30 Sep Dr Veronica Shepherdson epitomises new breed of educators
GOTS co-founder Dr Veronica Shepherdson epitomises new breed of educators
Being a creative person helped Global Oak Tree Scholars (GOTS) International School co-founder Dr Veronica Shepherdson earn her PhD from the International University of Entreprenology
Dr Shepherdson somehow found time to juggle life as a student, co-founder of a school, entrepreneur, educator, wife and mother, while being involved in volunteer work.
“Entreprenology is about being creative in business. Being a creative person allowed me to present my material from various aspects and perspectives,” said Dr Shepherdson, who recently received her postgraduate academic degree.
“It is not about starting a business or buying one over and doing the same thing, again and again. Entreprenology is about being different, and I could apply what I was doing at GOTS to my course.
“Doing research and interviews and gathering data and material was not tedious, but fun and exciting.
“The more knowledge I accumulated, the more I wanted to know. Meeting deadlines and completing assignments did not seem such a stretch.”
Inspiring future generations
Earning her PhD was the fulfilment of a journey that began when Dr Shepherdson was a little girl ‘playing school’ with her dolls.
Interestingly, Dr Shepherdson’s journey as a renowned educator started by ‘rebelling’ against her school teachers.
“I had some terrible teachers when I was in primary school. I would say some were tyrants,” she said with a laugh.
“But there were some in secondary school who were magnificent and played an instrumental role in moulding me into who I am today.
“I wanted to be an educator who could make a difference in a child’s life and to do it by being kind and understanding.
“Someone who would encourage them to study and learn, not because they had to, but because they wanted to. Learning must be a joy, not a chore.”
Always asking ‘What’s next?’
For Dr Shepherdson, being an educator and committing oneself to lifelong learning is a way of life.
“You cannot stand still, or the world will pass you by,” said Dr Shepherdson, who co-founded GOTS International School in September 2017.
“You have to keep up with what is happening in the world.
“Look at how education changed last year when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
“All of a sudden, lessons were online, and teachers had to work doubly hard on their IT skills or be left behind.”
That is one reason why she is constantly pushing herself, asking what’s next. This desire not to stand still drove her to co-found a training company, an international school, and to become an entrepreneur.
Journey to becoming an educator
Dr Shepherdson began to excel when she entered Year 7. Her grades improved as she had teachers who believed in her and gave her the freedom to think for herself.
She read voraciously, soaked up the knowledge and quickly became more invested in her studies.
She aced her A-Levels and immediately applied to be a teacher. Sadly, there was a glut of applications, and she did not get in.
“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 said.
She went the extra mile by teaching in a school for the deaf for two years. To this day, she knows sign language.
Her quest for learning saw Dr Shepherdson earn a Master’s in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) from the American Board of neuro-linguistic programming (ABNLP) in March 2014.
A teacher’s teacher
After more than 15 years of teaching, Dr Shepherdson wanted to train teachers and completed the Cambridge International Diploma in Teaching and Learning.
She then started a training company and conducted training sessions for international schools. She implemented NLP for the academics into her programme, making it exclusive and distinguishing herself from her competitors.
While training in various international schools, she saw first-hand how lessons were delivered.
“That was when the idea of starting an international school entered my head,” said the mother of three.
“I wanted the school to be ‘Definitely Different’. I was lucky I had partners who believed in my vision.”
GOTS International School
She did not want a typical school that only focused on academics. Instead, she wanted one that would allow scholars to appreciate art, communicate, and connect with those around them.
So, she and her team developed a curriculum that would include life-empowering skills such as financial literacy to help the children prepare for the ‘real world’.
“Being an entrepreneur is about being creative and coming up with brilliant ideas, not just that one time, but all the time,” she said.
Her courage and determination have seen GOTS International School grow by leaps and bounds and remain true to its ethos of being ‘Definitely Different’.
Back to school
With the school thriving despite Covid-19, Dr Shepherdson asked herself: “What’s next?”
The answer, of course, was to earn her PhD.
“GOTS was a priority, but when I felt we were on stable ground, and after meeting the deans of the university, I decided to bite the bullet and start my PhD,” said Dr Shepherdson.
“My partners were beyond supportive. The input I had from them on some areas I was researching was priceless.”
Then came Covid-19.
“In my years of pursuing diplomas, degrees and Masters, attempting my PhD was a new experience, made harder by Covid-19,” she admitted.
“The struggle to keep to my schedule was challenging. Overseeing an online school is a lot more complex than a physical one.
“Somehow, the workload doubled. The day-to-day problems tripled, and maintaining everyone’s morale was taxing.
“But I stayed organised and kept to my schedule no matter what cropped up or how tired I was.
“I set deadlines and was relentless about keeping to them.”
Her family played a key role, giving her the space and time she needed when she had to spend hours in front of the laptop – sometimes into the early hours of the morning.
Lessons from entrepreneurship
Shepherdson said studying entrepreneurship is beneficial in many areas as it teaches learners to cultivate unique skills and think outside the box. It creates opportunity and instills confidence.
“We learn time management and realise that success revolves around strict deadlines and time-bound work. Therefore, I encourage my children to be entrepreneurs.”
It is a subject she intends to introduce in GOTS International School next year to
complement the school’s FinancialSmart lessons.
“Introducing entrepreneurship (in the syllabus) enables scholars to learn more than just their chosen field of study and creates an interdisciplinary environment to work,” she explained.
Pursue your passion
“I would advise young educators to follow their dreams and be flexible with them. Never limit yourself.
“Anything is possible for an educator. Never for a moment think that teachers are only teachers. Teachers can be educators and entrepreneurs.”