with former student Philip Thompson


By Therese Eley, Marketing Services

"The word 'education' has nothing to do with filling people up with knowledge. The root comes from the Latin 'educere' meaning to 'bring out'. That’s what true education is. If you can bring out belief, motivation, dignity, hope, purpose, you are bringing out core values on which they can build their life."

That is the guiding philosophy by which Philip Thompson, lives his life.

Originally from the UK, Philip comes from a family where nobody had been to university. Then something happened that changed the course of his life forever.

At age 29, while working as a carpenter, at a time when the UK was desperate for teachers with a technical background, they had a program where they would pay for people to re-train as a teacher.

"That’s the first time I really entered formal higher education––and then I got a taste for it!" he chuckles. He admits it became a bit of a “prideful pursuit” as he later went on to complete both an honours and a masters degree, and some years later, our Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) program.

He was really struggling at his first teaching position, as a technology teacher at an inner-city London girls school, when one evening during a professional development session, the trainer said something that shifted his whole perspective on teaching. He said, “If you were to train someone to become a really good athlete, you wouldn’t start with them on the track and say ‘go as fast as you can’––you start with them in a relaxed environment, and you have to convince them that they are capable. You have to show them that you believe in them. You have to demonstrate, somehow, that they have this ability, it just needs developing. That’s where you start: in the heart and mind.”

That concept was transformative and became foundational to his teaching approach. Many years later, while taking his TEFL training, he was reminded of this philosophy and was inspired to use his training and his passion for connecting with people on a heart-level, to really help people.

Thus inspired, Philip traveled to Samoa, a country with a very isolated and concentrated indigenous population, to teach English to the young girls there, offering them opportunities beyond the traditional role of servitude.

Upon his return, tragedy struck in his life with the death of his youngest son, ushering in a period of mourning that ended up shifting his life path in yet another direction. Today, Philip has returned to his carpentry roots and, fuelled by his grief for his son and his experiences through that, has started his own business hand-crafting Canada’s greenest coffins, beautifully elegant pieces made without the use of any metal parts.

"If you go to a funeral home, they will show you all sort of mass-produced coffins made by an American company with factories in Mexico and China. You can’t find a single coffin that’s made in Canada. I just think this is outrageous! So what I want to do, my dream, is to connect every funeral director in Canada with a local craftsman in their area who can make hand-crafted, ‘green’ coffins, right here in Canada."

Now that he has refined his design, he is passionate about taking on an apprentice, perhaps a young person who has been to prison or who has struggled in their life, and train them, build up their confidence and their abilities, give them the encouragement and the belief that they can get their life back on track.

"I think the most important thing in anyone’s life is encouragement. To live in despair, without hope, can ruin a person’s life. But a little encouragement can change everything. It’s as simple as that."

  • Posted November 29, 2016