Staff Spotlight: Derek Tano

Managing Director


Derek Tano has been directing pre-college and summer programs in the USA, Europe, and Asia for the past 6 years. He has earned an M.Ed. in Secondary Education from the University of Minnesota, and also holds two B.A. degrees; one in European history, and the other in Classical Archaeology. It was during his time working on his Master’s degree in education, that he developed World Class Programs’ unique “Experiential Method” of learning; the method by which all of our classes are taught.

When he is not overseeing World Class Programs, Derek is working on his Ph.D. in Ancient Roman Archaeology. His dissertation research is focused on the Roman colonization of Britain following the Claudian conquest.

His travels have taken him to every continent, and to over 100 countries. He is originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota but has lived and worked extensively in Italy. He has also spent a great deal of time in Japan, Great Britain, India, Australia, France, and The Netherlands.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memory is hands-down the first time I saw the Roman Forum in Rome. I was just 16 at the time, and it was my first visit to Italy.

I was a very passionate history student in high school at the time, but seeing the overwhelming scope and beauty of the Forum was truly breathtaking to me. In fact, I credit this very moment with my desire to pursue my various degrees in history and archaeology!

I have continued to be awed and amazed by the incredible sites I encounter in my travels, but this occasion, in particular, holds a place very close to my heart.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

As the Managing Director, I do in fact go on all of our programs (which can be tremendously fun, and rather exhausting all at the same time!). If I were to pick a personal favorite, I suppose I would choose either our Florence program or our Osaka program.

I would choose Florence because of just how much of Italy our students get to experience while abroad with us. The level of immersion and education they receive is remarkable. I also have a soft spot for Italy, given my educational background.

I would choose Osaka because of its vibrant cultural immersion opportunities and the myriad of wonderful independence-building experiences that it presents to our students (like climbing Mt. Fuji!). I also am a big fan of the food in Japan!

In truth, however, I really like each and every one of our programs for different reasons. Each one provides a fantastic study abroad experience for our high school students and is something that I deem invaluable for any young person to experience.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

Three large factors set World Class Programs apart from the other high school options available.

The first of which is our unparalleled dedication to our students' safety. We have a vast and multi-faceted approach to student safety that begins months before our students arrive, and continues all the way through the program duration. We also are the only company to have a dedicated Security Officer on each of our study abroad trips to address the individual safety needs of students personally.

Secondly, we structure all of our educational opportunities and class curriculum around the Experiential Learning Method of teaching. What this means is that our students learn in a hands-on environment, with nearly one-on-one instructor attention. This creates much higher learning outcomes than are noted in the typical classroom setting.

Third and finally, we are not a "home-stay" program. We rent apartments in the host city for our students to stay in while abroad with us. We do this as an added measure of safety, and to ensure that they receive the best quality of an abroad experience possible. This also helps our high school students prepare for the "dorm life" they will experience when they venture off to college

I am continuously overwhelmed with pride in my staff each year due to their flawless execution of these key components. It is through the application of these (and several other) factors that set us apart from other study abroad options.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

To me, the biggest factor in being a successful company, especially a study abroad company, is safety. The safety of the students is, and always should be, the number one priority of every program and staff member. Through a dedication to safety, a successful company can accomplish all the other factors needed to provide quality education, but without safety as the primary concern, the entire operation fails before it begins.

Safety also fosters a high level of trust between the program, and the families of the students who are enrolled. The trust we have with our families and with our alumni is something that I personally take great pride in each year, as this trust is the greatest compliment I and my staff can receive.

This trust and safety make up what I believe to be the largest part in being a "successful company." They are the foundation upon which all other aspects are built.