Women educators, enablers, entrepreneurs

As we celebrate women’s month on March, the Tagumpay column will be featuring women with stories of triumph. It will not only be about triumph over poverty. We will feature tagumpay stories of women with different backgrounds overcoming different challenges.

There are a lot of women who are able to run a business and a household at the same time. We all know about the attention that a husband demands and that the children need most specially while growing up. It is remarkable how a woman succeeds as a mother, wife and entrepreneur all at once. I will devote the next columns to inspiring and incredible stories on women entrepreneurs.

My grandmother, Doña Victoria Araneta started Feati University. It was a very successful school during her time. At the same time, she was also able to raise five girls. She also managed a very demanding husband, Don Salvador Araneta. Like her, there are a lot of women who succeeded in putting up and running a thriving educational institution. We have Dr. Helena Benitez of the Philippines Women’s University. Aside from founding and running a school, she was also a civil society leader, women’s advocate, legislator, environmental pioneer, diplomat, among many other roles. We also have Dr. Lourdes Montinola of Far Eastern University, Dr. Genevieve Ledesma Tan of Southville International School, Vivienne Tan of Entrepreneurs School of Asia, and the list goes on.

I have two stories of entrepreneur-enablers to share. These are the stories of Cynthia Tinsay and Joy Abaquin.

Cynthia Tinsay-Gonzalez, an enabler and an entrepreneur, has always possessed a strong passion for teaching. This is also why she chose to specialize in early childhood education.

Twenty years ago, Cynthia began by working for a school, with the dream of putting up her own school someday. Today, she serves as the Directress and the School Administrator of REACH International School, an all-inclusive academic institution that offers an international program.

Cynthia Tinsay-Gonzalez

Cynthia Tinsay-Gonzalez

Ten years ago, Cynthia was also able to run her own preschool. However, the school started to encounter problems and they had to adjust through cutbacks. There even came a time when Cynthia could barely pay her rent just to keep the school. This was the time when she knew that she needed to do something to survive as a business entity. She realized that she needed to create something that will set her apart from the other schools out there, which were popping out like mushrooms. Thus, she started REACH.

Four years ago, REACH started as an intervention school, a school that offered alternative learning. Cynthia saw the need for alternative schools and the need for alternative learners to learn in a normal environment with an excellent and proper program. REACH is a school that recognizes a student’s learning pace. The school applies an individualized program that allows a student to progress independently.

Cynthia shares that some of their students who transfer from other schools usually have low self-esteem. They feel inadequate and incompetent just because they failed in a regular school. Some of their students also have reading, attention, behavioral and organizational problems. REACH recognizes their different learning needs, which they address through techniques and compensatory strategies. “We encourage all kinds of learners to learn in a stress-free environment, with the right program,” says Cynthia.

The school also has a strong support system for special children. “They need to understand that even if they have a disability, they cannot make it as an excuse,” explains Cynthia. REACH creates a set-up for children with disabilities, wherein they understand the need for support from people around them.

Cynthia also recognizes the difference in having a school as an entrepreneurial venture. She considers the school, first and foremost, as a vocation – a commitment in helping students. For her, putting up a school must not be only about the money, but it must be mainly about the service.

In Go Negosyo, we are also lucky to have a remarkable mentor, Mary Joy Abaquin. She is one of our Angelpreneurs, a group of entrepreneurship-educators who are committed to sharing their time in mentoring many aspiring young and small entrepreneurs all over the country.

“I have more patience for children than for adults,” says Mary Joy Abaquin, Directress of the Multiple Intelligence International School (MI). Like Cynthia, Joy always had a special connection with kids.

With a degree in Early Child Psychology, Joy decided to put up a progressive school using money from her own and some relatives’ savings. She began in 1996. The school was originally a pre-school and a grade school with 30 students. Today, MI has over 700 students, with almost a hundred teaching staff and assistants.

Joy Abaquin

Joy Abaquin

With the tagline “Where Every Child Is Smart!”, MI teaches each student in a way that plays to his or her own strengths, instead of the traditional approach of regular schools in giving a child one standard to live up to. Their different approach in teaching is anchored on a study revealing the several types of intelligence, such as linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, musical intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, and naturalist intelligence.

For Joy, having a school as an entrepreneurial venture all boils down to your goals. “As an educator, this is a way for me to create change and form children,” she shares. For her, the bottom line is a child’s welfare and not the profit.

Aside from MI’s strong value and character formation program, the school also has a strong thrust when it comes to entrepreneurship. They teach the kids about being enterprising, but they also teach them about the ethics in business – that it’s not only about earning money and selling products or services, but it’s also about leadership and responsibility.

At present, the school extends their programs to different provinces through their MI Smart Start Comprehensive School Program. This program empowers day care centers and pre schools to transform their practices into MI’s developmental and progressive practices. MI provides training and consultation to schools who want to undergo educational reform.

“I think education should be about enabling and allowing people to use their own strengths to create things; and we are the facilitators,” shares Joy.

For Joy, education is a key to enabling people. It is the solution to a lot of problems and a lot of challenges in life. MI is a community that raises kids to be forward thinking. It is a school that educates children the way of the 21st century.

Joy was also one of The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) awardees of 2009. She was honored for her role in the education sector, especially by pioneering the Multiple Intelligence International School here in the Philippines.

I salute our women negosyantes. They truly embody the title of our next big event on March 8, 2010 at the World Trade Center – “Babae, Tagumpay Ka ng Bayan” (Go Negosyo Women Entrepreneurship Summit II). Come witness stories that will inspire you.