“Once you’re looking at the student needs, then everything else falls into place.” – Elizabeth Huergo, Mexico
Innovation in education often happens in isolation, benefitting students in a particular classroom or school, but stopping there. The magic happens when that innovation is shared with other teachers and schools, and then transferred to where it’s most needed. That’s exactly what’s happened with Elizabeth Huergo and the Partners in Learning Mentor School she leads, the American Institute of Monterrey (AIM). The bilingual school’s programs are being replicated in more than 50 public schools in the state of Nuevo Leon, Mexico. AIM is based largely on the Canadian model of education, comprising three separate sequential educational levels: exploratory (preschool and kindergarten), development (grades 1-5) and specialization (grades 6-9). The school has adopted what they call the i-PAL System (Innovative, Personalized Attention and Learning), which places the student at the center of all activity, seeking to maximize his/her potential.
Elizabeth Huergo was part of the AIM’s second graduating class, and the school was co-founded by her mother, so her commitment runs deep. I caught up with Huergo in Prague earlier this month, and she provided some helpful insights on the school’s success. “Our school did a lot of research on best practices,” she told me, as they evaluated the school’s future direction at the start of the 21st century. The core of what they learned, according to Heurgo, was changing their focus to be student-centered. “Once you’re looking at the student needs, then everything else falls into place,” she says.
The school’s transformation was powerful and immediate, and they quickly began asking, “It works in a private school, but can it work in the public sector?” Through a broad public and private sector partnership (including support from Microsoft), Huergo and her team replicated AIM’s success at a pilot public school. “Within six months, you could see a difference in the teachers and the children,” Heurgo told me. So, they brought additional public schools into the fold, providing extensive training for principals and teachers to ensure they could successfully make the transition.
Today, private and public school students participate in activities together, providing a very rich experience for all. Teachers from AIM and the public schools also work together, sharing expertise and innovation. Says Huergo, “In many places there is a divide between private and public (schools), and what we’ve managed to do is to close that gap, and to realize that we’re all peers.”
Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Elizabeth Huergo.