What Does Success Look Like to You? — Dal Sohi

What Does Success Look Like to You? — Dal Sohi
Dal Sohi

Dal Sohi is a former education official and school leader. Freshly retired from teaching as of June 2021, Dal amassed a tremendous breadth of experience during his 35 year career, having taught students in four countries and multiple regions. During the past year, he decided to put his extensive collection of knowledge of teaching to good use, forming K-12 Solutions, a consulting agency designed to improve educational processes and put students at the center of decision-making.

Originally from British Columbia in Canada, Dal Sohi spent his adult life traveling the globe. He has visited more than 50 countries, along the way becoming fluent in the French, Punjabi, and Mandarin languages in addition to his native English. In 2003, Dal left his position as the principal of a dual-language elementary school in his home province of British Columbia and accepted a role at Atlanta International School in Atlanta, Georgia because he was intrigued by the challenges posed by its ambitious, multilingual curriculum. He remained there for seven years, initially as the Head of Primary School, but later promoted to the Head of Curriculum and Professional Development K-12.

As a new decade dawned, Dal Sohi began to look outside North America for his next opportunity. He was soon recruited by the International School of Beijing. He spent three years as that institution’s Head of Elementary. As his time in China drew to a close, Dal found a new role as the Head of School at the Alexander Dawson School in Las Vegas, Nevada. From there, he moved to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, assuming the position as Head of School at Dar Al Marefa. He would finish his extraordinary career Stateside, at Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, California.

As far as credentials, Dal Sohi holds a BA in Sociology, a Master’s in Education, and an Educational Specialist’s degree in Instructional Leadership. Through his varied roles as a Head of School, Principal, and Head of Curriculum and Professional Development, he has accumulated a comprehensive understanding of all educational and logistical elements of school operations. His leadership experience includes three years spent as President of a 50 member Principals and Vice-Principals Association. Dal has also participated on accreditation teams in six countries across four continents.

In his new role as an educational consultant and entrepreneur, Dal Sohi is excited to share his training, experience, and unique insights with schools all over the world through K-12 Solutions.


Can you share a little about the early days of your company? 

I wanted to create a place where schools could come and access any information or insights that they might need to help them with their practices. With K-12 Education Solutions, I offer educational counseling and strategic planning services. I focus on international education because I’ve worked in four different countries on leadership teams and have a wealth of experience developing transitions. After working for 17 years in public education and 18 years in private education, I feel like I bring a lot of knowledge to the role. I’ve also worked in three international schools with populations representing 30 to 60 countries, and I’ve been the head of three bilingual schools in three different countries.


How have you achieved success?

The most important thing for me has always been to keep learning. When I made the decision to embark on an international teaching career, it gave me access to pedagogies and strategies from around the world because we worked with teachers who came from everywhere. Each of those teachers brought a different set of skills, so it was about taking the best of what every person brought and creating synergies, as well as learning how to get a broader and more unique grasp of education.


What obstacles have you overcome in the process?

In the early stages of consulting, we were still in the pandemic, so there weren’t a lot of opportunities to work directly with schools and get a good sense for their in-person atmosphere. At the end of the day, most schools want to make the student experience better, and you can’t get a feel for what the student experience is unless you’re watching it unfold and interacting with them inside a school. Overcoming this obstacle came organically as the public health restrictions that accompanied COVID-19 eased and schools across the world returned to the pre-pandemic style of operations.


What drives you to succeed?

Every school is unique and has nuances that you pick up when you’re on the ground. You can gather a lot of information about what a school values by what they put on the walls, their classroom dynamics, and even the layout of the building itself. Additionally, hearing the conversations that take place between teachers, students, and parents gives you a deeper understanding of that school, their mission, and how aligned their practices are with successfully executing their mission. I’m driven to succeed by observing all of these elements and synthesizing the information to create a better, more student-centered educational experience.


How has your definition of success changed over the years? 

I don’t think it has. My definition of success has always been doing what’s best for students in the classroom. What has changed is that the definition of doing what’s right for students encompasses so much more now than it did when I started teaching. In the past, we were much more focused on the educational aspects and there wasn’t enough focus on social-emotional learning and making sure that wellness was incorporated into the student experience. What’s become clear over the last decade is that students are under enormous pressure and face a wide range of issues around depression and anxiety. We need to be attentive to that. If you look at Maslow’s Hierarchy, it will tell you that people can’t learn at high levels if their basic needs aren’t being met and there isn’t an ecosystem of safety and security in place. For the welfare of students, educators have to first create such an ecosystem, and then learning gets scaffolded on top of that.


What has success meant to you?

My success really revolves around student success. I can’t be successful unless students are successful, so I measure my own success by whether they’re happy, learning, and thriving, whether they have healthy social relationships, and whether they’re well-rounded with exposure to athletics, the arts, and extracurricular activities. Whenever we create a learning environment and take care of a student’s needs holistically, that constitutes success to me.


Do you have advice for others on how to be successful?

Make the main thing the main thing. For me, it’s ensuring that my students have a solid sense of well-being and self-concept, to make sure they are internationally minded, and to make sure they are learning  and properly equipped to face the future.


How do you feel success affects a person’s outlook? 

Because I’ve had so much exposure to different countries and cultures, I personally think it’s important that students are not only well-educated in their country, but that they also have a global understanding. It’s important to develop a sense of perspective and help students understand that people’s experiences inform their opinions. It’s also important to understand that sometimes there is more than one right answer to any given question. Your right answer may not be the same as someone else’s right answer because they’ve experienced life differently. I want to make sure that, as educators, we develop citizens who are empathetic, compassionate, understanding, and accepting in their communities as well as larger communities and the global community. To me, that outlook is a recipe for success.