When at school – a long time ago – my favourite teacher, and the one I was most inspired by, was also an entertainer. One of my fondest memories was of him reading Jabberwocky, complete with all of the voices and facial expressions. Speaking to Evo Hannan, the outgoing Head of Design and Innovation at Dwight School Dubai, reminded me of ‘Mr Wilde’ because he has a similar approach, informing and entertaining his students in a manner that will live with them for the rest of their lives. We spoke to Evo to discuss his love of teaching, innovation, EdTalks, and his ongoing entrepreneurial journey.
EDUAE: How did you get into education?
Evo: It wasn’t a conscious choice. I graduated as a designer, and I was looking for something that would enable me to get me on the ladder, and design jobs were relatively scarce. I came across an opportunity to train as a Design and Technology at my local John Moore University. I spoke to my previous D&T teacher, who thought I should give it a try, and I’ve been in education ever since. I found my love for teaching very early on whilst training – inspiring the next generation teaching something you’re passionate about, in my case, design, invention and innovation.
We need tenacious individuals in the global innovation space because they will question what is currently being done and why we can’t approach it in another way
Back then, as a teacher, I was practising design a lot more, so students would see me working on some design projects at lunchtime. I didn’t see teaching as a job. I saw it as an opportunity to get people enthusiastic about life, and 20 years later, I’m doing the same thing, I’m passing on my passion to the students.
EDUAE: So, how did the Dubai opportunity arise?
Evo: I taught at a high achieving secondary school on the Wirral in England, called Upton Hall School and was fortunate to land a job straight out of university in my NQT year. A lovely place to teach, great students, forward-thinking leadership and inspiring faculty. After six years in a teaching role, I was keen to develop as a middle leader. There were few opportunities available locally, and I spoke to friends who were considering working abroad. I contacted a teaching agency, and it wasn’t long before I was offered a position in one of my dream places to work, Dubai.
I’ll be building an office/studio to help kick start the new business called Innovation X I am currently working on in my spare time
EDUAE: Did you look for a new school?
Evo: I was aware that Dubai was a very progressive city and was keen to explore more. After reading up about schools, laws and opportunities, I felt it was the right choice for me. The school I interviewed for, Deira International School, had a good reputation and a new campus. It felt like the right fit for me, so I made the move in August 2007. I taught there for nine years and was a middle leader for the last six years, leading Visual Arts and working on some remarkable innovation projects with leading brands across the region.
I was fortunate to be featured in local publications and was spotted by a headteacher who had also heard of me from a colleague I previously worked with. This led to a coffee and chat about a new design facility, which led to an unexpected job opportunity, leading Design and Innovation across the school, in 2016. A few years later, a similar chance to lead innovation and the Spark Tank at the new Dwight School Dubai in September 2018, was offered to me, and it’s been my home for the last three years.
Post-Covid education requires a shift in the way we approach education and has opened up new doors for teachers to expand their horizons
EDUAE: And now you’re leaving to move back to the UK, but staying in the education world?
Evo: The education profession is a great community. Constantly changing, innovative and full of supportive people who want the best for you, it’s an inspiring community. I’ve spent 20 years inspiring students, teachers and leaders to innovate, and I’ve been recently thinking maybe I should give myself a chance to explore new opportunities in education and innovate more outside the classroom. Post-Covid education requires a shift in the way we approach education and has opened up new doors for teachers to expand their horizons.
EDUAE: So, that’s the direction you’re now moving?
Evo: Yes, creating projects and ideas that help inspire a shift in education. So, I’ll be moving to West Sussex with my wife, Anne-Marie and my two children, Zakaria and Zara. We are renovating the house, and I’ll be building an office/studio to help kick start the new business called Innovation X I am currently working on in my spare time.
EDUAE: After being in teaching for 20 years, what do you think makes a good teacher?
Evo: Someone who builds positive relationships with the students and actively seeks to connect with every individual.
EDUAE: During a recent visit to London, I was stopped by a group of youths on pushbikes who I think wanted to relieve me of my personal belongings, or maybe they just wanted to know the time? It was impossible to tell, as I’m not fluent in gangster lingo. But I often think these kinds of kids would have the most potential if they had good teachers who could help them channel their energy correctly?
Evo: Absolutely! It’s the tenacious ones I like the most. I find them the easiest to connect with, and they are the students I learn most from. They challenge the way you do things, which can lead to inspiring new ideas. We need tenacious individuals in the global innovation space because they will question what is currently being done and why we can’t approach it in another way.
EDUAE: And you do EdTalks – will you be carrying on with these when you return to the UK?
Evo: I will be. I am getting into using and producing media a lot more. My office at home will be more like a media studio, which will provide a creative space to produce live broadcasts like EdTalks live, which I hope to expand to three times a week. Over my past two seasons, it has become clear that different regions have different needs and perspectives on educational trends. I’m hoping to start a new season that caters specifically to the three regions I am most familiar with, the Middle East and Asia, UK and the USA. This will also provide opportunities to work with edtech companies and publications such as Education UAE.
EDUAE: Is there a bit of sadness on leaving Dwight School after three years?
Evo: For sure. I watched Dwight School Dubai being built and was part of the team that opened its doors on its very first day. It’s the first and possibly the last new school I’ll ever teach in. I’ve had students asking what I’ll be doing next. It’s a great community, lots of positive students and staff. I’ll be staying in touch with the team at the school to follow its developments over the coming years.
EDUAE: What’s your first venture with Innovation X?
Evo: My first service is called Vertigo, a social media agency for schools. After several discussions with friends and exploring various possibilities, this became the idea that felt most in line with how I wanted to progress. I’ve been actively using social media to develop connections and spread positive messages about education, innovation and design for three years now and am now fortunate to have a good network that expands across the globe. I aim to use this experience coupled with my love for teaching and learning to support schools, universities and edtech companies to connect and engage with the right audience.
EDUAE: Put simply, enjoying life and helping others – you can’t imagine it getting much better than that?
Evo: This is the best feeling, helping others reach their full potential through big thinking and forward-thinking ideas.