Jean Dumago-Descallar, known to everyone as Teacher Jean, was born on August 19, 1966 in the peaceful municipality of Magallanes, Agusan del Norte. Born to a poor family, she is a living example of a poor little girl with high aspirations in life.
Despite their poverty, her parents worked hard to send her to Father Urios High School, a private Catholic school. She used to write promissory letters to the School’s Cashier because her parents could not pay her tuition fee. Most of the time, she did not have snacks and had to walk a mile. None of these, however, disheartened Teacher Jean; she continued to be active in both her academic and extra-curricular activities. Whenever she needed costumes for dancing, she would go to her grandmother, neighbors, relatives and friends to borrow anything that she could use or recycle.
She still vividly remembers the day her parents told her that they could no longer afford to send her to college. Her father was in between jobs, her mother was a Day Care Center teacher, and her three brothers were also studying in high school. Teacher Jean, being the only daughter and the eldest child, was determined and inspired more than ever to get a college degree so that she could help her parents and brothers.
To cover her board, lodging and other expenses, Teacher Jean became a working student for her mother's sister, Merlita Gangca. She obtained a full scholarship from the University of Mindanao in Davao City through her dancing skills. She was also President of the Makabayan Cultural Dance Troupe.
Teacher Jean quickly learned that being both a scholar and a working student was very challenging. She had to balance her priorities and manage her time well to live up to the demands of both her roles. This challenge, however, never stopped her from getting a college degree. She believed that poverty was not a hindrance to success, and that she had to use her God-given talents to achieve her dreams. She willingly sacrificed the luxuries of the present to make room for a bright future. She was never ashamed of being poor. Instead, she used her situation to inspire her to dream big.
The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. Armed with a college degree and a pass given by her mother’s first cousin, Rosalinda Beray and her husband, Margarito, to ride a ship to Manila, Teacher Jean sailed the waters that would take her to the land where she would build her dreams. She knew that the road ahead was going to be long and hard, but she needed only to remind herself that her big dreams needed bigger acts of sacrifice.
In Manila, her mother’s first cousin Victoria Sabit and her husband, Julio, warmly welcomed her. It was their first time to meet in person. Her aunt was very supportive in all her endeavors, from
applying and getting her very first job to pursuing and getting her masters degree. She first taught at Holy Angels Montessori School. That's where she met Mrs Venie Raro, the President and owner of HAMS. That work experience molded and honed her pedagogic and teaching skills especially in teaching preschool level. Mrs. Raro was one of the few people who believed so much in her capacity. She filled her with so much confidence and encouragement and mentored her throughout her teaching experience at HAMS.
Being fresh from Mindanao, finding a job was very difficult because competition was stiff. Initial adjustments were another challenge, as the people around her made fun of the way she pronounced some words. However, this did not discourage her. Being the fighter that she is, she took it as a challenge. She turned her weaknesses into her strengths. She refused to let fear and weakness hinder her from creating the life with her aspirations that she wanted.
In 1998, Teacher Jean experienced the most difficult times of her life; but being the strong woman that she was, she never gave up. Her strong faith in God and great confidence in herself always kept her going.
She’s always enlightened and inspired by the bible verse of Mark 11:22-24 that says, “Faith allows impossible things to happen. The power comes from a fearless heart. And when a fearless heart
believes, miracles happen.” She knew in her heart that there would be wonderful changes and that beautiful things would happen as long as everything she did had a noble purpose. She trusted that it is one’s great faith that makes things happen. The song “Follow Your Dream,” also inspired her greatly.
Despite all the difficulties and pains that Teacher Jean went through, she firmly stood her ground and trusted that everything happens for a reason. She turned every obstacle into a stepping stone. She always believed in the saying that “Dreams are realized by those who persevere and never quit”.
In 2001, Teacher Jean finally realized her dream to have her very own school. God truly guided her in founding Starland Kiddie School. The bible story of The Parable of the Talents motivated
and inspired her to do her best as the steward of Starland International School. She always reminds her Starland family that it is God who owns the School, and because of this fact, everybody should strive to serve with both dedication and integrity.
All the pains and hardships had prepared her for the gift that she always aspired for. Trusting that everything is according to God’s will, Teacher Jean was rewarded beyond anything that she imagined. God has made her life better than she had ever dreamed.
She hires people based on her own ingredients for success: faith, strength, trust, gratitude and positive character. Indeed, the school is built on trust and other core values.
Starland International School is God’s precious gift to Teacher Jean. It was neither given on a silver platter nor achieved overnight; hard work and long hours were spent overcoming all the odds and perfecting the school. She believed in herself and gave the best that she could at all times. She takes inspiration from a quote from John Wooden’s father, “Don’t try to be better than someone else. Just be the best that you can be”. Teacher Jean never used or stepped on anyone to reach her own ends. She relied on her guts to reach her glory.
Starland International School started as Starland Kiddie School in 2001. Teacher Jean rented a small sala and one of the rooms of an apartment with only two borrowed tables and plastic chairs for furniture from Ms Elena Borlongan. Only a single streamer announced its enrollment.
The months of April and May were the ultimate test of her determination because no one came to enroll. Teacher Jean held on to her faith and never lost hope. Her prayers were answered and her hardships paid off when in June and July, twenty enrollees came. She hired Teacher Belinda Ureta as Assistant Teacher and Teacher Josie Mendoza joined them a few months after.
Only after three months, Teacher Jean had to transfer, because some residents of the apartment complained that the classes disturbed them. She asked the children’s parents for help. The parents advanced their tuition fees so that she could come up with the down payment for another apartment that would house the School.
Living in Manila and starting her own school proved to be very expensive for Teacher Jean. The struggle became even more apparent when she brought her children from Mindanao to live with her. She used the School's stock room as the family's living quarters. In order to survive, she got daily part-time jobs that saw her working until midnight. She will never forget the instances she had to eat candies to satisfy her hunger and the times the parents would give her left-overs from their dinner for her children.
In 2005, the stars shone brightly on Teacher Jean as its enrollment population grew bigger, Starland Kiddie School became Starland Academy. ln 2007, in God’s perfect time, Starland Academy became Starland International School.
Since 2001, Starland International School has expanded to seven branches, spanning the three island groups of the country. There are three campuses in Luzon, all in Metro Manila: Kamias, the main campus, and Cubao in Quezon City, and the third, in Caloocan City. In Mindanao, there are branches in Butuan, Cagayan de Oro and Davao cities. And in Visayas, a newly opened branch in Lapu-Lapu City was launched in May 2017.
Teacher Jean is very grateful for all of God’s blessings. She is truly proud of her leadership. She has continuously proven that she deserves the trust and responsibility that God has endowed her. Her primary advocacy is to help the parents to save money through affordable tuition fees, so that children can experience excellence through quality education.
Along with the growth of the school, Teacher Jean is able to pursue her other advocacies: providing employment to enable and capacitate individuals, helping deserving learners through scholarship grants and giving additional discounts to parents who enroll more than one child, helping less-fortunate students in public schools through donations of school supplies and regular feeding programs and, together with her SIS family, extending assistance to victims of calamities, lastly, providing full scholarship to learners from the hometown of Teacher Jean.
To ensure continuity in her legacy to help others, Teacher Jean will soon be establishing a foundation with the hope of encouraging others, especially her children to share their blessings.
Every achievement of the School and its students is a reflection of the success of Teacher Jean’s journey in life. It is proof of her strong will and determination to succeed.
Starland International School is the realization of a simple woman's dream--- of Teacher Jean’s dream.
She is very grateful to her parents, who have molded her to become who and what she is today. Through their discipline, they have imbibed in her the importance of education and strength of character. Teacher Jean is also thankful to her three younger brothers and their families for their unwavering love and support.
Teacher Jean feels lucky and blessed to have her three children and husband by her side. They are her constant source of inspiration, joy, strength and fulfillment.
Her gratitude extends especially to her treasured Starland International School family for being with her throughout her bittersweet journey to success.
Teacher Jean’s heart will always be grateful to all the people who contributed to the success of Starland, most especially to the parents who entrusted their children to the School. She firmly believes that success is not dependent on status symbols, titles, plaques, or awards. After all, one’s worth is not measured by material possessions, but through the difference one makes in the lives of others.
Despite her Doctoral Degree in Education, and all her achievements, Teacher Jean remains humble and simply prefers to be addressed as such by everyone.
She has dedicated her life to serve as a fountain of blessings to others and to be an inspiration to everyone she meets in life.
Everyday, she would always profess her life’s greatest motto: Dream big and make it happen.