Miguel Ladeira Santos, CEO, International Sharing Schools

In the ever-changing field of education, Miguel Ladeira Santos stands out for his unique approach. The visionary CEO behind International Sharing Schools (ISS), Miguel’s path to education wasn’t a straightforward one. He first made a name for himself in luxury hospitality, owning multiple hotel operations along the way. However, fate had other plans for him. He ended up working with his family at a small international school on Madeira Island, Portugal. “Life is full of surprises,” Miguel reflects, “and sometimes, the unexpected turns lead to the most rewarding adventures.”

The inception of International Sharing School – Oeiras in 2018 marked a significant milestone. As Miguel assumed the role of CEO, ISS’s journey began, encompassing ISS Madeira and ISS Oeiras. What sets ISS apart, according to Miguel, is its community-driven philosophy. “We’ve grown to include 1000 students and 250 staff, but at heart, we’re still a tight-knit family,” he proudly states.

Miguel’s vision for education transcends traditional boundaries. His mission took him to the heart of Africa, where he spearheaded the opening of four schools, each a testament to his dedication to innovation. “Education is about kindling curiosity and creativity,” he emphasizes. “We wanted to create a model that nurtures not only knowledge but also the love of learning itself.”

Miguel’s unique perspective on hospitality adds a distinctive touch to education. He believes that hospitality goes beyond hotel walls; it’s about welcoming, connecting, and leaving indelible memories. At ISS, this philosophy takes root in the form of an inclusive and warm community. “Our school isn’t just a place of learning; it’s a place of belonging,” Miguel asserts.

Classrooms at ISS defy conventional norms. They are open, collaborative spaces designed to ignite curiosity and foster teamwork. “We’re creating an environment where learning is an adventure,” Miguel shares. “We want students to explore, ask questions, and shape their understanding of the world.”

A Space for Collaboration and Inquiry

A school’s physical space can be a powerful tool for fostering learning, and at International Sharing Schools (ISS), the innovative approach to space planning reflects this belief. Instead of retrofitting classrooms to fit curriculum constraints, ISS boldly designed its buildings around the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. Miguel shares, “Our mission was clear: create spaces that mirror the natural impulse of humans to collaborate, work together, and socialize while sharing diverse experiences.”

The ISS campus showcases this philosophy, featuring different types of learning spaces. Some areas are tailored for collaborative endeavors, while others offer solitude and focus. Each space boasts distinct seating arrangements, materials, and ergonomic designs, all carefully crafted to respect individuality and cater to students’ unique needs. The result? An educational environment that goes beyond just an inquiry-based curriculum; it’s an inquiry-based school.

In 2019, ISS embarked on a monumental transformation journey. They acquired an old 7,000-square-meter microchip factory and, in a remarkable feat, refurbished the entire facility into a cutting-edge learning haven within just three months. Miguel recalls it as a sprint and a monumental achievement, marking a pivotal milestone in implementing their innovative learning and working methods. The transformed space solidified ISS’s standing as one of the world’s most forward-thinking schools.

Today, both ISS buildings have shed the traditional school appearance, resembling more of a Google office. Their Oeiras campus has grown to accommodate 700 students, a significant achievement as they enter their fifth year in the Lisbon area. Miguel emphasizes, “Expanding our community isn’t just a business goal; it’s integral to realizing the full potential of our educational model. A larger community allows us to broaden our offerings, leverage our team’s expertise, and ultimately benefit everyone involved.”

ISS recently forged a significant partnership with Dukes Education Group, underscoring the high value of their educational project and their effective leadership over the past five years. This partnership not only validates ISS’s commitment to excellence but also opens doors to new opportunities and resources that will further enrich the educational experience for students and teachers alike.

Building a Unique Community

At the core of International Sharing Schools (ISS) beats a unique and vibrant community spirit that has been instrumental in their growth. Miguel emphasizes, “Being intimately connected with our community is the essence of our mission. By collaborating and understanding their needs, fears, and concerns, we can better serve them.” It’s this commitment to the community that has not only propelled their growth but also nurtured the well-being of everyone within the school.

One of the pillars of ISS is its robust service culture, centered on delivering the best educational experience to the community. Miguel states, “Our service culture isn’t just about growth; it’s about the overall well-being of our school community. This is something we take immense pride in.”

The magic of ISS extends beyond the classroom. Students have had the opportunity to stay in the group-owned hotels during school trips, providing a unique perspective on hospitality. Additionally, after-school activities take place in Miguel’s own Padel Venue, fostering a holistic learning experience.

The harmony between ISS’s various activities is striking. Miguel points out, “Our investments outside of ISS always align with our school’s spirit and leadership ethos: sustainability and a human-centered focus on the well-being of our team and the enjoyment of our customers.” Whether it’s programs in photography, image and video editing, or media investments, there’s always a thread that ties back to their core values.

Expanding Horizons and Innovating Continuously

International Sharing Schools (ISS) is not just a school; it’s a living, breathing educational project. Miguel shares, “We see ISS as a project, one that will never truly be finished. It’s a dynamic experiment in learning and working, an evolving laboratory where we’re constantly exploring new ways to enhance the educational experience.”

The future of ISS involves significant expansion. In Madeira, they’re creating new facilities to extend their unique educational model, while in Oeiras, where they have 140,000 square meters of land, substantial investments are being made to further develop their existing facilities. These spaces serve as the canvas for their ever-evolving approach to education. Miguel states, “Our commitment is to keep growing and evolving. We want to offer the best educational experience to our students.”

ISS’s educational model is a trailblazer, producing positive results. But Miguel emphasizes that it’s a work in progress. “Each term, we introduce something new based on our observations, experiences, and data analysis. We believe that there’s always room for improvement to better serve our students, teachers, and families.” This commitment to adaptation and growth is at the core of ISS’s success.

The future of ISS is filled with promise. They’ve acquired a historic building in the heart of Funchal, Madeira, which will soon transform into a state-of-the-art school, aligning with their mission and vision. Additionally, new construction projects are in the pipeline, expanding their footprint. Miguel reflects, “Our expansion isn’t just about physical space; it’s about expanding our vision of what education can be.”

A Focus on Extracurricular Enrichment

Extracurricular activities are a priority for ISS. They’ve invested significantly in sports, building three brand-new sports fields and state-of-the-art music studios. International trips are planned, not just for sports teams but also for Model United Nations events. Music Academy performances are on the agenda, showcasing student talent. Miguel underlines, “These experiences outside the classroom are vital for holistic development.”

With their new sports facilities, ISS aims not only to provide top-notch conditions for their teams but also to host tournaments for other schools. Miguel states, “We want to share our unique sense of hospitality, our multicultural environment, and our nurturing atmosphere with others.” It’s a reflection of ISS’s commitment to community and collaboration.

A Vision for Progress

In the dynamic landscape of education, it’s imperative to have a clear mission and vision for educational projects. Miguel emphasizes, “There are various paths to evolution, and it’s crucial to understand that just because other schools follow a particular route, it doesn’t mean we should blindly follow. True innovation in education isn’t merely about adopting technology; it’s about changing the very essence of how we learn and work.”

Miguel believes that technology is a tool, not the endpoint of innovation. “Using technology efficiently is a given in today’s world,” he notes. “The real innovation lies in reshaping the way students and teachers collaborate, understanding each individual’s unique preferences and needs, and encouraging diverse solutions. It’s about nurturing data analysis and critical thinking skills to make informed, conscious decisions.”

Advice for Aspiring Visionaries

For those embarking on their own projects, Miguel offers valuable advice. “Believe in your vision and work tirelessly to bring it to life,” he says. “But also, be open to the idea that your vision and mission may evolve over time. Adaptation is a natural part of the process, and sometimes, adjusting your course is essential while staying true to your core motivation.”

Undoubtedly, International Sharing Schools isn’t just an institution; it’s a dynamic ecosystem where education, community, and purpose converge. Miguel Ladeira Santos and his team are not just educators; they’re architects of an interconnected world of learning and growth.

For more Info: https://sharingschool.org/

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