Phuket Has Been Good To Us

Working to improve the economic opportunities and life chances of young people, by funding and implementing high quality, practical English language education in government schools on Phuket Island.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

My Journey to becoming Teacher S

“How do you want kids to call you?”
“Teacher Esra”
“Thai kids will have a problem pronouncing your name… think of a shorter name”
“Perhaps I will use one letter... Teacher S, is that okay?”

And that is how I became ‘Teacher S’ in Thailand folks! I would have never thought that I would get a ‘rebranding’ after leaving the Philippines for the Land of Smiles. Just like our names that vary, they say that a teacher wears different hats in school - friend, cheerleader, and counselor to name a few. We can be all these things in a day, three years into teaching and I am convinced. Teachers take on different characters because we have big responsibilities. Some may say that teaching is an easy job. If that is the case, then anyone could do it. Real teaching calls for someone who has a brave heart to educate a group of kids with different backgrounds; likes, dislikes and opinions - and not lose him/her self in the process. Ergo, who can keep a SANE mind at the end of every school day. 
Sandwiched between two of the best teachers in the world, my Mama (mom) and Lola (grandmom) | May 2015

Group photo with Pre-service teachers Majoring in Special Education, UST | March 2015

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for kids. From an early age I was already exposed to this field of educating. My Mom, who teaches in a government school used to bring me along to her classes. I just sat quietly in the back and listened as she taught the parts of our digestive system. At age 8 I knew that apart from the stomach, we have small and large intestines which aid in digesting food. My Mom answered questions and explained things in ways her students and my young brain could absorb. My Grandmother and some of my Aunts are equally amazing teachers just like my Mom. This may sound too uncool, but I am one of the few people who enjoys going to school, likes learning new things and loves taking exams. I owe my love of learning to my Mom, Grandmom and all my great teachers. Hence, when I had to choose a course in university, a degree in Education was my first choice. I love learning and I want to inspire students with my passion for education. Consequently, I got a degree in Bachelor of Elementary Education and Majored in Special Education from the University of Santo Tomas. A couple of months after graduation, I took and passed the licensure exam for teachers.

Proud smiles ‘cos we got our teacher’s license | Dec 2015

In my first teaching job I handled students with autism, learning disabilities, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. As their special education teacher, I made IEP (Individualized Education Program) for each student; considering their respective developmental pediatrician’s recommendations as well as their parents’ views. I worked with other specialists (occupational therapists, speech pathologists, etc.) and have learned so much from them. My greatest take away from working with a dynamic team was that no man is an island. Although I wanted to do things on my own for my students, I realised that I may be shortchanging them because I may not be exceptionally well in doing some things. Hence, I learned to ask for help. To outsource and find other people (e.g. therapists) who can do better. Teaching kids with special needs is very challenging and very fulfilling at the same time. Whether big or small milestones, all are equally celebrated by parents and teachers.

Behavior therapists joined Angels Walk: a walk for autism | Jan 2016

On Thursdays, we (were asked to) wear ‘Thai dress’. | Nov 2017

Aside from teaching, I also trained and worked as a behavioral therapist for a year, following Dr. Lovaas’ Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. Through such training and experiences, I have developed key strengths in handling both kids and adults with behavioral problems. As a behavior therapist, I had to teach students in a one-on-one setting for at least two consecutive hours in a day.  Parents often pressure us therapists to perform well because such therapy sessions are costly in the Philippines. Some would even pull their kids out of the special needs school and just rely on therapy for intervention. This new kind of work environment made me continue to spread awareness and clear SPED misconceptions of families that I have worked with. I had to explain the difference between the two a countless amount of times; why both are essential and one can never compensate the other. Philippines has still a long way to go for special education awareness. I just hope that more laws and bills will be passed to benefit people with special needs in the future.

In 2017, I decided to move to Thailand. During my first year, I taught conversational English to Thai students in a small town located in the northeastern part of Thailand: Sikhiu, Nakhonratchasima. I lived in Manila for 7 years but I never felt safe there. Surprisingly, this small town which some Thais would not even be familiar with, made me feel secure from the very first day. The people there were some of the nicest and kindest people I have ever met. Our Thai co-workers tagged us along on their temple visits, brought us to provinces in the north, explained their Thai culture and love for King, and made us eat sticky rice using bare hands. The most important value that Thai people hold to is respect. Respect for the King, respect for elders, parents and government officials. Hence, most of my students in Sikhiu are well-mannered and respectful of teachers. My first year in Thailand was great because of the wonderful memories I have had with them. Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. I had to leave them and find a place where I can help more kids and serve a bigger purpose. I found out about PHBGTU through my college friend and colleague - Vezah, who happened to have joined same volunteer work as mine back in the days in Uni.

Volunteers in action: Vezah and I during Starkey Hearing Foundation event and Ursuline Christmas Party | Dec 2013

So far, it has been a pleasure teaching English to Thai kids in Baan Kalim School and RPG 36. I, myself, have also learned so much from them. They taught me how to become a better teacher amidst the language barrier.  I have gained wonderful relationships not only with the students, but also with their Thai teachers. I enjoy after-school coconut club activities and look forward to Saturday swimming just as much as the kids. I feel grateful that I am part of this wonderful organisation that helps underprivileged students. I am very much looking forward to continue inspiring youth through Phuket Has Been Good To Us.

Saturday swimming with Mathayom residential students at Thanyapura | June 2018

-Esra aka Teacher S

Teaching Anuban in Baan Kalim School | May 2018

Thursday, October 4, 2018

End of first term 2018:

From Teacher Yulya's Perspective  

As the first semester at the Kamala school has come to an end, the students have completed their Thai subjects and English exams and are now enjoying a holiday break.

This academic year, I am teaching Primary 1 to Primary 6 classes. In the first term, we focused on vocabulary building, reading, and communicating skills. At the beginning of the year, all of my students showed great enthusiasm and eagerness to learn English, especially the little ones - my Primary 1 class. However, I must admit that it is still hard for them to get to used to chairs and tables designed for grown kids and keep focused during the lesson. For many of those students it was the first time they practiced English but they bravely paid very close attention in the classroom and actively participated in all classroom activities. I believe students have learnt a lot in this semester as their final grades show. The overall average mark for the class was 80% - yayy!

My primary 5 class is the class with the highest overall result in English amongst all  the classes I teach. They are well-behaved and very helpful students.  This class is always eager to learn and love to participate in classroom activities. For this term we have been working on their reading skills and they have shown great improvements.  The ability for them to read opens many opportunities for children as their vocabulary greatly expands. Each and every one of them is proud of the achievement of being able to read words and especially books in our reading corner.
My primary 5 students

In the past term, I have also focused on teaching grammar and building their vocabulary. We had many vocabulary and reading activities in the classroom and I am glad to say that we really had fun! In this term we have gone above and beyond our learning capacity!  The students have amazed me with their efforts and motivation. Their will to learn has only grown as the term went on and I look forward to this same attitude in the new term after the holidays. 

We have continued our Coconut club sessions (after school activity for residential students).  Every afternoon was always the best part of the day for anyone working or volunteering with Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation. Every week we had regular activities such as guitar sessions, bingo, skateboarding, fun games and outdoor activities with teachers and volunteers. Every Tuesdays I was also able to help to our new volunteer from Australia –teacher Jez. Jez is a talented musician and is able to play different musical instruments.  He joined our Coconut Club to teach children how to play guitar and share his passion of music. Our little “coconuters” absolutely loved it! Even though it is hard for little girls to grip the guitar strings, they were happy to participate and gain new experiences all the same.

Its guitar time in Coconut Club  


At our lastest fundraising event I had an amazing opportunity to be involved too. Our staff, volunteers and friends of the foundation organized a marvelous event that took place in Café Del Mar in Kamala. My job during the event was to entertain children by painting their cute faces. Our little guests loved it! And so did I. I really get inspired and creative when it comes to arts. I was more than happy to help the foundation and be a part of the fundraising team. Click here to see photos. 

Facepainting at Family Fun Fiesta Charity Event 

As the first semester has come to an end, I wish all the students good luck in their end of term exam grades and I hope they will have a great holiday full of joy and adventures. I look forward to seeing them again in November! 

Thank you Phuket Condos and Homes for sponsoring me this academic year and giving me the opportunity to mould the minds of our young students. 

- Teacher Yulya 


Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Teacher Vezah's story:

On Becoming a Teacher

                “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I have asked this question multiple times to my students now as a teacher. As a student in the past, I have answered this question multiple times to my teachers, and my answer is always the same. I want to be a teacher. This is the dream that I know I am sure of.

                “The best legacy parents can give to their children is Education – it is our weapon against the challenges in this world.”

      I was born in one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. My parents are not rich either. Growing up, I was aware of how precious education is. Although education is our right, not everyone has the capability to send their children to school, and if they can, quality education is questionable. I always consider myself blessed that despite the fact that my parents were only earning money to sustain our daily needs, they worked extra hard for me and my sister’s education. They sent us to one of the best school in our province (elementary to high school) and in the Philippines (college).

           If my memory is not mistaken, my love for teaching started when I was still in Kindergarten, 4 years old. In my tiny room, I had a blackboard and a small cabinet filled with children’s encyclopedias which my mother paid through monthly installment. On my own, I would play pretend to be both the teacher and the student. I would read a line or two from the book and explain it to myself using broken English but often times I would give up and speak in dialect. Then, I would give myself a test either through oral recitation or written test. I remembered my father laughing at me when he found one of my self-made written tests. “You gave yourself a test? Why didn’t you give yourself a 100% mark?”, he said. I wasn’t embarrassed, I felt proud still. I had never liked playing with dolls; this is the kind of play I enjoyed.

   When I reached high school, people who knew about my dream discouraged me: telling me how little a teacher’s salary is, and that I should go for better-paying profession. The more money I will earn, the happier my life will become. I decided to stay silent, but in that silence I become more eager to fulfill my dream. I am moved by stories of students who would walk across mountains just to be at school. Children from poor families whose only wish is to graduate inspired me.
Without a doubt, I took Bachelors in Elementary Education Major in Special Education at the University of Santo Tomas. College marked another story in my life. Being with people with special needs changed my perception of life. My interaction doesn’t limit to kids but with adults as well. These people opened my heart and ignited my passion for teaching. This is the time I decided that I don’t just want to be a teacher who teaches but a teacher who affects not only the mind but the heart. Teaching them made me realize that life is not about who comes first or who does it best because life is neither a race nor a competition. Life is a journey in which every day is a hope, and the teacher uses that hope and turns it into a possibility. Life is also about celebration success. As the movie title goes, “Every Child is Special”, the success of a child is different from the other. Their talents and needs differ, thus their success may differ. It may be as simple as being able to dress oneself independently or being able to count from one – twenty. These may seem very little but celebrating these little things makes life joyful.

“Teaching is everyone's bread and butter but only a few cups of tea.”

                At the age of 19, I tasted my first mouthful of bittersweet reality - I finally became a teacher. I was a kindergarten adviser and was assigned to teach all the subjects. I was assigned to teach Grade 1 – Integrated English and Science wherein I taught two lessons (one for English and another for Science) at the same time. This first mouthful of bittersweet reality brought great impact in my journey on becoming a teacher, it taught me valuable lessons that I didn’t learn at school. I learned to listen not only to my students but to other teachers whose skills were honed through time. I was able to see clearly how important the role of the teacher in the development of the children; how a single praise could mean so much for a child that it could greatly affect his confidence. However, the greatest lesson that I learned was the sacrifices of a teacher. A teacher cares for her student, even if she has so many she still cares for each as if they were the only one she had.

                After a year of teaching in the Philippines, I decided to fly to Thailand hoping to continue my journey to becoming a teacher. This journey brought me to Sathingphra, Songkhla where I taught Mathayom 1-5 students English. Loneliness was not the hardest part because I am already used to living far from my family. Adjusting in their culture was the challenge especially since I couldn’t speak a word from their language. Like any adventure, this was filled with lessons to learn. I learned how to relax and not to pressure myself too much. I learned to value myself more. Little by little I started to understand and appreciate the bitter taste of reality. Slowly, that bitterness became sweet.
    As I continued my journey, fate made me stumble upon Phuket Has Been Good To Us Foundation’s website. Reading about them in their page, I fell in love with their mission. I was reminded of how I dreamt to be not just a teacher who teaches but a teacher who makes a difference. I was aware that leaving my job for PHBGTU would be more challenging because most of the kids I will be handling are from underprivileged backgrounds but my heartfelt excitement when I was offered a job in the foundation. Even when I had been working in the foundation for only about 3 months, I was able to appreciate every effort of the Foundation in nurturing the students, especially the residential students. At a very early age of 6, kids are left to live at school away from their family. It is a joy to witness how the students are very excited to join in our activities. They would always rush in front of our office to see the list of activities prepared for them. Sometimes, my students would ask me excitedly, “Teacher, where is coconut club?”. The best experience I had working with the foundation is the Birthday Party. Seeing the students smile, playing in the pool, and being grateful for the gifts they received is heart-warming. Through every activity that we prepare for them, both in and out of the classroom makes our students feel that they are not alone. They have their teachers who truly care for them. 

        My experience with the foundation feels like I have only just arrived, but it is always meaningful when I see what I have accomplished. I can’t wait for more adventures with the students, co-teachers, and volunteers.

I would also like to extend my gratitude to the Foundation, Kay and Andy Hunter, and The Chava Resort of Surin for supporting me, and my English programme classes for the year. It makes such difference in everyone's experience.