Honoring individuals who exemplify HighScope’s values.
In celebration of HighScope’s 50th anniversary, we are recognizing individuals who have been essential to the growth and success of our curriculum and approach. We like to think of them as our “HighScope Heroes.”
Meet HighScope Hero
ZAHIRA KASSEM — “They used to call me Miss HighScope.”
Administrative Manager, Early Learning Prep
Zahira Kassem’s love of teaching began when she was just a child in Lebanon. “I come from a big family, and from the time I was very young I took care of my siblings and taught them at home,” remembers Zahira. It was natural, then, that when Zahira relocated to the United States in 1986, her passion turned into her profession. Her first job was as a teacher’s assistant with the YWCA M&M Head Start Center in Dearborn, Michigan.
In 2005, while working as a lead teacher at the YWCA Head Start of Western Wayne County in Inkster, Michigan, Zahira was introduced to the HighScope philosophy. “I was so eager to learn more about HighScope’s active learning approach,” she says. “And I knew I needed more training.”
Three years later, she took her career to a new level and became a HighScope certified teacher. Zahira’s HighScope training and passion helped prepare her for a career-defining role as the director of the Bambi Land Learning Center in Dearborn, Michigan, a Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) preschool center where she worked from 2016 until 2020.
During her tenure, she was instrumental in implementing the HighScope Curriculum in the center’s classrooms, as well as spearheading training and best practices for the teaching staff. The HighScope approach was so successful in supporting children’s learning at Bambi Land that many parents called Zahira to find out what the center was doing differently. “I told them we were using HighScope. They used to call me Miss HighScope.”
“HighScope works on building the child’s personality and social skills. I think when children learn social skills and self-esteem, they learn the academic part better.”
It was a Bambi Land colleague and teacher, Shontel Harris, who nominated Zahira as a HighScope Hero. Shontel says: “Zahira has worked with hundreds of children of different development levels and is an excellent leader in the HighScope method, constantly gaining and sharing new knowledge. She allows children to develop at their own pace and, at the same time, she scaffolds their learning in ways that are developmentally appropriate.”
Zahira, who recently stepped into a new position as the administrative manager at Early Learning Prep in Detroit, says she believes in HighScope’s active learning curriculum. “HighScope works on building the child’s personality and social skills. I think when children learn social skills and self-esteem, they learn the academic part better.”
Creating unique active learning experiences for the students is a hallmark of Zahira’s work. “I want students to use their imagination and explore,” she says. Zahira remembers the time a YWCA Head Start student, who was going with his family to visit Chicago, used a simple roll of masking tape to envision his trip. “He started tearing the tape and creating a highway,” she explains. “Then he added some toy cars and a big box as a tall building. He created his whole trip.”
Zahira says she is a lifelong fan and supporter of HighScope and its ever-evolving curriculum based on the latest research findings in early childhood development. She stays informed by taking advantage of HighScope’s professional learning opportunities, which she now attends virtually. “I am thrilled to be named a HighScope Hero,” she notes, “and I want to continue to support students and teachers by using this successful teaching method.”