While attending the Northern Caribbean University, Venice Irving was introduced to a group of South Korean recruiters looking for teachers to teach English in the Asian country.
Intrigued, she applied but had to wait a year before she could take up the offer as she was not yet a graduate.
By the time she graduated in 2000 with her business administration degree, she was told that all teaching vacancies in South Korea were filled, but there was an opening in Taiwan.
“I took that opportunity, and the rest is history,” she said.
Living in a foreign country had its ups and downs, but Irving said she enjoyed the experience. For eight years, she taught English to speakers of other languages in the East Asian country.
Upon her return home, she also obtained a Post-Grad Degree in Education at the University of the West Indies. She taught business courses at private colleges in Jamaica and worked as a course facilitator at The University of the West Indies Open Campus since 2015.
But it was her experience teaching abroad that inspired her to start her business, BIW Consultants in 2009 to guide teachers who had expressed interest in teaching abroad.
In 2020, she rebranded the company to Happy Teachers and shifted its mandate to focus on the wellness and mental health of teachers.
“Happy Teachers creates engaging educational activities and materials and facilitates meaningful conversations and community around teacher well-being. At workshops, we combine diverse evidence-based learning methodologies – enriching participants with positive psychology knowledge and tools,” said Irving, who was featured on Loop’s Young People in Business.
In 2020, Irving established another company-Caribbean TESOL Institute, an online education and skills development company, which delivers products and courses to improve global opportunities for students with English communication training, and job-specific skills training.
She said her company offers a full suite of English as a Foreign Language certificates and some local teaching certificates. The company also facilitates staff travelling to new markets and companies with cross-border and culturally diverse teams.
“We have won several awards like the Embassy’s Academy Women of Entrepreneurs pitch competition. In 2021, we won the Export award at the Caribbean MicroPitch Business Plan Competition. This helped Happy Teachers secure funding and regional recognition through our sponsor Caricom Export,” she said of the success of her business.
Recently, the Kingston native was awarded the prestigious Chevening scholarship to study Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at the University of Manchester.
“This scholarship is particularly significant because I will be studying my area of expertise. This degree will equip me to train cohorts of Jamaican teachers in TESOL to give our government a bargaining chip at the investment table with countries that speak other languages,” she said.
16 Jamaicans were awarded Chevening Scholarships in August 2022. Photo via UK in Jamaica – British High Commission in Kingston, Facebook
This year’s Chevening scholars were selected from a shortlisted cohort of about 50, who were chosen from a wider candidate pool of more than 400.
Chevening is the UK government’s international awards programme aimed at developing global leaders.
Below is a list of the other recipients of the Chevening Scholarship from Jamaica:
Mailke Kellier (Masters of Law in human rights law, University College London)
Jannielle Morgan (MSc in health management, City, University of London)
Janoi Reid (MSc in actuarial science with data analytics, University of Leicester)
Damoy Douglas (MSc in intelligence, security and disaster management, University of Derby)Shenelle Stewart (MA in special and inclusive education, University College London)
Mikhail Henry (MSc in microbiology, University of Aberdeen); Kristina Neil (MA in gender, sexuality and culture, University of Manchester)
Rhynee KcKay-Bennett (MA in special and inclusive education (specific learning difficulties)
Richard Robinson (MSc in counterterrorism, Cranfield University)
Matthew Ferguson (MA in media, campaigning and social change, University of Westminster)
Amanda McKenzie (MSc in international agribusiness and food-chain management, Harper Adams University):
Nastassia Robinson (MSc in Psychology, Cardiff University)
Colleen Dawkins (MA in corporate communications, marketing and public relations, University of Leeds):
Gabrielle Thompson-Jackson (MA in producing, Met Film School)
Zachary Ramsay (MSc in applied statistical modelling and health informatics, King’s College London)