I have many teachers. Great ones. Inspiring ones. Today and everyday I will thank them all.
I am a teacher, an Educator, Global Graduate Coach, International Training Consultant, Intercultural Master Trainer, Human Capacity Developer, because all my teachers had a great role in making all of that and more happen.
I just want to focus on 4 of them in this blog post. An unfair small list you might say, but a very crucial one for me.
I don’t remember how many of us were in her class, but it must have been a lot of us in Kindergarten and Miss Kissiedu (Kissiadu) was our teacher.
She was very stylish and elegant and I wanted to grow up quickly and dress like her.
Although she wore a similar style light brown uniform, it felt like she had a different dress on everyday. Looking back I wonder how she was able to always keep her signature red lipstick and shoes on whilst working with a bunch of noisy and attention seeking 4 and 5 year olds. Kids who didn’t want to leave their parents side every morning and came to class crying. I however, never wanted to miss school because of her.
She was so passionate at her job. She disciplined us, but showed us so much love.
Her sense of style showed me early on, one has to make an effort with one’s appearance. It means amongst other things, you take your audience seriously, even if they are noisy 4 or 5 year olds interested in crayons, spellings and additions.
One of my favourite teacher’s in secondary school was my Geography teacher, Mr Degbor. May God grant him eternal rest.
He will walk into the classroom with so much radiance, energy and passion like it was his first or last class.
He spoke excitedly about rocks, rivers, industries and countries all the time.
When I visit a place like Iceland where Geography comes to life, I think about him and I miss him. I saw the Yangtze River in China for the first time and thought of him.
I am yet to see more places and I will no doubt think of him.
He made every single one of his students feel we could do anything because he told us so.
He was such a positive man and like clockwork and without fail share his daily devotional or bible study with us. It didn’t matter your religion, he will preach Christ in a way that you will want to know him and honour his commands. He was Christ-like in his ways and demonstrated excellence everyday. We loved him and looked forward to his class.
Mr Degbor showed me how to use my imagination, as well as the importance of passion and treating my workspace as a place of influence. He also thought me to encourage my students to aspire for more.
More importantly he demonstrated I should never be ashamed of my God and to talk about him to anyone who will care to listen.
I struggle to remember the exact subject Dr Vanessa Amoah taught me, but I will never forget the fact that, she will always be that lecturer who went above and beyond the call of duty to give her students a glimpse of what it takes to be prepared for the world of work after undergraduate study.
How many lecturers do you know will ask their students if they knew what to do in order to get a job? Simple basic things like doing a great CV, preparing for interviews and getting work experience early.
How many will actually show you how to be a step ahead of the competition?
Telling and showing us how, was what made Dr Vanessa different.
Her commitment was extraordinary. Dr Vanessa helped me discover my purpose; to balance and even transition from Tourism to Professional Development. She didn’t exactly say those words, but I had an epiphany. Her actions just set the stage and the tone.
Today, you will find me still talking to and helping students and trainees long after training sessions are over. Sometimes for 2 or 3 hours more.
Dr Vanessa showed me to go above and beyond, because you never know what that extra invested time will become.
Presence, confidence, fun, serious, focused, knowledgeable, driven, energetic, experienced, curios, adventurer, kind, empathetic, team worker, networker, connector, opportunity facilitator, collaborator, global, unstoppable, visionary, relevant, intense, engaging, and PASSION are a few words I can just about manage to use to describe Professor Dimitrios Buhalis.
Name a country, and he has either been there, knows someone who has or an ex student of his lives or works there.
I felt at ease the first time I walked into his class in September 2002 as the only African student on his eTourism course. Even better, he was my course director and later my thesis supervisor. His enthusiasm and vast knowledge for the subject was infectious and legendary. He had already been to my country when we met and had really interesting stories to share.
From the get-go, he mentioned our colleagues were our new family. We needed to form a bond and network with people from not only our class , but from all over the world in a multicultural environment like the University of Surrey. Those were my first lessons in networking. He didn’t just say it, he showed us how. He will organize the class to meet outside campus, just for us to relax and catch up on life.
Today, I am still in touch with some of my colleagues and I have found my best friends because he gave me the confidence to network. I have friends from all over the world, because of your advice, Professor Buhalis.
Professor Buhalis or Dr B as some of us used to call him then, was that person who will demonstrate balance; “get the job done, but don’t take life too seriously.”
He also remembered all of our names, so there was no hiding. I make sure I do the same with every class I run today. There can be a hundred people in my class and I will remember everyone’s name by the end of day one on the course.
He challenged us to give off our best. No excuse will match his intelligence. He gave us several opportunities and still do. I am not talking about field trips, that was a given. He got us to interact with professionals from the industry.
Helsinki is stuck in my mind, because I missed an opportunity to go as a student, but I will go soon and will remember him.
I got my first proper International tourism related work experience, because he gave the opportunity to all of us, but I took it quickly.
Even now, he will still alert me to great career opportunities in my region.
I have Professor Buhalis to thank for putting all the pieces together.
He gave me and anyone who was serious, wings to fly.
I wasn’t the “brightest” student in his class. I didn’t fully understand technology then. But, I was so keen on learning and understanding how all of it worked, because I had noble intentions of being a key player in advising my country’s tourism agencies after my studies.
I was up for a challenge, but it was a real struggle. I stayed up all night to type most of my assignments, because up until my Masters degree, I had never owned a computer or was required to type my assignments during my undergraduate studies. I didn’t complain, I just soldiered on gracefully, because I never heard him complain about anything.
Although my time at University of Surrey will still be one of the best years of my life, my first semester was like going through a labyrinth.
No excuses here. However, I was coming from a place where most of the ideas already happening in Europe for instance were considered more futuristic in most parts of my continent. They were very new ideas to me too and I struggled, but I did pick up eventually. Dr B’s enthusiasm and style of teaching were new to me too. I had to learn and adapt quickly. I loved it.
Professor Buhalis made me deliver presentations, with different groups every time. I learnt the strength and power of teamwork and of course resolving conflicts.
Thank you Professor Buhalis for teaching me presentation skills. You were my Master. Apart from Sunday school plays and going for bible class to memorize verses for badges as a teen, I don’t recall ever delivering a single presentation in class until I met you in 2002. Today, I have gone on to deliver hundreds if not thousands of presentations for different audiences. Give me a room of a million and I will deliver with impact.
Thank you Professor Buhalis for opening up a whole new world to me.
Thank you for giving me that extra push I needed to launch, not just my career, but my purpose.
I am a teacher, because all of these amazing people taught me first and well. Thank you for being inspiring.
Thank you for giving me wings.
Thank you for being there when I needed someone to look up to.