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Public speaking is a skill that can serve you well throughout your life and the pupils at Hightgate School in Nicosia recently had a chance to develop their abilities with experts in the sector.
Encouraged by Head teacher Dr. Maria Theochari and Secondary Coordinator/School Counsellor Arlette Shohmelian, secondary school pupils enjoyed several weeks of training and preparation with local public speaking expert Leonidas Alexandrou, the co-founder and managing director of First Class Business.
Their skills were put to the test in a public speaking contest for the 11-16 year old pupils, the December 13 finals of which was judged by international expert Dr. Tien Chau, the CEO of Midwest Education Group. Chau later also trained Highgate teachers in public speaking.
The contest proved to be very popular with the pupils and all, according to Alexandrou and their teachers, had shown a huge improvement in the weeks leading up to the competition.

Attended by The Cyprus Weekly, their presentations were all the more impressive given how awkward adolescence can be even for the most confident young people.
Asked to speak about their plans for the future, the pupils in the finals turned out to be eloquent and well-prepared making information and often entertaining addresses about their personal hopes and dreams.
While contestants differed as much in their approach as in their hopes for their professional and personal lives when they grow up, every one of the speeches in the finals was worth hearing but ultimately, only seven of the speakers were awarded prizes- Alisa Vasliou in Year 6, Katerina Krasha in Year 7, Alvaro Hergueta and Enyalios Papadopoulos in Year 8, Johnny Hart in Year 9, Guillermo Hergueta in Year 10 and Chloe Savvidou in Year 11.
Dr. Theochari and Shohmelian also confirmed that, after the success of the recent effort, public speaking would be made part of the school’s syllabus while Alexandrou expects to organise another public speaking contest for the children in March.
Shohmelian also said that the school planned to organise an island-wide public-speaking contest. “It was rewarding to see how the pupils transformed in a short period of time.”
Speaking to the paper after their prizes were awarded, Savvidou, 16, and Hart, 14, noted what a positive experience taking part in the contest had been for them and said it was something they would definitely recommend to other young people.
“We learnt a lot including the importance of preparing before hand,” Hart said, with Savvidou adding: “It has helped us become more confident and is definitely something we can use in our every day lives.”
She continued that public speaking was a skill she believed everyone should develop, whatever their age.

Life skills

Also speaking to the paper after the contest, Alexandrou said that the idea of training the pupils in public speaking had come amidst his company’s services to the school as business advisors.
“I feel that nowadays employability skills are unfortunately something that the education system does not take into our account. We teach our children physics, maths and geography but not basic principals that would help make them successful when seeking work,” he said.
Alexandrou continued that successful people were marked by an emotional intelligence that helped them understand how others through while also being able to present themselves and their ideas.
People were often not given due opportunities to prove themselves because they presented themselves ineffectively, he noted, adding that public speaking was a skill that could make all the difference, along with boosting confidence.
“There is a different approach when teaching children rather than adults. Children are more authentic, they have no hidden agenda but I had to have a different approach with each of the 24 children taking part in the contest,” he said.
From speaking to their teachers, Alexandrou continued, he had also found that the participants’ increased confidence had helped overcome other classroom difficulties.

Inspiring others

The CEO of a company based in Chicago and active around the world, Chau told the paper that her life was changed by an enthusiastic teacher and that she wanted to inspire the same positivism in others.
“I grew up in an environment were girls were not encouraged to pursue higher education,” the holder of a Bachelors, two Masters degrees and a PhD said.
She continued that the person who changed her life had been a young teacher, just out of college and who had not been able to find work in the big city and so came to teach at the school in Chau’s small and remote village.
“He was very idealistic and came into the classroom and said that the government would be giving scholarships to Moscow to the pupils that did well that year. I believed him then although I later realised that, because of my background and parents’ political affiliations, I would never have been awarded a scholarship,” she said.
Chau may never have got that trip to Moscow but her change in attitude towards school and helping others—including helping women in her community with childbirth and care-- went on to win her other scholarships to Holland and the USA.
“I used to get upset and think, why do I have to try 10 times harder than someone else to succeed at something but then I realised, if I wasn’t one of God’s miracles, I was meant to bring out these miracles in other people. As Dr. (Martin Luther) King said, education is intelligence with an attitude,” Chau said.
“I wanted to bring that hope to people. To bring out the dragon and tiger in children,” she added.
Chau recalled that before she first left Vietnam for Holland and later the USA, she had never seen an aeroplane before. She has since also worked with women in post-war Iraq and worked in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
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Wednesday, 01 January 2014 00:00

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Natalia Polyntseva | Parent
My child has developed so many skills within a relatively short time and his progress is tremendous. The head-teacher is always accessible and willing to practically support parents and pupils. Private education at its best!
Andreas Nicolaou | Parent
Pubic Speaking: Pubic Speaking was really good for me. It actually did help me a lot. Ok, it didn't get me more self-confidence because i already have too much hehe , but it did teach me a lesson about life.
Alvaro Hergueta Year 8
Pubic Speaking: For me, the public speaking course was not only enlightening, showing me techniques for speaking to a large crowd, small group or even individuals which I was previously oblivious to, but also allowed me to understand how I as an individual needed to prepare for a speech. Finally, the course also helped me control my nerves when speaking publicly. I found the tutorial very helpful, and actually, unexpectedly quite enjoyable. In my opinion, the hands on approach of Mr. Leonidas and the school's administration assisted our improvement greatly.
Chloe Savvidou Year 10
Pubic Speaking: Public speaking was a great experience that allowed me to be truly dependent on myself after practising over and over again, working through the problems that we encountered. It truly was a fun and extremely important life lesson to learn.
Jonny Hart Year 9
Pubic Speaking: It helped me with raising my confidence
Ino Polykarpou Year 8
Pubic Speaking: It helped me with facing my fear and helped teach me how to talk to a group of people and not stress out.
Thusi Rohan Year 8
Pubic Speaking: The public speaking gave me self-confidence
Maggie Tomaszewska Year 8
Pubic Speaking: It helped me be more organised and improved my behaviour.
Enyalios Papadopoulos Year 8
Pubic Speaking: Public speaking has helped me open up to a number of people and share my opinions and helped me overcome my fear of talking to big numbers of people
Alex Christofi Year 8
Pubic Speaking: The public speaking competition helped me feel more courageous when talking to bigger groups of people.
Kyle Fox Year 8
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