroom. No one type of assessment is capable of providing all this information; however, when different student achievement and program review tools are combined and results are disseminated, a complete picture of the education process can be obtained.
Sadie Dickman (KITE), Heba El-Hadary (GUST); Ilene Winokur (GUST) at Bett MEA regional conference in Abu Dhabi, UAE in 2017; Heba and I presented our data analysis of Kaplan International Tools for English (KITE) test and the progress of students in the English Foundation Program at GUST.
Elementary School Principal and University Director
I was at the school for four years before I became a principal. It was an interesting transition. When I got into that position, I needed to act confident even if I wasn’t. I am a very democratic leader. In order to build up my confidence and the trust with my staff, I wanted to be sure I had their input. Some of them had many more years of experience in teaching than I did. At one point a few years into my position, one of the teachers said, “You know you really don’t have to ask us about everything. There are times you are going to need to make a decision and we’ll be okay about it.”
I retired in 2008 when my daughter graduated from the school I was at for 12 years. I took some time off to be with her in the states when she started college. Then when I moved back to Kuwait, I ended up getting hired at Gulf University as an English Language teacher. I had my master’s at that time and was working on my doctorate. I taught for two and a half years but I needed time to finish my research and write up and defend my doctoral thesis. When the Director at Gulf University left, I was asked to come back in 2014 and have been the director of the Foundation Math and English department since then.
When and why you started Specialized Solutions
Professional development is my passion, and I am very passionate about teachers and teaching teachers. In 2012-2013, I started my own consulting company offering professional development to some of the private schools. I went through the Successful Steps to Parenting program in 1992 and found it is a great program for anyone. Three years ago, I hired a former colleague of mine, Eva Al Qallaf (on the right in the picture below), who worked in the kindergarten department at the school I worked at for 12 years to offer parenting courses to parents, nannies, aunts, and whoever else wants to join.
Ilene had so many resources and additional information to share so I added some more below. Make sure you listen to the podcast for Ilene’s amazing journey.
Ilene Winokur Alzaid, Ed.D is a passionate educator and supportive mentor who has lived in Kuwait since 1984. She was an Elementary School Principal, English Foundation Program University Director, and Accreditation Steering Committee, Chairperson. Ilene holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership from Lehigh University and an MBA from the University of Miami, Florida. She also completed ESL certification from the College of New Jersey, and a BA in History from the State University of Buffalo, New York. Ilene has over 15 years of experience in teaching, mentoring, and administration.
Ilene has co-written, edited, and supervised the revision of an American school’s curriculum using the backward design model. During her tenure as an elementary school principal, she supervised a revision of the report card based on the level of skills students achieved. She has presented at the Professional Educators of Kuwait (PEAK) and TESOL Kuwait conferences in addition to conducting professional development workshops at local schools on various topics including Kuwait culture, the administrator as a visionary leader, differentiated instruction, Bloom’s taxonomy and second language acquisition, and the curriculum framework, Understanding by Design. Her main interests are supporting and mentoring teachers and school staff and curriculum design.
Ilene has served in a variety of leadership roles in organizations such as TESOL Kuwait, her latest position was President of the local chapter of TESOL International. She also served as the Secretary for Soroptimist International Kuwait chapter when the NGO was first founded.
Ilene’s insights into learning in her adopted home country of Kuwait led her to write a book chapter entitled, “From Centralized Education to Innovation: Cultural Shifts in Kuwait’s Education System” (https://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/full/10.1108/S1479-367920140000024013) for Emerald Publishing. The chapter was published in 2014 in the series, Education for a Knowledge Society in Arabian Gulf Countries (International Perspectives on Education and Society, Volume 24).
Ilene has also published a peer-reviewed article in Teacher Development journal based on her doctoral thesis entitled, Leadership for effective teacher training transfer in Kuwaiti secondary schools (https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13664530.2016.1224773) published in 2016. Her study is unique in the education literature as it looks at the relationship between instructional leaders who exhibit transformational traits and the transfer of training to the classroom.
Ilene presented on this topic at the Gulf Comparative Education Symposium in April 2016.
Ilene regularly attends local, regional, and international conferences as a speaker and attendee. Her most recent conferences are National Association for Developmental Education (NADE) February 2018; TESOL International March 2017; IAFOR Language and Learning Conference February 2018; TESOL Kuwait Conference in November 2017.
Marzano Center/Learning Sciences International interview:
Link to Bett MEA blog: https://mea.bettshow.com/news/effective-program-review-using-data-driven-analysis-student-progress OR
Ilene’s Favorite Quote
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