We don’t just open books, we open minds

We don’t just open books, we open minds

Ophelia Veniegas

I’m extremely proud of being part of the people who have brought honor and prestige to the Center, and who have built it to take its place in the region and the world as a veritable institution for educational research and training.  I give my thanks and great appreciation for the wonderful years of serving SEAMEO INNOTECH.  My 23 years at the Center have also helped greatly in shaping my professional as well as my personal life.

 

How indeed would I describe my stay at SEAMEO INNOTECH for 23 years if not with superlatives in true appreciation of the wealth of experience it has given me? 

There never was a dull day at work. Always, there was a flurry of activities — ranging from professional meetings, consultations, training sessions, research work, visits from representatives of sister Centers from the region — to technical support of communications from member countries and the everyday grind of SEAMEO Center work.   

There were multiple roles with multiple tasks to attend to and the challenge was always the short deadlines. If a research or training proposal was needed, or a comment or feedback required, this would always be ASAP, especially after the Center went through a re-engineering process and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification. 

It amuses me to recall that my job interview for a Research Assistant position here was a breeze with then Deputy Director, Dr. Santi Arbi from Indonesia. I was hired in 1981 for Project NTR or Non-Traditional Roles of Teachers, subsequently got absorbed mainstream and promoted through the years to Associate Specialist, then to Senior Specialist, and to Program Director for Training before my retirement in 2004. It is fitting at this point to acknowledge my mentors (intellectual giants in their own right), Dr. Joe Socrates, our mild-mannered Head of Research,  Dr. Frank Trespeces and Dr. Melba Tugade, experts who instilled in me the habit of excellence required by our then Center Director, Dr. Liceria B. Soriano.  

Dr. Soriano had a reputation of being fiercely strict. I guess it was because she was the epitome of excellence. To us, getting re-appointed was in itself a feat; our positions were never permanent. Everyone was on a two-year contract and anyone could get axed in the middle of employment.   

A highlight of my early years was when Dr. Soriano decided to include me, a newbie, in the team that was to participate in the Governing Board Meeting in Negara Brunei Darussalam. What made this exciting and memorable was that: (1) this was the first-ever official activity with Brunei as a member country; (2) this was my first trip abroad; and (3) I would like to believe it was a recognition of my competence displayed at a previous Consultative Meeting of country leaders involved in Project DELSILIFE or Project Development of an Effective Learning System for the Improvement of Life.   

What followed thereafter were special assignments for SEAMEO INNOTECH in the SEAMEO member countries, and training in special skills outside of the region such as in the US, Canada, Australia and Israel.  These gave me opportunities to be invited as consultant or member of a technical working group to some United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP), and Department of Education (DepEd) projects here and abroad. 

In the area of educational research, I served in various capacities as project director, team leader and coordinator of research and development projects, also in the member countries of Southeast Asia. I was Project Director for Project HOPE or Home-Organized Preschool Education, Project INVENT or a School Inventing Program, Project GRASP or Generalizing and Reinforcing the Ability to Solve Problems, Project UPGRADING IMPACT or Instructional Management for Parents, Community and Teachers Conceptualization & Design Phase, Project LEAD or Learning for Effective Administrator Development, Project READ or Reading and Writing Development Program for Upgrading the Quality of Education in Grade I, and Project TBIPBE  Phase II or Test-Based Instructional Program in Basic Education. By the way, I enjoyed crafting abbreviations for titles of our programs, projects and activities. 

         

In terms of the training function, I became involved in the design and implementation of regular and special courses. To help achieve financial viability, the professional staff took on roles to design, develop, market, deliver and evaluate out-of-the-box and off-the-shelf training courses. Dr. Chit Habana was Head of Training then and when she retired, Dr. Dave Catanyag took over at the helm. We actively implemented this cycle.  

Since I was the point person for thinking skills development, we created special courses around this advocacy. This carries on to this day, still working for the professional development of teachers through national organizations that I head because I believe that “every child deserves quality education and every teacher deserves quality life.”  When I founded Einstein School for Kids in 2006, I gave it the mission to develop “every child into a young scientist with a heart, starting them young.” In Einstein School for Kids, “we don’t just open books, we open minds.” 

Those projects and special assignments lead me to believe further that I have been modestly contributing to the shaping of the minds of learners and leaders here in the Philippines and in most Southeast Asian countries. It seems that helping SEAMEO INNOTECH in whatever means possible is still part of my priorities. Today, I am still part of the pool of SEAMEO INNOTECH’s Flexible Learning Tutors. I guess I’m still productive after retirement. I find myself at the helm of national organizations, a managing partner of a foreign educational company, a coordinator of benchmarking programs to member and associate member countries of Southeast Asia, a service provider of accredited continuing professional development programs, and owner-manager of a small science school for early childhood and basic education. 

My greatest passion is reflected in my personal mission, that of helping develop thinking, feeling citizens. I guess my contribution to the field of education has been recognized. I became a recipient of Vice-President Leni Robredo’s Istorya ng Pag-asa (Story of Hope)” Award in 2017, representing the education sector. Last year on Mothers Day, I was awarded the “Ulirang Ina (Model Mother) 2019” National Award, also representing the education sector. 

My other passion is God’s work, helping build a strong foundation for family and life, together with my husband, Romy, and our large brood of children and grandchildren. I remember how our former Center Director, Dr. Minda Sutaria, would be considerate of my Monday evenings; she knew this was my regular schedule for our Prayer Meeting in Couples for Christ. I have fond memories as well of the other Center Directors, namely, Dr. Dolores Hernandez and Dr. Erlinda Pefianco. Each one contributed greatly to the fame and glory of SEAMEO INNOTECH as an innovative regional educational Center. 

These days, I can’t seem to retire as an educator and as a person for others. I’m happily giving back to Barangay Greater Lagro, my community here in Quezon City, the blessings I have received as part of our prestigious SEAMEO INNOTECH. I also volunteer my services to the Catholic community as Charter Regent of the DMII Mater Dei Circle, as active servant leader of the Missionary Families for Christ (CFC FFL) and as Formation in Faith Ministry Head of the Ascension of Our Lord Parish. 

Looking back today, I’m extremely proud of being part of the people who have brought honor and prestige to the Center, and who have built it to take its place in the region and the world as a veritable institution for educational research and training. I give my thanks and great appreciation for the wonderful years of serving SEAMEO INNOTECH.  My 23 years at the Center have also helped greatly in shaping my professional as well as my personal life. I salute SEAMEO INNOTECH and pray for its continuing success in touching the lives of many. Mabuhay! 

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