This month, we’re celebrating the successes of savvy expatriates and Singaporeans, as well as the setbacks they overcame, to make life better in Singapore in our Expatpreneur Awards 2017.
“I grew up as a third-culture kid,” says Dr. Vanessa von Auer (find out how we picked the awardees here), who lived in Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore for her father’s work, and is of German-Chinese heritage. “I loved Singapore and never left.”
In fact, her experience attending international schools here prepared her to start Integrated International School in 2009, offering students an intimate environment and personalised lessons.
Similarly, her first business, VA Psychology Center was opened in 2008 to support kids and adults through their struggles in a cosy, family-oriented space.
“I enjoy what I do,” Dr. Vanessa muses. I would have a gaping void in my life without it.”
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Dr. Vanessa von Auer first began practicing as a psychologist in Singapore in 2005, mainly working with autistic children and their families.
Three years later, she decided to go solo and set up VA Psychology Center (VAPC).
Her aim for VAPC: To create a “spa-like atmosphere” that would serve as a “one-stop shop for emotional and psychological well-being,” she explains.
“It makes all the difference,” she notes of the surroundings. “Everyone feels at home and comfortable to share personal concerns.”
“Within six months, I needed to hire four additional staff to accommodate the number of clients requiring support!”
VAPC started off by providing individual, family and couples counselling, but slowly diversified its offerings to include parenting coaching, anger management sessions, play therapy for children, work-stress management and more.
However, one concerning matter frequently came up: “I met many bright students having difficulties in more traditional school settings,” she recalls. It cemented her belief that they would benefit from a customisable curriculum in a more intimate environment.
And thus, Integrated International School (IIS) was born.
A primary, middle and high school all rolled into one, IIS takes a holistic approach to education by emphasising academic excellence as much as students’ well-being.
And you know you’ve succeeded when your children think so, too. “My toddler loves going to ‘big school’ with me,” she says. “All our teachers are so warm, which is why I believe our students, just like my daughter, love coming to school.”
The international programme at IIS is based on the Australian curriculum, though Dr. Vanessa ensures flexibility by tailoring aspects of the lessons to fit each student’s individual learning styles. In this way, this “boutique” school’s small size, compared to many traditional international schools, is a significant benefit, she contends. “We have the time and resources to focus on the teacher-student relationship.”
IIS doesn’t only invest in its students: Each teacher is personally handpicked by Dr. Vanessa, the principal, and offered specialised training in “up-to-date, child-centred teaching methods,” as she feels that teachers should be collaborators with students.
What’s next for IIS? “We’ll continue to grow organically, develop our programmes and explore ways to redefine success for our students.”
By Sara Lyle Bow, The Finder (Issue 280), March 2017
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