The Beginning

Sarah Charlton, fomer pschology major and HR executive, tells us what inspired her to start Gold Star English.

The Winds of Change

When I first arrived in Hong Kong six years ago from London, I was planning to continue my career in human resources. My one and only contact I had in Hong Kong passed me a couple of her students to teach to keep me occupied while my search was going on. After a few weeks of settling into teaching the children at home and after a professional teaching course, I realised the true worth of a good teacher. I was no longer an office drone, sometimes making people's lives miserable (I'd spent months in London carrying out a huge redundancy project before moving to Hong Kong). Now I was a real influence on people's lives, helping young children learn and grow. I could be creative, and enthusiasm and positivity were now the name of the game. I loved the change, it was energising and fulfilling. I began to gather momentum and soon I was teaching children of different ages at their homes almost full time.

Planting the Seed

Together with friends who are also experienced in teaching, we began to toy with the idea of opening a learning centre so that we could teach small groups of children at one time as we were gaining students faster than we could accommodate. The idea of working together to create an inclusive, friendly and truly special place to support more children was appealing. We had all gained experience of teaching and had family with invaluable teaching skills, experience and advice to draw upon.

Growing the Goods

After lots of paperwork, legal compliance, furniture buying and finding accommodation we were finally there. In September 2010, together with Peter Phillips, the grandson of the Queen of England, we opened our Wan Chai centre, with a ribbon cutting ceremony that even the leading newspaper group South China Morning Post participated and reported.

We started with eight students and quickly grew in numbers. I really enjoyed playing jack of all trades and went from invoicing one minute to lesson planning and website designing the next. It was also fantastic getting to know the parents and talking to them about supporting them and their children, such as how our special phonics programme works and how it could help children read and write.

For me, it was the progress from the students that struck me most - the speed was just astounding. I had students shooting through the reading levels at their schools and autistic students who I took back to basics and who began to love reading after years of struggling. Many of our students also gained a place at prestigious schools such as Harrow and Chinese International. The feedback from the parents was always incredibly encouraging.

The Next Chapter

I was so fortunate to get to know Judy Chan, the current Principal of the school, in 2012. Judy was already highly accomplished academically and previously had a strong career in law as well as prestigeous research positions at universities in Beijing, Hong Kong and London. We both shared the same immense passion for children and education. She started getting involved in the school and eventually took over as Principal when I relocated with the family to Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

I still enjoy being involved with the school, and communicate regularly with the team. I am so proud to see the school flourish and am totally confident that together, we will support even more families and help more children fall in love with learning.

P.S.: if you have any questions about us, our approach or would just want to have an informal discussion about your child's learning of English, please do not hesistate to contact Joanne at our Wan Chai centre.

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