Crawford International Academic Changemaker – Traci Salter-Willis

crawford international

When an executive decision was made to introduce the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programmes to Crawford International Primary Schools, Traci Salter-Willis – being one of only two people in South Africa trained as a IB Global Educator – was tasked with leading this implementation and transformation. She excelled by ensuring all eight of the Crawford International Preparatory Schools achieved full authorisation as IB World Schools; a task never achieved before, therefore making global history. The programme places emphasis on universal development thereby preparing students for high school and beyond.

Read more about the IB programme here.

How Traci Salter-Williams takes Crawford International to greater heights

An interview with Head of Academics at Crawford International:  Traci Salter-Williams reveals what it took to achieve International Baccalaureate (IB)

As Head of Academics at Crawford International private school, have they nicknamed you “Mrs Smartie Pants”?

No, I haven’t heard that as yet. The closest I will get to earning that nickname is due to the number of smarties I eat in between meetings, having missed out on breakfast and lunch!

Sounds like your days are jam-packed?

Yes, I’m continually engaging in conversations with colleagues and friends across the globe, which is part of the job of being an international educator, Workshop Leader and School Team Visitor for the IB. I’m always after insights and understandings of current and future global practices in teaching and learning, and I regularly share information with our teams about this.

Your job must carry a lot of responsibility!

It absolutely does. We have families expecting top quality private education and academic excellence, not only in achievements, but also in the experiences and learning journeys of our students. And we have 8000 students and 700 teachers, so we have a large audience we need to “empower”.

It’s important for us to understand who our people are, and how best we make teaching and learning a unique and inspirational experience. Added to this, we are part of ADvTECH Schools who also hold expectations around what all the schools need to achieve. Activating all of this takes a lot of conversation, much consideration, crafting of key action points and focus.

What has your focus been for 2021?

Our focus for 2021 was to revisit and redefine who we are as a school. This was important because we advertise and commit ourselves to a whole brand experience and we need to ensure that we are consistent in our messaging, in our offering and in our practices. Part of this focus too was the re-branding of all our schools as Crawford International Schools.

What kids learn and how they learn has changed drastically over the past decade. What’s the most significant change you have seen in academics?

It is undoubtedly the realisation that the world of tomorrow requires a broad set of “human” skills that moves way beyond fact learning. Digital disruption and innovation are taking place at an exponential rate, and now, more than ever, being able to apply a range of global competencies to any task is vital.

These skills include critical evaluation, challenging and solving, creatively innovating, ethically considering, confidently communicating, and self-managing.

So, no more parrot learning?

Knowledge is a click away but it’s what we do with the knowledge that is the greater question. How do we apply this to various learning experiences?

Content regurgitation is no longer the driver of learning, understanding global concepts is way more essential and offers students the opportunity to understand rather than just repeat.

What drives students to learn?

Curiosity! When students are able to explore what intrigues them in relation to the concept and skill set being presented, then they learn. The world is an interconnected phenomenon. So, we need to be creating blocks of learning that are interdisciplinary and interconnected.

What have you seen, in way of the future of Academics globally, that has you very excited?

The “open-door”, “open-minded” nature of collaboration and conversations between educators across the globe has me excited. Today, educators are sharing expertise, ideas, findings, and strategies, where previously none of this was happening or possible. Also, things like Artificial Intelligence (AI) offers unlimited opportunities for learning to become more dynamic in the future.

What has been your greatest achievement at Crawford International and personally?

We made global history in 2020 by simultaneously authorising eight of our preparatory schools as IB WORLD SCHOOLS in one go. This is unheard of and has never been achieved before! To put it in perspective, it’s tough to become an IB World School.

Standards and practices need to be met and are exceedingly demanding. There are a number of different international panels sent to seek evidence of practice to prove the school is “qualified” to be awarded the honour of being called IB World Schools. This is a completely unique schools offer by Crawford International.

Personally, I’ve been accepted for a PHD Study around the above achievement, where I will be sharing the data and insights of this accomplishment. The outcome of the PHD study will hopefully provide other groups of schools across the globe information and findings that they can apply in their own settings.

What are the areas of academic concern in our country and how can we combat this?

In general, most schools in South Africa are still caught up in traditional educational offerings and thus will continue to struggle to create the waves of change needed for the student of today, in the world of today. When students don’t see the purpose of why they need to know, understand and be able to apply what they are learning, they disengage.

We know the students of today are a different generation and we need to look at how we create meaning and interest in what they are learning about. How can we connect their world and their interests? Other areas to look at are the up skilling of teachers across all grades and subjects and funding, both for the school learning environment and the teachers themselves.

What is unique about Crawford International Schools?

Crawford is unique as a learning community because we embrace diversity, we are open-minded, and we encourage Student Agency.

What is Student Agency?

In a nutshell, Student Agency allows the students the ability and the will to influence positively on their own lives, learning and the world around them. We are a school of voice and choice – which allows students to speak their minds and to make decisions for themselves. We empower students to have academic independence, to drive personal success and achievement, that more often than not is a cut above the rest.

Who has inspired you most in your life?

I have many who inspire me for different reasons. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Simon Sinek, for leadership and leading by example.
  • Michelle Obama, for integrity, vision and leading by example.
  • Kath Murdoch for inspiring a love of learning for teachers and students.
  • The PYP Coordinators at Crawford International, a powerful collective who collaboratively made global history in leading pedagogical change.
  • Iyanla Vanzant for her philosophy on life and gratitude.

What is the next port-o-call in your academic plans with Crawford International?

We are officially launching and unpacking the Crawford International Academic Pillars which will define who we are, what we do, what we believe learning is, and how we are aligned with global practices. We are currently printing a resource book for the entire Crawford community called, “Pillars into Practice” as the guide book to achieving this.

Soon every member of the Crawford Learning Community will know the four pillars, what they stand for and how we will all achieve this

What would you most like to be remembered for?

I’d like to be remembered as a ‘changemaker’ in the South African educational space; for leading and inspiring others in what we can do as future focused educators and schools. I would also like to be known for building teams and people and for inspiring and motivating them on their journey, whether professional or personal.

Click here to read about our latest and final IB World Schools authorisation.

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