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Wakefield Elementary principal will become educator in Abu Dhabi

Wakefield Elementary Principal Victoria Privott talks about her move to UAE

Wakefield Elementary Principal Victoria Privott talks about her upcoming move to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photos and video by Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newsobserver.com
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Wakefield Elementary Principal Victoria Privott talks about her upcoming move to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photos and video by Ethan Hyman/ehyman@newsobserver.com

Victoria Privott started her career in education 17 years ago in Charlotte as an English teacher and young mother. She dreamed of traveling, but it wasn’t possible at the time, so she read books about far-away places.

Now those dreams are becoming reality.

Privott recently finished the school year as principal at Wakefield Elementary School in North Raleigh. Later this month, she will board a plane for Abu Dhabi, where she will serve as an academic vice principal at an all-girls elementary school.

“I’ve been interested in international education for years,” said Privott, who turns 45 this month.

She said the two-year job opportunity satisfied her desire to travel and played into her professional strengths. Her children are now adults, so she doesn’t have to worry about uprooting her family for her career.

Privott said the city of Abu Dhabi, which has a population of more than 2 million people, has made a concerted effort in recent years to reform its education system. That appeals to her.

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates, a country near the Persian Gulf. In recent years, the territory has focused on including the private sector in education and also on catering to international students and subjects, according to the government website.

Privott came to Wakefield Elementary from the Washington, D.C., area in 2012.

The school, which has nearly 700 students, has dedicated staff members and parents, she said.

During the 2013-14 school year, 57 percent of students at Wakefield Elementary tested at or above grade level. That was slightly higher than the statewide average but below the Wake County average of 66.6 percent.

Until she came to Wakefield, Privott said, she was drawn to schools that needed extra support and help to reach their goals.

“If there are areas that are broken, I want to be part of helping it,” Privott said.

The education system in Abu Dhabi is trying to recruit educators from all over the world in an effort to promote diversity and foster achievement, according to the city’s website. Privott used a recruiter to secure her position.

She expects her new job halfway around the world will be similar to her position at Wakefield. Abu Dhabi’s schools are relatively successful, so Privott and other international educators will try to support the mission of the school system, called the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

“We’re being hired because of our expertise (and) because the quality of our education here,” Privott said. “This isn’t a mission trip. (Abu Dhabi) has resources there, they just want the best.”

Privott said she had a moment of spiritual clarity during a trip to Africa seven years ago. She had big ideas that she could help improve children’s lives in Africa.

But she realized it requires a bigger effort. She knew she would be called to do similar work in other places.

To prepare, Privott has been studying the culture of Abu Dhabi. The area operates under a monarchy and is currently ruled by the Al Nahyan royal family. Privott plans to wear an abaya, a long, black cloak women wear in Muslim countries.

“I want them to know I respect their culture,” Privott said.

For now, Privott plans to return to the United States after two years. But she is open to staying in Abu Dhabi for longer, if the chance is offered to her.

“I’ve been waiting for these opportunities,” she said.

Hankerson: 919-829-4802;

Twitter: @mechelleh

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