Sopheap: passionate about education : For a Child's Smile - PSE

Sopheap: passionate about education

Sopheap à son bureau au Département de Pédagogie

A portrait of Sopheap, PSE’s first employee.  She started in 1995 when the charity had just begun its actions in Cambodia.

Discovery of PSE

After graduating from the School of Pedagogy in 1994, Sopheap worked in a state school for 2 years.  Seeking a new experience in which she could help destitute children, Sopheap found out about PSE (For a Child’s Smile), an NGO whose goal is to support Cambodia’s poorest children.

One of my friends who works for Sipar (an NGO that tackles illiteracy) told me about a group of foreigners who were in Steng Mean Chey developing an organisation to help destitute children in Phnom Penh.”

At the time, I was working in a state school, but I decided to apply to this organisation. When I started, I was completely overwhelmed: none of these children could have gone to school without PSE’s support. I learned more about the activities of the organisation and the strength of the programmes developed for the children so they could receive the same education as other kids in Cambodia.

An evolutionary path to pedagogy

Sopheap took her first steps at PSE in 1995, before the school opened!  Since then, she has worked in 3 different departments: as a primary school teacher, manager of the pedagogy department, and she is currently the Soft Skills Programme Coordinator.

As a teacher at PSE, I had many missions around children’s learning abilities”

My role as a teacher allowed me to conduct research on tools and methodology to transmit knowledge adapted for the young children at PSE.  I also had to supervise the kids, which I loved because I could spend a lot of time with them and identify those who had health problems or were at risk.

In 2003, Sopheap became Head of the Teaching and Pedagogy team. “I prepared teaching approaches for the teachers, organised weekly meetings and developed learning tools. Most importantly, I observed classes to give feedback to the teachers about their techniques, and then I set up new measures. Additionally, I worked with a specific class with which I developed teaching methodologies to pass to the other teachers.

Sopheap did this role for 10 years before becoming Soft Skills Programme Coordinator.  

Pedagogy: a pillar in education

Sopheap’s role today is to improve the children’s education through personal development and soft skills, such as creativity, problem solving, communication, negotiation, organisation, and leadership. In Cambodia, a lack of these skills has been noted among young people, particularly oral communication, initiative, teamwork and flexibility.  That is why PSE has created pedagogical tools to train young people to develop these personal skills during their school education.

What motivates me the most is developing our students’ values and personal skills, to help them integrate into society”

Our goal is to help them find a job, build a family and become responsible citizens.”

Many young people from PSE have already succeeded in their careers thanks to them learning and applying personal skills. They progress into positions of increased responsibility while developing their personal life and family. It is a true pleasure to follow their successes in life.

Continuous training for teachers

Since Sopheap started working at PSE, she has had the chance to participate in many training courses covering topics such as leadership, management, teamwork, soft skills, psychology, and teaching methods…

The training courses about psychology have been the most important to me. They have allowed me to learn how to deal with stress at work but also to identify children with potential problems.  All the skills and knowledge I have gained during these courses are really important as an educator. I share them with my colleagues, other teachers and even sometimes with those students who need it.”

Throughout her 24 years with PSE, Sopheap has seen the impact of these pedagogy techniques on the children’s behaviour.  ‘’These methods improve the behaviour of young people, they can integrate more easily into society afterwards, and particularly into the professional world.’’

A look to the future

I wanted to stay at PSE all these years because the organisation has a very clear vision of its values and its mission. The first goal has always been to help the kids by providing them with education and healthcare … this has always been at the heart of PSE's strategic direction. Directors always seek to improve the care of children while actively helping employees to grow professionally.

 “I have learned a lot from PSE and I want to transmit this knowledge in a supportive way.”

Sopheap is heavily involved in the education of destitute children and is constantly looking to improve teaching methods. Her vision of education is aligned to PSE’s values, best summed up in Christian des Pallieres’s celebrated phrase “the best school for the poorest of the poor.