Overview

Jim Heal is Director of Special Initiatives at Deans for Impact. Prior to joining DFI, he worked on developing research-to-practice strategies for schools and school systems. Earlier in his career, Jim worked for an education consultancy firm and as a high school teacher and leader. He received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Leicester, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from King’s College London, and a master’s in School Leadership and doctorate in Education Leadership from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

When/why did you start working in education?

My first taste of teaching was in my early twenties when I returned to my old high school to teach a course on literary adaptations in film. Despite some clumsy moments, my interest was sufficiently piqued that I decided to move to Spain where I taught EAL for two years at, among other places, Real Madrid Football Club! Those early experiences confirmed for me that teaching was the hardest and best job in the world – so I returned the following year to join a program of teacher education.


Why were you excited to join Deans for Impact?

To paraphrase Dan Willigham, we have come to understand more about how humans learn in the last twenty-five years than we did in the previous 2,500. Despite such progress, there is so much more we can do to better prepare teachers in service of a more just system of education. One of the most powerful instruments for that change is the role learning science can play in helping teachers fulfill their potential.


Why do Deans for Impact's guiding principles ring true for you?

One of DFI’s core values is to Practice Good Pedagogy. This means we create learning environments where all voices are heard, we gather evidence to inform our decisions, and we design learning activities with the end in mind – all of which represent for me the importance of “walking the talk” when it comes to the fundamental aspects of our work.


Who was your favorite teacher, and why?

My favorite teacher was Mr. Smith, my high school English teacher. He was the first teacher who had an unblinking belief in my emerging abilities as a writer, coupled with unwavering high expectations around what was achievable if I focused my attention in the right way. Because of him, I came to discover the agony and the joy of putting pen to paper.


What's your favorite food truck, and why?

Since food trucks aren’t as big in the UK and certainly aren’t a staple in my hometown of Brighton, I’m going to bend the rules and say: Buddies 24-hour Diner. If you’re interested in a full English breakfast at any time of day or night, they’re always there.


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