The wind beneath our wings

"Once, on a mission to promote the Program, our car broke down on the highway. While waiting, I thought about what to do. So, I displayed a Teach For Thailand signage by the roadside to raise awareness."

Sai - Nicha Pittayapongsakorn, now a researcher and independent consultant, co-founded Teach For Thailand. She recalls the challenges she and her team faced when establishing the foundation.

"As a team, we debated whether we could really set up this organization. We decided that if it didn't work, at least we tried. We were ready to return to our corporate jobs if we had to."

In the journey of founding an educational organization striving to be the top choice for young talents, many unsung heroes worked tirelessly behind the scenes, acting as the driving force that propelled Teach For Thailand through its 10-year journey.

(From left to right) Petch Pichayut, Sai – Nicha, Dr. Am Krittinee,
(Upper) Dr. Ladda, (Lower) Tarn-Watchareepan, Mo – Chanakan

Sai - Nicha Pittayapongsakorn

     One of these remarkable individuals is Petch Pichayut Jirapinyo, now the Co-Founder of the health startup company Bareindo. In the past, he served as the Head of Talent Acquisition. After graduating from Harvard University, he had a strong commitment to social impacts.

     “I used to be a consultant, solving problems for private organizations. So, I thought, why not tackle social issues myself? I’m a hard worker and unafraid of challenges.”

     The complex education issue became even more intricate when they had to seek investment. As a non-profit organization, Teach For Thailand required financial support. This is where Dr. Ladda Pukiat, a former principal of Chulalongkorn University Demonstration Secondary School, played a pivotal role in getting Teach For Thailand off the ground.

Petch Pichayut Jirapinyo

     “I once had a conversation with an investor who asked if we could guarantee that schools in Bangkok and teachers would transform within a year. Dr. Ladda responded, ‘We can’t guarantee that; change can’t happen in just one year. We’re not magicians.'”

     The journey of Teach For Thailand has been anything but easy. It has been filled with challenges from the start, when few shared their vision.

     “In 2013, someone told us our organization couldn’t be established in Thailand,” shared Petch. “Recent graduates from top universities thought the offered salaries were too low.”

     However, one advantage of pursuing what seems impossible is that it encourages creative thinking and pushing limits. Dr. Am, Krittinee Nuttavuthisit, an Associate Professor and Head of the Marketing Department at Chulalongkorn University’s Sasin School of Management, played a pivotal role in shaping the organization’s image and communication.

Dr. Ladda Pukiat

     “The challenge for Teach For Thailand revolves around people. It’s different from Teach For America,” Dr. Am explained. “In the United States, advocating for change is a selling point. But in Thailand, it can intimidate applicants, making them feel it’s beyond their capabilities.”

     “We can’t present ourselves like Western organizations. We need to rely on applicants’ intentions and focus on nurturing their potential,” she added.

     Dr. Am also highlighted another challenge, “The pool of candidates is quite small. Only a few capable individuals were interested in becoming teachers. We needed to offer a motivation system distinct from corporations. We emphasized that it’s an investment in their future and an opportunity to develop leadership skills. This offers a clearer career path and a more promising future than regular corporate jobs.”

     Initially, Teach For Thailand’s resources were dedicated to recruiting applicants. The co-founders explored various ways to introduce the organization to university students. However, they faced a challenge during this period due to protests in Bangkok.

     “We couldn’t access the universities because of the protests,” recalled Sai. “So, we had to change the plan. Eventually, we decided to distribute flyers during the protests.”

Mo – Chanakan Wasasiri

     “We conveyed the idea that true reform begins with transforming education,” shared Petch. “The entire team battled and brainstormed together. When we hit roadblocks, everyone collaborated until we found a solution.”

     Another individual who played a crucial role in financial matters and connecting with supporters is Tong – Yosavee Niranvichaiya, currently the Director of Marketing and Digital Business Development at True Digital Group, a subsidiary of True Corporation. He had faith in Teach For Thailand’s strengths and its potential for progress, drawing inspiration from successful models in other countries.

     “In three words, Teach For Thailand embodies courageous change, unwavering determination, and the pursuit of success,” Tong shared. “We faced rejections but believed in the mission of making change and saw successful cases in other places. That’s why we believed it was possible.”

     With the determination of the founding team, brand positioning efforts, and expanding their network to garner support from all quarters, Teach For Thailand embarked on its journey. They began recruiting team members like Mo – Chanakan Wasasiri, who initially worked as a Learning and Development Officer and later became a former Content Development Manager at StartDee, an educational startup. Another team member, Tarn-Watchareepan Srituptim, who is now a General Manager at a construction company, took on a role in system management.

Dr. Am - Krittinee Nuttavuthisit

     “Working at Teach For Thailand was my first job, and it was truly meaningful,” Mo expressed enthusiastically. “It was about dedicating oneself to work for the benefit of others and pursuing one’s passion. Even though I didn’t become a teacher, I contributed to teacher development so that they could further contribute to the children.”

     For Tarn, Teach For Thailand represents a community of individuals dedicated to constant self-improvement.

     “Working here has provided me with a wealth of knowledge. It’s like building a startup full of challenges, but everyone here doesn’t shy away from problems,” Tarn emphasized.

     “Working here has equipped me with problem-solving skills, a thirst for learning, and the belief that we can achieve anything. It all depends on our commitment,” Tarn added.

     The beginning of Teach For Thailand aligns with the sentiments of Dr. Ladda, who was intrigued by the organization’s philosophy, pondering the question:

     “How can Thai education compete with other countries?” Dr. Ladda recalled her initial thoughts about Teach For Thailand, saying, “One way to achieve this is by working to change people’s mindset.”

     As someone who dedicated many decades to education, Dr. Ladda shared, “Now I can rest in peace because there’s a new generation, kind-hearted and committed to public service, helping to drive the change.”

     “Changing Thai education isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. As Teach For Thailand approaches its 10th year, it has realized its dreams and objectives. It’s about gradually creating change and becoming one with that change,” she concluded.

Tarn-Watchareepan Srituptim