St. Joseph School: Valuing education

Pre-school teacher Maria Lourdes Josefina-Ilagan Garcia and her husband Roberto de Leon Garcia, Jr. put up the St. Joseph Kinder School in 1972 without the “business sense” in mind.
For Mrs. Garcia, it was a continuation of what she had been doing in Manila. Added to that, “my own children were of pre-school age, I thought that having them in my class would mean that I could personally address their academic preparation.”
She served as the school owner and principal at the same time. Under her were three teachers and one office staff who catered to the needs of 40 students.
In 1986, the school offered elementary education and in 2002, it opened the high school department.
The then St. Joseph Grade School became St. Joseph School (Iloilo), Inc, a non-profit institution, which, according to Mrs. Garcia, wants to become “a center for holistic learning – the school’s priority over and above profit.”
Mrs. Garcia revealed that her children – Bong, Richard and Lourdes – expressed negativisms towards having to continue the school’s operation in the future. But, being a loving mother and educator who believes that individuals have their own passions and dreams, she told them not to worry about that.
“I assured them that they were not going to be ‘railroaded’ into accepting such a task – that I would definitely want to see them pursuing a career they love most – just as I am happy doing what I am doing currently as a teacher.”
Indeed, they pursued other courses and experienced having other employers. “They were encouraged to experience employment first outside the school so that they could have the feel of how it is to be an employee – so that this experience can be helpful should they be employers in the future,” she said.
“Then, they started to express how they could blend in and help in the operation of the school,” she happily added.
Like her son Richard, who used to see himself in a different field. “As a doctor. That’s why I took up MedTech during first year of college, then shifted to Management the following year,” he said.
Richard added that while he was in college, he worked part time in school, doing payroll and other office work.
He also worked in a bank for 10 years in Manila and it was his banking experience that also prepared him for his job right now – as the school’s financial controller.

Daughter Lourdes or “Che”, a pre-school teacher, revealed that she had a lot of memorable learning experiences in SJS. “But what I remember most were those experiences that taught me about life, friendship and respect.  As the daughter of the Directress, I was always ‘singled-out’ and misjudged as someone who was arrogant. Because of this, friends would turn their backs on me or shy away. But I learned that I have to go on doing what I do and prove to them that I am more to being just the Directress' daughter. I may have granted with a few friends, but these friends are still close to me up to now,” she said.
Mrs. Garcia revealed that the school was an extension of their home.
“My children grew up here and schoolmates who had been with them are just like our very own children. St. Joseph has always been coined as ‘home away from home’.
Che agreed. “I grew up in the school's environment. As a kid, my mom would bring me to her office.
I always loved seeing my mom at work. I remember the time when I was still at Grade 1 or 2, I would sit-in on a pre-school class and act as a teacher aid. I would help the teacher pacify pre-school children who would cry looking for their mommies. Because of this, I decided to take up Education.  And right now, I love being a teacher,” she said.
Che also owns Iana’s Big Bites, a hamburger joint at the side of SJS.

For those with family businesses, being part of it can be challenging. How do you draw the line between your relationship as family members and your relationship as co-workers? How do you ensure that personal issues do not get in the way of getting work done in the business?
“As a family, we discuss operations and talk about the limitations of each in terms of accommodations. We all agreed that all decisions would have to come after we thoroughly talked about it as a family. We talk about the pros and the cons of arriving at such decisions and these discussions had been very good learning opportunities for my children,” Mrs. Garcia said.
“Conflicts and misunderstandings are a normal part in the lives of family members. It is a sign that a relationship exists,” she added.
So whenever some members have a misunderstanding, Mr. and Mrs. Garcia talk to them, listen to them and bring together those involved in order to ensure closure.

With the family’s success in running the business, they must be doing something good.
The important lessons that the Garcia couple have imparted to their children, which they, too are applying in their lives right now, are the following:
First, love and dedication to work. “If you love what you do, dedication becomes obvious; work does not become laborious. That is why I had initially allowed my children to pursue courses of their choice,” Mrs. Garcia said.
“Respect for people and for ideas, for strengths and limitations. A healthy working relationship allows for growth of all concerned,” she explained.
“Develop work ethics that spell discipline. Success does not come at once. Giving up too early is never an option,” she added.
Second, continuous search for advancement. “If you love what you do, you will want to know more and you will want to become better in your craft; and there are many ways of achieving this.”
“Believe in what you are doing. It is difficult to sustain your interest in what you are doing without this.
However, nothing can contain your enthusiasm into generating more and being more productive if you are totally sold to what you are doing. It will show and shine!” she added.
Third, honesty is vital in every relationship. “Possessing a clean heart and a clean mind ... free of pretenses...makes life very productive. We are able to function well since there are no hitches that we expect to come our way.”
“In the same light, I encourage my children to live within their means. Many problems take their roots from extravagant wants which need to be tempered,” she explained.
“Materialism is best tempered. A family business, to be successful, must be able to define its limits,” she added.

The Garcia family continues to envision something good for the school.
“The vision of SJS is central to school leadership. It’s a source of motivation and energy. It shapes the practice within the school community by understanding each individual’s total human development while living up to excellence,” said Richard.
For Che, she wants SJS to continue giving good education to the youth and to have more successful alumni giving service to the Filipino people.
“I do not want to quantify the number of years St Joseph School would still be up...for as long as
Josephians practice what they have learned, St Joseph School shall live,” Mrs. Garcia concluded. (Kathy Villalon, The News Today, Oct. 12, 2012)

1. Establish a vision for the business and outline objectives and priorities,
2. Maintain open communication,
3. Define roles and responsibilities among family members,
4. Manage expectations to everyone.
5. Plan for the future to ensure smooth transition of the business.

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