Victoria Chiatula, Ph.D., is an educator, consultant, scholar, and the CEO & Founder of EdPro International, an Educational Management Organization. For Dr. Chiatula, education is a vocation and a life calling that has given her the opportunity and charge to empower others to create positive change. She serves, leads, and advocates for equity and access to improve the quality of life of children, young adults, and their families. We have had the great pleasure of working with Victoria for many years. She was the program director from 2013-2016 of our affiliated M.Ed. degree in Humane Education with Valparaiso University, presented at our Humane Education Conference in NYC, and now serves on IHE’s Curriculum Advisory Board.
IHE: Can you tell us about your path to becoming an educational leader and advocate for quality education for all young people? What inspired you to choose this profession?
Dr. Chiatula: I am an Igbo from Anambra state in Nigeria. I immigrated to the United States during my primary years of schooling and experienced firsthand the importance of promoting cross-cultural understanding in education. My identity as a bicultural immigrant in the United States has given me both an international perspective and an understanding of the benefits and challenges of teaching and learning within the “culture of difference.” Throughout various stages of my schooling, I experienced teaching and learning engineered to maintain hegemonic cultural perspectives and norms. This created dissonance for me and later informed my involvement in education for globalization through culturally competent teaching and learning practices to promote intercultural exchange and understanding.
IHE: What most needs to change to ensure that schooling is equitable, relevant, and successful for serving the needs of children and the world they will both inherit and shape?
Dr. Chiatula: According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO 2012), “to live in a more sustainable world, we need to rethink the purpose of our education systems as well as what is learned, what is tested, and how it is taught.” As an educator, this statement is a call to action to develop learning opportunities that engage and advocate for access to education, equity in educational settings, and quality educational content for all. From my professional and lived experience, we need to focus on education for capacity building and sustainable development within four areas:
- Pro-active Learning Framework – self-directed learning.
- Educational Innovation – diversifying teaching resources and developing innovative learning models to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all children.
- Technology Proficiency in Teaching and Learning – developing and using digital tools/devices and strategies integrated into the classroom instruction and broader community to improve learning and cognitive skills for creative and decision-making actions that enable student choice in the learning process towards self-actualization and social transformation.
- Intercultural Civic Engagement – helping children be responsive and empowered as problem-solvers in their own lives by identifying and addressing the needs of their communities and global issues to promote peace, human rights, diversity, and justice for inclusive societies and sustainable development.
IHE: Can you share some stories about successes you’ve experienced and/or seen that have reinforced your belief in the power of education?
Dr. Chiatula: My belief in the power of education led me to develop an alternative education model – Pro-active Learning Framework – which I articulated in a chapter in the United Nations anthology (2018), Capacity-building for sustainable development (pp. 170-186, Boston, MA: CABI—United Nations). Developing this framework encapsulates my life’s efforts in utilizing the power of education and places decision-making and responsibility directly in the hands of the learner.
Successes have come primarily through working with various groups to create community partnerships and program initiatives to improve educational equity and access for children in the areas of cultural competence, teacher preparation, literacy, numeracy, dropout prevention, parent engagement, and alternative education.
One example is the development and implementation of a reading initiative for Gary Community School Corporation, an urban district in Northwest Indiana. The initiative encouraged literacy and involvement of parents and local children’s authors. I created a reading mascot for elementary students and built a partnership with a local university as well as authors to paint renditions of book covers from favorite children’s books onto wooden chairs that were recycled from closed and abandoned district schools. The mascot traveled to all the elementary schools and libraries throughout the district to read to students and donate the books depicted on the wooden chairs.
IHE: What role do you see humane education playing within your education framework and initiatives?
Dr. Chiatula: Humane education principles have guided my work helping teachers understand, practice, and bring real-life issues of human rights, equity, and social justice into K-12 classrooms using pedagogies most pertinent to the furtherance of education for a global world. Humane education’s framework of connecting human rights, animal protection, and environmental ethics has shaped my advocacy initiatives with U.S. organizations and nonprofit agencies.