DAA Daily

Dr. Hildreth, From the Service to Superintendent

By Yasma Baalbaki and Yasmine Jarmakani, Staff Reporters, The Pawprint

This year, Dubai American Academy introduced a new superintendent into its family. Dr. Ethan Hildreth, originally from Wildwood, Georgia, USA, was a graduate of the US Air Force Academy. After not meeting the health qualifications to become a pilot, he decided to become a teacher. He has worked with schools in the United Arab Emirates, the Netherlands, Russia, India, and China, while collaborating with fellow leaders in England, Tanzania, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, and other places in between. 

The Pawprint decided to interview Dr. Hildreth as a means of introducing him to the DAA community.

In his free time, Dr. Hildreth enjoys reading various books because “reading opens entire worlds to you”. He stated that a book by a creative person from history, or from a leader, or from a great scientist, or other thinker is their thoughts and mind at work. “Even if they passed away centuries before, we can walk right into their mind and their thoughts through a book”. Moreover,  Dr. Hildreth plays online chess games with his children via chess.com. He also plays tennis, guitar, and is a hang glider pilot in the US. His desire to become a pilot, however, was derived from the release of the original Top Gun movie. 

Dr. Hildreth had a natural draw towards teaching and education as his mother was a teacher and his father – despite being in the banking industry – taught workshops and loved guiding overseas tours. Although the bulk of his career was in the US, around American schools, he also traveled to explore different educational systems and instill his wisdom around the globe. One of his most memorable adventures was in China, where he established a school. What made China particularly fascinating was the challenges he had to face in terms of navigating the bilingual system. Most of the students in the school did not speak English, therefore, half the staff had to be Chinese and the other half were westerners. 

Dr. Hildreth is a fan of the American educational system because “one of the hallmarks of American education is putting an emphasis on whole person development”. The American curriculum focuses on the academic, physical, and emotional wellbeing of students to support their intellectual wellbeing as well as their character growth. Furthermore, the American system places emphasis on the twin ​goals of education which are: growing a little bit everyday through learning more, and learning to apply that to the service of others to make life a little but better. Dr. Hildreth finds this holistic approach to education very effective and beneficial to students. He also favors American education as it depends on strong student teacher relationships. 

Dr. Hildreth believes that relationships are vital. He hopes that as a community, DAA staff and students share relationships of mutual respect, mutual kindness, care, collaboration, and joy. As a teacher, Dr. Hildreth wants students to enjoy school and make use of their valuable time around their teachers. 

Dr. Hildreth always asks his students three core questions which are the following: 

  1. What have you learned today? 
  2. What have you read today? 
  3. How did you make someone’s life better today? 

He asks these questions as he believes that we must develop a practice of consciously reflecting on our learning and sharing it with other people so that our brains can retain the information learned. Moreover, the purpose of those questions is habit. “We must develop a habit of thought that causes us to learn something everyday, read something everyday, and make someone’s day better everyday.” According to Dr.Hildreth, if we ask ourselves these questions everyday, we will acquire a fair amount of learning in a week, a lot of learning in a month, and an enormous amount of learning in a year. This exponential growth in learning expands our horizons and helps with the fruition of our goals. On the other hand, Dr. Hildreth recommends that we ask ourselves the reverse of the third question: How did someone make my life better today? This question helps build a perspective of gratitude, and appreciation to members of our community. 

According to Dr. Hildreth, a great challenge that we may encounter in life is change and living in the unexpected. It is normal to get disappointed when something doesn’t happen parallelly to our plan or goals. But, how we respond to those challenges is what matters. If we overcome the difficulties by trying again, finding another route to take, and not giving up, we will possess resiliency. 

“The question is not how many times you get knocked down, the question is how many times you stand back up” 

A big lesson Dr. Hildreth learned during his life is that he doesn’t have all the answers. When he was young he thought he knew more in life than he thinks he knows now. He affirms that as knowledge grows, our understanding that there is so much more to learn also grows. We don’t have to know everything because we can collaborate with other people to prosper together, hand in hand, as the sons and daughters of mother earth.

Finally, Dr, Hildreth wants the best education for all students and his kids. He wants all of his 3,011 students – whom he thinks of as family – to learn, read, be inspired, and make a difference. A great education opens doors to an abundance of opportunities.

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