Moving up to the boss's chair as the Stratford School Pleasanton campus principal, Amina Saiyed knows the importance of encouraging creativity -- both for her students and her teachers.
She sometimes still builds instructional toys like a basic pulley or a bumpy road out of bubble wrap to help children understand engineering concepts. As a former civil engineer and now an educator, she said she understands both the importance of a well-structured education and the need to allow teachers to adapt lessons to their students' needs.
"You need the warmth and the nurture coupled with excellent facilities and absolutely wonderful curriculum. As an engineer, I love the math curriculum they offer," she said in an interview this week.
She added it's important for a principal to balance "the whole idea of having a standard curriculum, but at the same time giving the teachers liberty to be creative."
Stratford's Pleasanton campus, located on Willow Road, is a private school for preschool through eighth-grade students. The school emphasizes STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) concepts.
Saiyed said she has been with the private school organization for five years as a science specialist, elementary teacher and a vice principal. Prior to working at Stratford, she ran a preschool she founded in Pakistan.
She said she found her passion for education after studying to become a civil engineer. She holds degrees from Pakistan's NED University in civil engineering and early childhood education from UC Santa Cruz.
Her background in civil engineering helped her understand "how to create environments," including an atmosphere conductive to learning.
"A good teacher does not attempt to teach. He or she creates an environment that is conducive to learning. A warm, secure, and nurturing environment is a prerequisite to teaching. A lot of thought must be given to not only the physical setup of the classroom but also to the curriculum that will be taught," Saiyed said in a Stratford release.
She said she plans to nurture her staff, so they in turn can nurture their students. She also said she wants to encourage more parental involvement so families understand their role is equally important when it comes to creating life-long learners.
"I believe in parent partnership a lot. The child cannot work solely at school or at home. It has to be a partnership between the school and the home," she said.
Saiyed lives in Fremont with her husband. She has three adult children who are pursuing their education and careers.
Saiyed will meet parents, guardians and students at Pleasanton's downtown First Wednesday Street Party on May 4 at the Stratford booth and at the school's STEAM open house on May 14 from 1-3 p.m. at Stratford's Pleasanton campus.