Don’t be afraid of being different
While most six-year-old girls play “tea party” with their dolls, Veronica Shepherdson used to pretend play she was a teacher. It was borne out of frustration of having the strictest teachers imaginable, the kind who sucked all the fun out of learning and made it a chore rather than a joy to attend school. The rebel in her wanted to fight back and the surest, quickest way was to “teach” her dolls what she felt were more useful methods. “I still remember those times even though it was many years ago,” recalls Shepherdson with a hearty laugh.
“Every time I had a bad day in school, I would stomp off to my room, arrange my dolls and ‘teach’ them the way I wanted to be taught. “One day my father saw me doing this and asked what I was doing. I replied I was preparing to be a teacher. “I’m not sure if he took me seriously, but that burning desire has stayed with me all these years,” says Shepherdson. She says her early school life was frustrating as the teachers did not make an effort to help the children who were not top of the class. Shepherdson admits she was not the best of students in her early years – partly because of the fear factor the teachers at a convent in Singapore, instilled in the students. “I vowed then I would grow up to be a teacher who would inspire my students to aim high, instead of making them fear me.”
Things changed when she was in Year 7 as her new teachers gave more freedom. She began to read voraciously, soaked up knowledge and quickly became more interested in her studies. It paid off as she aced her A Levels and immediately applied to be a teacher. Alas, due to a glut of applicants, she was not accepted. “I was heartbroken but my father advised me not to give up and to try again for the next enrolment. Happily, I was accepted.” She threw herself into her chosen career and went the extra mile by teaching in a school for the deaf for two years. She credits the time spent there for learning patience in dealing with children with special needs and still knows sign language. She then left for Paris to join her younger sister to teach English to adults. “Although I was educated in Singapore, I always considered Malaysia home. I spent all my school holidays with my mum and grandparents at Old Klang Road. I always felt homesick when I returned to Singapore.”
With those memories in mind, Shepherdson made the bold move to immigrate to Malaysia in 1993. “It was not easy as I could hardly speak Bahasa Malaysia and there were not many international schools. “But I received an offer from a renowned international school and stayed for 15 years.” While there, Shepherdson started the school’s special needs department and headed its English department. She then left to prepare programmes to teach English at government offices while working as a part-time lecturer at a college university, before going full time into training teachers. Along the way, Shepherdson developed the NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) for Academics with help from the American Board of NLP. “I’m the only one who has the certification for the NLP for the Academics and it has been designed especially for me.
“It is a copyright programme which no one else can use,” she says with pride. With Shepherdson’s mastery of the Cambridge Methodology of Teaching coupled with her NLP for the Academics, she decided the time was right to bring a revolutionary style of school.
Hence, GOTS – Global Oak Tree Scholars – was born early this year. GOTS’ approach to education is unique, universal and second to none. The GOTS academic offering is one that is deeply reflective and is constantly evolving to impart academic knowledge and skills, accentuated with innovative character-strengthening syllabi. To achieve this, forward-thinking Western education acumen is matched with Eastern value discernment that emphasises filial piety.
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