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Bangkok Faces: Vanessa Robitaille, Head of Prep School, Brighton College Bangkok

Your Name: Vanessa Robitaille
Job Title: Head of Prep School, Brighton College Bangkok

What is your nationality and background?

I grew up in Kenya and am lucky enough to still call the Maasai Mara ‘home’. I grew up on the north western boundary of this famous ecosystem in what was the middle of nowhere, we were miles from the nearest shop and certainly a long way from friends. It was an idyllic childhood without any modern interruptions such as electricity and TV; it was the African bush at its best. However, the time came when I had to leave and England and university beckoned. After 3 years studying overseas I returned to Kenya and worked in two leading IAPS Prep Schools, Pembroke House and The Banda. In 1999 I married Chris and soon we welcomed Max and Becca into our lives. With our family complete a desire to see the world saw us head to China where I joined Dulwich College. After four years in Suzhou I was thrilled to return to the magic of Prep Schools and became the founding Head of Prep School at Brighton College in Abu Dhabi. After five years in the United Arab Emirates I am thrilled to be in Bangkok bringing the same magic Prep School education to this great city and so as a family our adventure continues.

What is your profession?

Head of Prep School at Brighton College Bangkok.

What are the key skills and responsibilities of this role?

My position as Head of School focusses primarily on developing and building relationships with people. The children in my care are central to this; it is essential that they all feel valued and happy at school and so creating an environment in which every child is nurtured and knows that their own successes are celebrated is my primary aim and responsibility. Building positive relationships with staff and parents is also important and so personnel skills are invaluable as a Head of School and it is this skill set that I rely on most often. Secondly and as important in a start up school is the ability to develop and share a vision, ensuring that what we set out to deliver becomes a reality. This involves determination, passion and a lot of hard work! But really the most important thing is the fact that I love my job!

How did you get involved in your profession?

I don’t remember a time when I did not love learning and passing this enthusiasm for knowledge and understanding onto others. As a teenageer I spent many hours ‘teaching’ my three younger brothers, making them endure handwriting and reading sessions under the African sun before organising ‘school trips’ out into the bush. It was therefore no surprise to my family when I chose a career in education and from my very first lesson in a Year 8 Science lesson at Pembroke House I have never looked back. It is an honour to guide children and to see them develop into confident, kind and responsible teenagers, to nurture their individual talents so that each one of them can make the very best of their own opportunities. As Prep School teachers, our role is to give children strong foundations upon which to build and grow during their Senior School years. Ensuring that children have this vital start to the challenging years of being teenagers is what makes my job, and that of my team so important and so wonderful.

How does your role enhance the wellbeing or experience of children?

As Head of our Prep School the safety of the children in my care is paramount and child protection and safer recruitment is fundamental to all that we do. In addition it is my aim that all the children have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and push boundaries. I want them to learn to take risks and to challenge themselves. With this in mind I ensure that as a school we offer the children; inspirational lessons, a wide range of activities and responsibility as young leaders and role models – a particular strength of the Prep School system. Under my care children have a voice, sharing their ideas, concerns and playing a part in the direction and development of the school. This gives them ownership of their school, creating a pride within it and a determination to rise to any challenge be it within or beyond the classroom.

What challenges do you face in this role?

The greatest challenge that I face in my day to day work is without doubt one of time. I aspire to know every child within my care, to know what makes them tick and how they are doing in all areas of school life and with the many other responsibilities that come with leading a school the need for more hours in the day is the dominant obstacle.

What do you hope to achieve within your industry?

Brighton College Bangkok Prep School is bringing something new and unique to the city and I am looking forward to sharing our vision with the community and seeing it become a reality. But mostly I am excited about seeing our Year 8 pupils go on to Senior School ready for the challenges that lie ahead, with a solid grounding as kind and comapssionate young teenageers with a desire to do their best and a respect for the World and those around them.

Who or what inspires you?

As a lifelong learner I am inspired by many people. Nelson Mandela told us that Education is the most powerful weapon we have to change the World. This never fails to remind me of the importance of what we do as teachers and how the young people we send off into the World will be pivotal to the future of us all. But he taught us all so much more; about compassion, forgiveness and respect – he was truly an inspiration. Another of my heroes is David Attenborough, bringing those hard to reach places right into our sitting rooms he has enabled us to understand and love the natural world so that in turn we may protect it. This has never been more important than now and his work has spread the word whilst enabling us all to continue learning! Closer to home my grandparents, Michael and Sue Wood have always been an inspiration to me. Their tireless work for others of course speaks volumes but it is so much more as well. At school they encouraged me to reach for the sky, to be brave and to make the most of the opportunities that came my way. More recently and, long after they have gone, their message continues to influence me and I like to think that they would have been proud that I struck out to embrace other countries and to bring their great grand children up as truly global citizens.

Only a Bangkok local would know…

Bangkok does not at first seem like an easy place to have a dog and so it was with some trepidation that we got our children their long awaited puppy. But we have since found a wonderful dog loving corner of the city that enables our four legged friend to have as much fun as we do in this vibrant metropolis. We head to the lake at Nong Bon Water Sports Park where we can walk for a good hour in an area of genuine natural loveliness. This was a particularly good find for when the bush of my childhood seems a long way away!

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