Dilara Sayeed (MS00) Takes Professional Development to the Global Level

Dilara Sayeed (MS00) Takes Professional Development to the Global Level

Dilara Sayeed (MS00)

Dilara Sayeed (MS00), a graduate of the SESP Master of Science in Education (MSEd) program, is taking her commitment to educator development worldwide with the establishment of a global teacher network. “For the rest of my career I’ll be working on the development of educators and school leaders,” she says. 

At Harvard University, where she is pursuing a doctorate in education leadership, she has an Innovation Lab residency for the Global Teacher Project she co-founded, which uses technology to partner educators globally in discussions of effective teaching. “We’re looking at a collaboration of teachers around the world,” she says, noting that she is exploring revenue models and Internet platform designs. 

The idea for the Global Teacher Project grew out of her interactions with teachers internationally, beginning in 2004. That year, while she was teaching middle school in Naperville, she received a grant to study the education systems in China and Japan. She was struck by the fact that teachers in China and Japan were struggling with the same issues she had been grappling with, such as students at risk, engaging lessons and psychological safety. “It felt like we were part of a global community of teachers,” she says.

Another telling experience was a trip to her birthland of India in 2010, when hundreds of teachers attended the teacher workshops she led. “It showed how hungry teachers in India were for authentic teacher development,” she notes. She found out through focus groups what teachers wanted: 1) content knowledge, strategies, classroom management and curriculum design and 2) follow-up on how to get to the next level.

These insights inspired her to develop the Global Teacher program of monthly half-day or full-day webinars on topics important to teachers, such as the psychology of learning and curriculum design. Teachers in India and other countries partner with U.S. teachers on Skype so they can talk about challenges and successes.

Her outreach to educators globally has continued through other initiatives, such as a trip to Germany with other social service providers when the U.S. State Department asked her to consult on issues both countries were addressing. Most recently, she went with colleagues from Harvard to the Netherlands, Finland and England.

Currently she’s focused on finding innovative ways of teacher development, as well as making teacher preparation and development programs as strong as they can be. “Strong teacher preparation program to help you feel confident and knowledgeable. Professional development helps you continue growing.”

Throughout her work, Sayeed is committed to professionalizing the field of education. “Absolutely as a society we have to address violence, poverty and family dynamics — the 1-2-3 issues — but we have to prepare teachers for the classroom too.” She has served as a faculty member in Benedictine University’s teacher preparation program and now is part of a Harvard program that she describes as providing “a new set leadership skills around practice, policy and research.”

Sayeed urges SESP students to continue learning and growing throughout their careers. “It's important to us as educators to know that we are doing really valuable work for our communities. Also it’s important that we own what we are doing in the profession and be the best that we can be in the classroom,” she says. “Strengthen what you do well and seek out opportunities to strengthen your learning edge. Reach out for opportunities to improve.” She also advises SESP students to take advantage of what they can learn from their professors: “I think SESP is a powerful resource for us. Take advantage of where you are.”

Because of the grounding in theory that Sayeed received in the MSEd program, she says, “I felt like I became a professional when I left SESP,” she says. She credits SESP for her strong understanding of how students learn and think.

Sayeed sparked to the field of education not because she excelled as a student but because she had difficulties. As a child, she struggled as a learner and was she and her sister were the only minority students at their Chicago public school during the time when desegregation was an issue. “I was a minority student in a system that didn’t know how to handle diversity. … I’ll never forget how alone I felt as a child,” she says. “I went into teaching because I wanted to support those children who couldn’t escape the challenges.”

She continues to work with teachers — locally and globally — because of the obligation she feels to advance the field of education. “One thing I learned at SESP is how important it is to be prepared to lead the next generation, to do it better,” Sayeed says. 

By Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 1/30/13