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From Teacher to VP: Daniel’s Story
Anyone who aspires to learn English, whether for work or for travel, knows what a difference it can make to your future. But it's not only students who have discovered the life-changing impact of ESL. When Daniel Kovacs started as a Higher Intermediate teacher at Kaplan’s Chicago school, he never imagined that his passion for teaching English would change his life.
Today, Daniel holds the highest academic title in Kaplan International North America, Director of Academic Operations. Find out how Daniel went from English teacher to one of the most influential positions at Kaplan.
Chasing a dream
Daniel’s love for the English language didn’t just start with Kaplan. In 2008 he returned to the US after living and teaching English in China, an experience that inspired him to pursue a career teaching back home.
“I think teaching is more rewarding than any other job I’ve ever had. There is nothing that matches that feeling of really helping somebody and seeing them walk away and knowing that you’ve changed their life.”
He spent the better part of a decade working with all kinds of students, from elementary school and university students to international business professionals.
Rising through the ranks
Ironically, it was his clear passion for education and his dedication to his students that pulled him away from the classroom. Kaplan saw a drive in him that was unique and inspiring, which is why he quickly stepped into the role of Kaplan Chicago’s Academic Manager.
In his new position, Daniel led a team of teachers rather than just a room full of students. He hired staff and managed the school’s academic initiatives to ensure that Kaplan’s students were getting the most out of their academic experience.
Since then, five more promotions came along with jobs in New York, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Boston. He worked with Kaplan as a School Director, Regional Academics Manager and finally Director and Vice President, but to this day his heart and his focus remain in the classroom.
A new perspective
For Daniel, his new position allows him to strive for development and excellence at a higher level, but his experience as a teacher provides the perspective to make the best possible choice for students.
“I think it’s essential to have people with an academic background in management positions. You need to be able to see how your decisions trickle down into the classroom.”
While Daniel now divides his time between developing new academic products, revising course curriculum and providing guidance to academic managers and teachers from 20 schools, he often returns to the classroom to connect with students.
“It’s easy to get out of touch if you sit in an office. I like getting involved and going back to basics. To this day, I still teach a class, and stay grounded and remember how the decisions we make are affecting people.”
Teaching a new generation of students
Interacting with students not only helps Daniel relive his days as a teacher, but it also allows him to experience new technologies now used at Kaplan schools and understand the needs of current students.
“Things have changed since I was a teacher. We are now using smart boards, we have online practice lessons, students are using their phones to complete assignments; we are using a lot of technology. I think it’s important for us, especially in senior management, to see what people are doing these days and to see how we can enhance their experience.”
Today, Daniel serves as Regional Vice President of Operations – overseeing the schools in Boston Harvard Square and his home turf, Chicago.
“Our product is education, if students aren’t getting the best education; we are not doing our job. We have an obligation to give them the best experience. I never want somebody walking away from Kaplan thinking, ‘I could have had a better experience somewhere else.’ That is what drives me now.”
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