top of page

Enterprise Excellence Episode 13: Willy Wijnands

Updated: Nov 26, 2020


Welcome to Episode 13 of the Enterprise Excellence Podcast. I am so pleased to have with us on this episode Willy Wijnands, a teacher of over 44 years and founder to EduScrum and Co-Creator of Lightschools. Willy is passionate about building trust, freedom, teamwork, engagement, and personal development in the classroom. Willy has focused his career on developing the classrooms of the future for our generations to come. Willy, through his work with EduScrum, has defined a way to bring the best practices of Agile that so many of our largest organisations have used to create high achieving innovative cultures to the classroom.

I am looking forward to learning from Willy.


Willy has a genuine passion for seeing children grow and develop. He studied chemistry and realised after his degree that he no longer loved chemistry. He then found that a love of children took him to teach, specifically children aged from 11 to 18 as he sees them go through rapid human development as they approach adulthood. Through chemistry, Willy teaches the curriculum in an agile way. It is not about chemistry by the way! It is all about the growth of his students and giving his students a safe classroom to develop connection, trust and freedom.

In 2011, Willy attended a BBQ, drinking beer with friends and family. Jeff Sutherland had recently trained a friend's company for two days in Scrum. His friend showed him how to draw a scrum flip chart, and this gave Willy the idea that he was searching for to use in his classroom. After trying his first class in 2011 with 12-year-olds, and then rolling it out with other classes, he lost his 'control' of his class but gained much more - magic, enjoyment, freedom, space. His students knew that they were in control of their learning and enjoyed working in small teams.

Willy truly guides his students and coaches them through assignments and criteria. His focus is now on developing the 4C's in his students - collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

Using the agile approach, students save 2-3 hours of study time in a week. They finish 6-7 weeks earlier in the semester. The saved time brings freedom in allowing the students to uncover their own learning within chemistry.

Willy specifies the process that his students follow. See the transcript of this in the quotes section below.

What are the biggest impediments to learning in schools? Time and curriculum. We need a curriculum, but the curriculum needs refreshing in today's time- what is required by our companies? Students begin working in the companies and often need to unlearn their school curriculum and learn a new way of working in the companies.

Willy believes in creating a pull-based approach to implementation of EduScrum in schools. He believes rolling out the system with the handful of teachers who have an open mind to learning, and the guts to try something new. As the culture of these classrooms changes, other teachers begin noticing, and this creates the pull approach. Other teachers then want to change the way that they teach. No longer is teaching about standing in front imparting knowledge for 50 minutes in and out. No. It is about truly developing teamwork. The power of teamwork is incredible. You don't need to tell students; they will naturally feel the power of collaboration when it is facilitated in their classroom.

Why do companies like Google, Spotify, Apple, use agile techniques? Because it works. They would have discarded the practise if it did not work. There is a difference between 'doing' and 'being' agile. Sure, you need to practice the agile techniques that you learn through the scrum master course. But then, being able to 'be' agile requires embodying the philosophy into your life, which takes time. Willy draws the similarity to fighting a big opponent in martial arts - if you embody the flow, and act in the right moment, you will win. In teaching, you need to pick the right moment, and particularly know when not to interrupt the student's workflow.

Willy has resigned recently from teaching and is still passionate about empowering his students, now teachers and trains EduScrum all over the world. He has developed a new curriculum and school ecosystem without walls - online - called Light Schools. He connects people from across the globe and provides a platform for sharing passion and knowledge.



Key Takeaways

1. The power of empowered small teams with a clear objective in education – finish 6 weeks early and then move into self-directed extension learning

2. The approach takes pressure off the teachers, as it allows them to focus on the children who require greater help, without impacting the other more independent children.

3. The work readiness this provides for these children. They are learning best practices before they reach the workforce.


1:53 min To come in contact with the students, that is what I love and that is where I find my passion. I love children, I can educate them, and I use chemistry only as a tool to be involved with the students.

2:17 min When I see students 11-19 years old, I see them grow as a person, that is what I love to do, that is also my passion and my work. It is not about chemistry, it is about seeing the grow of the students as they perform, as they develop themselves, as they get the best out of it and what I do for that, I give them a safe environment in my classroom.

11:24 min For me it is an easy job, but I can imagine it can be quite a hard job. Why is it easy for me? Because I love my kids and I want to see growth in my kids and that is what I do.

12:25 min In the new way of working what we are doing, we bring more soft skills in it. So; collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

19:29 min What you will see mostly when I am in the classroom or another teacher in the classroom, is I walk around or sitting behind my desk, going from one team to another team and you see students working together, laughing together. And it’s working, real working.

22:15 min So first, we give them assignments. Second visit the why...there's a very good why to it. Then they form teams. After team formation they draw their own flips, which includes the name, the team logo, their "to do, busy, done", visit stories on it, visit celebration criteria. Celebration criteria is the same as acceptance criteria.

23:10 min Then they make working agreements, definition of fun, definition of doing, definition of communication. They make their own rules. That is mostly the left part of the left of the flip. On the right part, the working part, the right part, the 'to do, busy, done' task is the one they made by themselves. They also draw their own run up charts. The run up chart is the same as the burn down chart.

23:49min And impediments. So, the whole ceremonies and artifacts are on the flip and do the same as scrum. And the biggest impediments in school systems now are two things: curriculum and time.

27:12 min The way of teaching is not only sending out your information but make it interactive with your students and negotiate with your students. Ask them questions. You are not the old schoolteacher anymore who comes in the classroom and teaches for 50 minutes, go out, next 50 minutes, go out, no. Make it interactive and where you work in teams then there is a lot of interactivity into the class.

The students are not used to it, that they are working together in teams. The benefit of teams, I don’t need to tell it but the big companies like Google, Apple…Spotify all work in teams and the power of teams is incredible.

113 views0 comments


bottom of page