Photo by Eros Goze, Styling by Ushi Sato, Make Up by Ginno Alducente
“Mariposa” wrap by Dita Sandico-Ong and Diamonds from Liali Jewellery
Susan de Guzman
Top Notch Educator
There was a time at the beginning of Susan de Guzman’s career as a teacher in the Emirates, when a colleague, referring to her credentials and her pursuit of a Masters Degree, said to her, “But what do you need all that qualification for? Don’t you know that Filipinas are seen as domestic helpers?”
Sixteen years on, this humble and soft-spoken educator has stayed on-the-job, and stands proud as lead faculty at the Sharjah Women’s College – Higher Colleges of Technology. She has consistently driven her students to earn award after award, year after year, and is instrumental in helping the esteemed educational institution gain a reputation of excellence, especially in the field of graphic arts.
Truly, this is one Filipina who has not only imparted knowledge and skill, but is also helping to shape the minds and values of young Emirati women set to be part of the country’s privileged circle of movers and shakers in the future.
Susan de Guzman was born to parents who were both doctors. She says, “My siblings and I were reared on the values of integrity, hard work, determination, and a sense of family.” Although her parents wanted her to follow in their footsteps, Susan’s calling in life was totally different, “I’ve always wanted to be an artist, for as long as I could remember. I love exploring and actualizing new ideas, and the fact that art is freewheeling.”
From a very young age, her creativity was already apparent – Susan won countless art and talent competitions in school. In college, she earned a degree in Fine Arts at the University of Santo Tomas. But her quest for knowledge didn’t stop there, she pursued continued professional learning, while working as a teacher, and gained two masters degrees – Masters in Educational Technology and a Masters of Education in Open and Distance Learning, both from the University of Southern Queensland, in Australia.
Early on in her professional life, she dabbled both in advertising, working as a graphic artist, and in education, as a faculty member at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. Somehow her career path led her completely to teaching. She joined the Higher Colleges of Technology in 1996, first as Graphic Designer in the school’s Academic Services Department, and was eventually promoted to faculty when management took notice of her capabilities. “People were telling me that I should be working in the advertising industry, especially here in the UAE, because there’s more money there,” she shares. “But somehow, I’ve always kept it in my mind that I want to be a teacher, especially to these Emirati students. So that when they become business owners someday, they will know how to treat their Filipino employees.”
Susan’s approach to work extends well beyond just teaching her subjects. She said that oftentimes, she provides guidance like a surrogate mother and friend, as knowledge is the least of the students’ challenges – some of them lack confidence and some have emotional issues. As a Filipina educator, she credits her success in enriching her students learning experience with the innately caring attitude of Pinoys, “It’s probably our nurturing spirit. It helps a lot. There are certain students who need special attention. So I make it a point to hold their hold through the process, and help them realize how good they are, in the process helping them gain confidence and motivation.”
But all is not easy with this highly disciplined firm educator, she shares “Yes, I do fail students, sometimes too. Strangely enough, there are students who thank me even when I fail them. They say that because of the failure, they eventually realized how to correct their mistakes and improve upon their work.”
And her formula for teaching seems to work wonders. Since she has joined the college, Susan has helped the school secure countless honors from various academic award giving bodies, at one time orchestrating a grand slam earning 22 top awards in 2005. Her efforts have been duly recognized as well. In 2008, she received the much coveted Director’s Award from the Higher College of Technology. Just recently, she has also been selected as Deputy Chief Expert for the World Skills Competition London 2011, the first Asian (carrying the UAE flag, at that) to have been given such distinction, in the global competition countries symbolizing excellence in vocational training with participants from all over the globe.
Still, with all her accolades, Susan says she has one regret, “I wish that I was doing all this for Filipino students; helping them to be successful in life.”
Regrets aside, it has to be said, that in the grand scheme of things, the role that Susan plays for Filipinos as a whole, is nothing short of priceless.