Welcome back MENA educators!

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27 August 2019


Dear MENA educators,

We are excited to welcome each of you back to your respective school. In addition to supporting schools based on request, here is a sample of what you can expect from us during 2020-2020:

Powered by Teach to Lead Summit
An initiative of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Connected Community in the GCC, the Powered by Teach to Lead Summit seeks to allow participating teachers, principals, department heads, and supporting organizations to help spotlight and advance the groundbreaking, teacher-led work that is happening in schools across the region. During a summit, teams of educators convene to think deeply about a problem of practice – an idea for how to improve learning in their school or country context – and to work as a team to plan solutions. Visit www.gccascd.com/teachtolead

KDSL Global is a Connector for Empatico. They believe that when students have the opportunity to meaningfully interact with one another, it can promote a lifetime of curiosity and kindness. They offer a free tool to connect classrooms around the world through live video technology and standards-aligned, research-based activities. Visit https://empatico.org/?utm_source=simpson

Micro-credentials Paper
Micro-credentials provide educators with competency-based recognition for the skills they learn throughout their careers.In this paper, we will explore what are micro-credentials, how are micro-credentials being implemented in the USA and what is the potential for the MENA region, and what resources exist to best support educators interested in micro-credentials?


McREL Curiosity Works Institute – Kuwait  14-15 November 2019
McREL’s Curiosity Works resources provide the tools and methods to support curiosity among teachers, leaders, and learners at every level of learning. At this institute you will learn about what makes a Curiosity Works approach to school improvement and innovation different from other approaches, and why it’s worth considering for your school(s). For more information visit https://kdslglobal.wordpress.com/2019/08/08/curiosity-works-for-school-improvement-and-innovation-two-day-institute-in-kuwait/


MENALearns Portal:
MENALearns will be an online learning platform for American curriculum educators. MLP will offer tools and resources connected to curriculum, instruction, assessment, professional learning, and more. This will be free during September-October 2019. Visit http://menalearns.xblended.com

To a great year!


The KDSL Global Team

KDSL Global and the GCC ASCD Connected Community Convene the Powered by Teach to Lead Summit

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On Friday, October 4, and Saturday, October 5, MENA region teachers and teams will convene in Dubai as part ofan initiative of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Connected Community in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) called the Powered by Teach to Lead Summit.   During a summit, teams of educators convene to think deeply about a problem of practice – an idea for how to improve learning in their school or country context – and to work as a team to plan solutions. Organized by KDSL Global, a UAE-based education company, the Powered by Teach to Lead Summit seeks to allow participating teams to:

  • Share ideas and best practices and learn from examples of existing teacher leadership efforts;
  • Identify common challenges and create concrete, actionable teacher leadership plans to address them locally;
  • Network and build relationships with other educators and leaders in their region; and
  • Identify promising ideas for follow-up support through future engagement events.

Dubai based Teacher Leader Evo Hannan said, “When you live a life beyond your limits, you have experiences beyond your imagination.”   Hannan will be the featured speaker on the first day of the summit andis currently the Spark Tank Coordinator at Dwight School Dubai. He continues to develop new ideas and leads a collective of innovative educators called ‘Innovation X’. He is also the founder of ‘Teacher Society’, a global education community that promotes teacher well-being and professional development, and the creator of the #INN4SDGs initiative.


Educators, school leaders, and teams from the MENA region are encouraged to apply early to attend.  More information can be found at http://www.gccascd.com/teachtolead.




KDSL Global is a UAE-based leading learning organization focused on empowering educators and education businesses globally.


ABOUT GCC ASCD Connected Community

Our goal as the GCC Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Connected Community is to unite educators throughout the region, inspiring all of us to learn globally and teach locally.




Ashley Green, KDSL Global, gccascd@gmail.com,  +971 525427009


KDSL Global interviews Valda Valbrun

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Our KDSL Global Intern recently had the opportunity to interview Valda Valbrun, CEO of The Valbrun Consulting Group. This group was started by a teacher and is committed to leadership and equity is shaped by their own experiences as students, teachers, and leaders. Their goal is to build the capacity of leaders to address inequities and create organizational cultures that honor diversity.

What services does The Valbrun Consulting Group offer? 

We offer strategic planning and technical support to K-12 school districts. We help districts develop their strategic plans as well as help them to manage and execute the strategies. As a former school principal and district leader myself, I recognize that schools and districts sometimes benefit from a fresh set of eyes to help them audit existing initiatives and review data to determine the return of investments. We also help build the capacity of teachers and leaders to lead efforts for school improvement and we are especially committed to ensuring that they do so in a way that honors diversity and commits to creating equitable environments in schools.



Tell us about your leadership development training.

We provide professional development and coaching that equips leaders with skills, tools and the ability to advance improvement efforts. We work with aspiring and new leaders to support them as they advance towards the principal role, and work to support experienced school leaders, principal supervisors and district personnel as they demonstrate commitment to personal and professional growth, including in their development of cultural proficiency and the management of diverse teams.


We work to determine client’s specific needs and use a co-design model to develop the appropriate supports. We believe that developing leaders is part of a journey and that leadership can often feel like a lonely job, so we strive to support leaders by being a thought partner, and helping them to advance the mission and vision of the organization.



What are some strategies to improve workplace culture and teamwork?

I think workplace culture is essential to having high performing teams! If nothing else, I see that as the most important part of any leader’s job – to create and model the type of culture where employees feel valued and respected and as if they are a part of something, that without them, couldn’t be. That requires a real commitment to people and a willingness to lead with both your head and your heart. It requires strong emotional intellect and the ability to make genuine connections with others. As they say, people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses- so it’s important to set the tone from the top, that demonstrates a solid culture of respect and team-building.




Ms. Valda Valbrun is an established Educational Leader known for passion toward inclusive, research-based, data-driven pedagogy, a system change facilitator with a proven track record of supporting schools and districts to change educational practices and establish systems, and a dynamic Professional Developer, Teacher, Administrator, Entrepreneur, Advocate and Student Champion. She has worked with national school districts on Leadership Development and Executive Coaching and provides coaching and training to aspiring, newly appointed and experienced principals and has worked as a school turn-around partner.

She started her career over 25 years ago as a teacher in the Broward County (FL) schools before becoming a Professional Developer and secondary school administrator in Montgomery County (MD). She has a strong background in school administration, having served as a middle school principal. She is committed to professional development and closing achievement gaps and never waivers in her commitment to instructional and leadership improvement, both on the macro-level of a school system and on the micro-level of an individual classroom teacher and leader. She has taken these experiences and founded The Valbrun Consulting Group where she serves as the CEO.

Ms. Valbrun works directly with school and district leaders to advance improvement initiatives and understands that leaders must be lifelong learners and that better solutions come from groups with diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Her experience includes work in rural, suburban, and large, urban districts and she currently provides leadership training, coaching and consulting across the country in addition to providing training specifically to build Culturally Proficient Leaders.

Ms. Valbrun received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Journalism from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a Master of Science degree in Education from Nova Southeastern University. She also completed post-graduate certification in School Administration and Leadership at Johns Hopkins University. She is a trained executive coach and Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI)© Qualified Administrator. In addition to her school and district level leadership roles, Ms. Valbrun has also served as the Director of Professional Learning at ASCD and as the Executive Director of Organizational Development for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina, where she currently resides.

KDSL Global interviews Kelsey Todd

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Our KDSL Global Intern recently had the opportunity to interview Kelsey Todd, Partnership Associate at Empatico. This free tool was founded to cultivate an empathetic future generation with a greater understanding of others regardless of their location. They were incubated by The Kind Foundation, a separate charitable entity established by KIND Healthy Snacks. Empatico empowers teachers and students to explore the world through experiences that spark curiosity, kindness, and empathy.

Tell us about the opportunity Empatico offers for children. 

 At Empatico, we believe that when students have the opportunity to meaningfully interact with one another, it can promote a lifetime of curiosity and kindness. That is why we offer a free tool to connect classrooms around the world through live video technology and standards-aligned, research-based activities. Empatico is available for English- and Spanish-speaking classrooms with students ages 6-11 years old. Since launching less than two years ago, Empatico has already brought together nearly 29,000 students globally and we are just getting started! Our vision is to give millions of students the opportunity to connect and explore their similarities and differences while fostering empathy.


What are the Empatico activities and how are they used?

Empatico activities help students practice social skills, such as respectful communication, perspective taking, cooperation, and critical thinking, as they experience positive connections with peers around the world. All of our activities are standards- and research-based and fit easily into existing curriculums. Our activity plans can be followed step-by-step or tailored to a classroom’s needs. Empatico offers ten total activities:

  1. Get To Know You – good for first exchanges
  2. Ways We Play
  3. Community Cartographers
  4. Helping Hands
  5. Weather out the Window
  6. Everyday Energy
  7. Our Local Landmarks
  8. Festivals Around the World
  9. Folktales to Learn From
  10. School Tour


How do Empatico activities strengthen social and emotional learning?

Empatico activities incorporate insights from child development research to create meaningful experiences and positive perceptions among children around the world. All our activities incorporate four Empatico skills that strengthen social and emotional learning (SEL). These skills are respectful communication, critical thinking, perspective taking, and cooperation. We offer teacher resources to help develop and encourage these skills, including a guide for navigating student differences during an exchange. Additionally, we provide guided questions for student conversations that encourage students to share personal stories during interactions as a way to increase trust and empathy between classes. Plus, students are taught our “me too” hand signal to emphasize their similarities and build stronger relationships. You can learn more by reading our research brief here.



Kelsey Todd is the Partnerships Associate at Empatico. Before joining Empatico, Kelsey was at KIND Healthy Snacks, working on the KIND Movement – KIND’s mission to make the world a little kinder. In this role, Kelsey worked on programming for The KIND Foundation, including the KIND Schools Challenge, a grant program that funded student-led initiatives for making schools kinder and more inclusive. Kelsey is a graduate of Boston College with a degree in English and Environmental Science.





Meet our KDSL Global Intern: Abdul Shakir

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Abdul Shakir is a sophomore working on his Bachelors in Computer Engineering at the American University of Sharjah. He has been living in the UAE for over 15 years. During the junior and senior years of high school, he was engaged in volunteer services.  Abdul was part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme (DEAS) where he completed over 50 hours of volunteering service in his school. He loves to travel and has some interest in the aviation industry. In his spare time, he enjoys plane spotting. Abdul has written an article about his travel experiences and it was featured on the Eton website. He is focused on STEM innovations and follows the latest projects from various technology companies. In the future, Abdul will focus on doing effective research in Computer Science and believes that the KDSL Global internship would help him in achieving this goal.

Welcome Abdul to the KDSL Global team!