Ericson J. Perez, Founder & Headmaster – One World School, Makati, Philippines
Ericon’s career in education started over 20 years ago when he accepted a position as an 8th grade science teacher at a public middle school in Connecticut, USA. Within those 20 years, he continued to learn how to reach and teach different kinds of kids. From teaching biology and chemistry in a rural high school in Kenya as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer to special education & science teacher at a public high school in the suburbs of Maryland, USA, Ericson enjoyed his journey, constantly looking for more avenues to reconnect with his home land.
Later he started working at an exclusive international school outside of Manila, as a middle school science teacher, where he spent the next six years developing that school’s special education program for their middle and high school students. It was during this time in Manila that Ericson decided that he was ready to start a different kind of adventure – His Own School and hence the birth of One World School, at Makati City, Philippines.
Ericson holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brown University in Providence, RI, and master’s degree in special education from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
“My role in education shifted from classroom teaching and middle management to founding and running One World School, Philippines and the learning I discovered I had to do over 20 years ago continues”, says Ericson J. Perez, Founder & Headmaster of the Institution.
Outside of the professional setting, he enjoys reading, running, surfing and hiking. I am able to recharge and reflect, which I think are essential to maintain balance and to remain grounded, through these solitary activities, he adds.
He fondly recalls the salutatory address during high school graduation where he told classmates, teachers, and parents that he thought one person could not possibly make a difference. They were all surprised at his pessimism. “If I could go back and rewrite that speech, I wouldn’t. Over time, it’s been quite rewarding to see for myself that I was totally wrong”, he says.
Team ABT reached out to Ericson to know more about his interesting journey. Read the intercepts below.
Who is your greatest inspiration & why?
My greatest inspiration are the children and families I work with everyday. When a child is not making progress or when we determine we have not been doing our best for that child, I know somehow, somewhere along the process, I have fallen short. This inspires me to do better, because that’s what that child deserves. Alternatively, when a child is happy at school and is reaching his goals, or oftentimes even beyond, I know our hard work and dedication is making a difference for that child and his family. This inspires me to keep going.
Tell us about your most cherished milestone.
My most cherished milestone is not one for which I have photos or anything tangible. In fact, there’s not even a date or general time period when I recall it happened. This was when I reached the point in my life where I began accepting who I am and didn’t feel the need or want to be anything or anyone different from who I was. I believe this gave me the freedom to do what I wanted and needed, with no fears. Whole-heartedly accepting oneself is truly empowering, and it’s not something that anyone or anything can give you. It’s there inside you already. The milestone was reached when I finally said, “This is who I am, and I am going to be who I am. No more. No less.”
What are the challenges you face in managing an educational Institution?
As a relatively young school, one of our main challenges is ensuring that we remain true to our school’s core values. These core values are the foundation of our school, so we instill in all of our team members that almost every decision made that would have an impact on our students must be grounded in these core values.
To do so otherwise would compromise our school’s integrity. Given that, the specific challenges we face in managing our school include recruiting and retaining the right professionals to work with our team, students, and parents. We choose very carefully who will work with us, and many times, it is not those with the most impressive resumes who are hired. Rather they are the ones who demonstrate the greatest potential to learn as well as those whom we believe have the heart and passion to work with our students. We allocate much of our resources for our teachers and therapists, since they are the ones who are carrying out on a daily basis our school’s core values.
We provide in-school professional development opportunities on a weekly basis, provide teacher mentors for all of our new hires, and offer funding for those who wish to seek advanced certification or continued professional development in their respective programs, whether locally or abroad.
What are the initiatives at One World School that makes it unique?
I believe there’s really nothing new under the sun. Especially in schools, initiatives come and go, depending on the composition of the leadership team in any particular school year. Many of these initiatives are basically rooted in the same concepts, but just renamed or packed differently.
At our school, as long as we remain true to our core values and their practices are research-based, our team of teachers and therapists use an eclectic approach to teaching and working with their students. What makes our school unique is the culture of acceptance and love that we have created. As many of our parents and visitors say, “You have to visit and spend time at One World School to truly understand and feel what a different and loving community we are.”
Tell us about your leadership style.
One of my proudest moments as One World School’s Headmaster is when I can take a step back and watch one or more of our teachers take on leadership roles and do a phenomenal job. Sustainability of our school is a priority for me, and I need to be able to guarantee to our community that even when I am not at school, short or long term, that the school’s core values will continue to be lived and will not be compromised.
Though it’s not something we openly discuss, I would say that I look towards and plan for sustainable leadership. I ensure that the professionals I work with have ample opportunities to develop their leadership skills. This is done by providing those with the greatest potential and those who embody the school’s core values the opportunities to lead and to learn new skills. This also means that I must trust in their abilities.
I am basically training members of our team so that the school I started will continue in the right path long after I retire.
If you were to do one thing differently, what would that be?
At different points in my life, I think my greatest hindrance was myself. There were times when I wasted too much time listening to self-doubt, which held me back from doing my best, or even from doing anything. In retrospect, I would have spent less or no time listening to those voices of self-doubt.
What would you like to achieve in the coming years?
At the moment, One World School is getting ready to expand its facilities to create space for our growing enrollment and programs. When we opened our first school year in 2013, we had less than 20 students and only 5 teachers. On our fifth year already, we opened with over 80 students and over 40 teachers and therapists. Within a few years, my goal is for our school to have a complete program for individuals of all abilities – preschool, elementary school, high school, pre-vocational and vocational programs. All in one school.