After 38 years of teaching, Holger Jensen still thinks that there is no better feeling than seeing something click in a child’s head. ”This is why I was put here on Earth,” he says. “To teach!”
When Holger Jensen thinks back on his own school experience, he remembers an incident where the teacher handed out stickers to his students according to how well they had finished an assignment; the better the assignment, the bigger and brighter the sticker. Holger’s disappointment was enormous when the boy sitting next to him was awarded a large, colorful sticker with a Red Indian on it, while all he got was a small one of a boring, gray mouse.
At the time, he never thought he would once make a career of teaching himself, but he did, and now, having taught more than 500 students in Bangkok, one of the core principles of his work is still that learning has to be fun.
To Holger, a career in teaching was not an obvious choice, and he had to try his way forward working different jobs. He started working as a shipping man, but suddenly the dream of becoming a teacher emerged in his head, and instead of slowly disappearing, it continued to grow. Holger therefore attended teaching college to see if this was really the way for him. As it turned out, it was and in 1972, he started his new career.
In 1994-95, Holger went on a pack packing experience for a year in Southeast Asia and Australia, and the trip made a huge impact on him. Little did he know that just a few years later, he would actually leave little Denmark behind for good.
A Thai-Danish couple based in the capital of Thailand contacted him and asked if he might be interested in coming to Bangkok for eight months to teach their teenage son, Simon.
“All of a sudden, I just heard myself say ‘yes’,” he says and before he knew it, he was off to Bangkok and a new job that would prove to be very rewarding.
“It was amazing, what my student was able to learn,” Holger says as he recalls his first teaching experience abroad.
“When he had learned how to read his first page, the two of us went to a café to celebrate.”
To Holger, those are the moments in his work that matter the most, and it is within those same moments that his passion for teaching lies.
“It is the most fantastic experience when you know that finally, the student gets it. You can almost see the piece of the puzzle falling into place, and bingo! It just clicks! That is why I love my job,” he says and adds that he gets the greatest pleasure when a child, after a lot of hard work, suddenly knows how to read.
“It is the same with every student I have ever had. That excitement when they read and write never changes.”
For the past nine years, Holger has practically been part of the inventory at New International School of Thailand (NIST) where he has been teaching Danish at the foreign language department. He does not work there full time but he comes in several times a week to teach some of the Danish children who go to school there.
It is a big school but Holger knows the hallways and the numerous corridors like the back of his hand. He turns corners and walks up and down stairs until he comes to a halt in front of a door covered in different flags.
“I love this room,” he says as he opens the door and enters the foreign language teachers’ lounge.
This is the place where the teachers who represent 22 nationalities can talk and exchange ideas on how best to teach their foreign languages to their students. He explains that it is such a nice group of people to be a part of and he appreciates the level of cultural understanding they have achieved just by sharing a teachers’ lounge and drinking coffee.
“We just talk, and even though it sometimes feels as if the whole world is right in this room, it isn’t difficult,” he says and adds that other people could probably learn something from the environment that exists at international schools.
Life in Thailand
Holger Jensen loves his life in Bangkok and feels that he got it just right when he decided to pursue a career in teaching. At 64, however, he is starting to consider putting an end to the busy days of teaching. As much as he loves his job, he is also looking forward to spending more time with his wife Gun and her two children Bushi and Prae, whom Holger has thought of as his own for as long as he can remember.
He explains that he and his wife often dream big about the future, but that there is one dream in particular that he is very keen on fulfilling:
“What I wish for the most, is to open a little café shop where Gun can sell silver jewelry and silk, and I can sell old books. I see myself sitting at a small table in the corner where I will be reading my books while eating brownies and talking to customers,” he says with a dreamy look in his eyes and a little smile on his lips.
At the same, though, he admits that he will probably never be able to let go of teaching completely. It has been such a big part of his life for so long that he feels he will have a hard time living without it.
Born to teach
When watching Holger at NIST it becomes clear that this man is truly in his right element. He jokes with his students who appear to enjoy their lessons with him, which are carried out in an ambitious but casual manner.
It appears that he is one of those teachers who leave a mark on the children they work with, and it is no wonder that he is still in touch with several of them and that even people he taught back in Denmark still visit him in Bangkok from time to time.
Holger Jensen feels like a fish in water – both in Bangkok and in his choice of career.
With a chuckle and eyes full of wonder, he concludes:
“I am so surprised that I am not sick of it yet, but the truth is that I am just as excited about my job now as I was when I started at 26.”