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A head start in teaching

Published on Friday, 14 Jun 2013
Dannie Hongchoy and Craig McInnes say Headstart helps teachers new to Hong Kong settle in.
Photo: Nora Tam

One education group wants to catch talented NETs

Dannie Hongchoy, executive director of the Headstart Group, believes that human capital investment is the single most important investment that a company can make – which is why she is dedicated to helping Hong Kong nurture its future citizens to face and embrace the challenges of the 21st century.

Founded seven years ago, the Headstart Group is an English-language educational institution that serves a diverse range of students, from three-year-old kindergarteners to university students. It is constantly on the lookout for talented and committed individuals who believe in education and is looking for both full- and part-time native English teachers (NETs) to join them.

“The group provides education support to schools by helping them employ NETs,” Hongchoy says. “We are looking for part-time teachers to teach various in-school and after-school remedial classes, as well as full-time teachers.”

Besides recruiting NETs who are currently working in Hong Kong, the group enjoys close connections with universities in Britain and the US. “We are in close contact with universities as we look for teaching talent. Degree holders who are native English speakers, with TEFL [Teaching English as a Foreign Language] or TESOL [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages] qualifications are welcome to apply for a job with us,” Hongchoy says.

The group hopes to recruit dedicated and passionate educators. “While we teach English, we are also demonstrating to our students the concept of believing in themselves, of being responsible, and that learning is fun, meaningful and worthwhile. How can we have mediocre people doing such an important job?” Hongchoy says.

Being well-aware of the problems faced by teachers who are relocating to Hong Kong, the group provides various means of support to help newcomers adjust to life in the territory. “Before a NET comes to Hong Kong, we provide them with information on the culture and environment, to give them an idea of what life is like here. After they have arrived, we will help them look for accommodation.” Hongchoy says.

She adds that everyone at Headstart Group works very hard and feels proud that he or she is contributing to Hong Kong’s future. “We are an organisation with energy, drive and motivation. We strive for excellent performance. We detest office politics. When you work at Headstart Group, you know that you can get ahead due to your performance and contribution, not for talking behind someone’s back. The group encourages its people to offer ideas and suggestions and will implement them whole-heartedly if they are sound,” she says.

The group is dedicated to providing staff with the best training. “Departmental heads are responsible for providing on-the-job training for new recruits. The group encourages staff to keep up with new knowledge by enrolling them on seminars and courses. Subsidies are also provided for long-term postgraduate programmes and regular in-house training on written skills is also offered,” Hongchoy says.

Hongchoy believes a company is only as good as its people. Besides training, it regularly organises social events to develop a warm team atmosphere. “We reward outstanding teachers and staff and conduct outward-bound courses and sports activities, film and karaoke nights, and a major annual staff party. Company lunches and dinners to celebrate festivals are also common,” she says.

Craig McInnes was enticed by the opportunity to teach English in Hong Kong and decided to apply for a job as a native English teacher after graduating with a degree in English history and earning a TESOL qualification. On his first job in a foreign county, McInnes felt right at home working for the Headstart Group because the company has provided various means of support for newcomers. “The working environment here is very friendly and my colleagues are all very supportive and helpful,” he says.

For most newcomers to Hong Kong, finding accommodation can be quite a headache, which is why the Headstart Group provides many useful tips on living in Hong Kong. “When I first arrived, the company provided me with information on renting an affordable place to live in. There is also information on transport and even grocery shopping. I don’t feel as if I am on my own at all,” McInnes says.

In terms of training, McInnes says the company has been very supportive. “There are various teaching workshops for me to brush up my teaching skills and to interact with colleagues on how to teach. I also get to visit the classes of more experienced teachers to learn from them,” he says.

McInnes is aiming to land a teaching job with the government and says his experience with Headstart will definitely help him prepare for such a position. “The company has given me very good training and the teaching experience I have gained will definitely help me move up in the education sector,” he says.

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