Influencer Lisette Van Lamoen-Garmers
Interview August 2019
Could you share with us some information of your family life?
I am married, we have 4 sons, and I come from a family with 2 brothers. So both in my parental family as in my current family, I was and am a sort of Queen of the family. Both my parents passed away in 1983, in the same week. I was 22 years old. They were very supportive, both from their own perspective. My mother was a teacher and taught me discipline, my father was a very wise man, who used to read lots of books. He was not easy in his relationships with other people. He used to challenge me by asking lots of questions. We used to have discussions, he didn’t preach to me and respected my opinions. Through the years we developed a special relationship with one another.
This has helped me greatly to deal with my oldest son, as a baby. As he was a hot-tempered little baby, I worked hard on him, as I didn’t want him to be like my father. He has grown up into a smart, educated and composed adult, he earned a scholarship in Track and Field as a sprinter and went to the USA, but due to injuries he had to stop with Track and Field. Otherwise, he would have been right up there running with Shurendy Martina competing internationally. As I was tough on my eldest son, this helped me with the upbringing of my other sons, as within 3 months after the birth of my eldest I became pregnant of the second son, and soon afterwards the 3rd son was born. They are now 27, 26 and 25 years old and 7 years later my youngest son was born.
How did you deal with the challenges of raising your children as a working mother?
As I didn’t have my parents and I don’t have any sisters, it was indeed a challenge. I didn’t sleep much at that time and finally got a live-in help from Colombia. She looked after all our three children, then returned after our youngest son was born. She is such a wonderful person and my children loved her dearly.
Could you share with us some of your educational background and past professional experiences?
I have studied Pedagogy in Leiden and after my first year I went to the University of Nijmegen where I got my bachelors degree. During my Masters, I did an interdisciplinary package of the theory of Education that was new at that time. But after my parents became very sick, I broke up and came back to Curaçao to take care of them. I finished my Masters 6 years later, which I combined by doing my thesis in Curaçao and flying up and back to Holland to finish my last 6 final exams. I was determined to finish my studies, because I promised this to my mother. Once I put my mind on something, I do it. I worked and studied, took care of family matters as my parents passed away, and was keen on how my brothers would do. This decisiveness, I had at an early age. In Holland, I became even more independent.
This month, it has been 35 years since I started working. I started working at Sedukal as a trainee in 1983 and was employed in 1984. First I got to know the Kindergarten educational level very well, I would sit in the classrooms and mentor teachers after observing them.
Together with Suze Giskus, Hetty Kook, Haydee Sluis and experienced kindergarden teachers I wrote a book titled “Konosé mi desaroyo pa yudami den mi logro”. We worked together with the teachers and applied a bottom-up approach. I worked as the head of the department in charge of the guidance of teachers and later got involved in KEZ.
Together with others, I gave feedback on the KEZ original draft and later became the director of SGE after negotiating a 5 years contract for SGE. At that time, I was regularly approached by RKCS to work for them. After 2,5 years, I did make this career switch and became RKCS director of Education in 2003/2004. In 2006 I was appointed general director of RKCS.
Do you have any regrets on the decisions you have made?
Well maybe one, that SGE isn’t the way it was originally intended. I have come to realize that it is a challenge for a lot of people to swim against the stream. If I don’t agree with something, I tend to go all the way to convince others there is a better way. Like, I fought for SGE’s contract to be 5 years and not 3 or 1. We succeeded.
Nowadays, we need to be aware of safety of our community and our schools as part of our community. This is an issue that also triggers me to go all the way, but again not everybody is on board to go the extra mile. We can’t stay in a state of denial on this.
What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be who you are right now?
People inspire me and I am inspired by people and I am curious about people, no matter where I am. People are not easy to deal with, but they fascinate me and I try to reach them.
I have had my share of drawbacks as at times there was bad talking from people I thought were on the same page. If that had influenced me, I would have stopped doing my job a long time ago. But I take decisions, that I consider to be beneficial for the good of all. We can do so much more at school if we would involve the youth and children more. I dialogue with children of 8 or 9 years old. You know what youngsters say? “Adults don’t see us as part of the solution”, whilst I believe that children and the youth have so much potential. My work isn’t easy, as every change has to pass through so many layers of the system. Also there are stakeholders who could have conflicting interests. The youth is free from all of this and they tend to go for the interests of all, the students, and that is exactly what it is all about in the end, right?
So what drives me?
We have so much potential among our youth, for example Leo President Nathaniel Yzer and his Vice President Leo Zamir Narvaez. They are both members of LEO Club Willemstad, and are also making waves and setting a good example for all other youths out there. That is why they have both been recognized as outstanding Leo’s by their entire district. This inspires me. We have so much potential in so many other areas, such as sports. That is also why I don’t give up. I can’t be responsible in a function with authority and give up, that is the worst of all possible scenarios.
What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
Every coin has two sides. I believe in people, but there are people who betrayed my trust. It can be very frustrating when people are bad-talking after they leave a meeting and you thought you were in agreement. I manage this by making a distinction between Lisette as a person and as director of RKCS. When we meet each other later, they would still hug me and talk nice to me. If I confronted them with this, it could be clarified, but in the meantime their dis-information or whatever that was told outside our meeting room, would still be doing much harm out there. Some people do this to protect themselves and their schools. It is easier to say that I forced a certain decision upon them, than to admit it was a mutual decision. That is why I don’t blame them and forgive them.
Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
I often use my inner voice. My mother was a teacher and was raised in a convent. She taught me to always use my inner voice combined with the power of prayer to understand the other person’s point of view before I take a decision, so that it can be a fair one.
I always ask for a time-out when we have to take an important decision, just to think it over. Either I ask for one day or I leave the room for a moment. In my work, there is never a dull moment, because we are challenged every day with situations that are new to us and we have to think fast, but I don’t want to take a hasty decision that could be detrimental to lots of other people.
How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
Well I attend conferences, not as much as the time when I was at SGE, but I still do. Last year I was in Canada to attend a conference on “Restorative Practices”. It is very valuable for our work at RKCS. We are implementing this and looking for ways and means to introduce it at our schools, and every single day I feel so grateful that I have been to this conference.
I have also been following a course to become a certified mediator. After the basic course and after doing a video assessment, I am now expecting the results of an exam to become an accredited mediator. I am so happy with this. These are the things that resonate with my strengths and interests, and this is what I would like to do in the future after I have finished my tenure as director at RKCS. I sincerely believe in dialogue as a means to solve conflicts and problems based on common goals, respect and a safe environment. Finally, I also keep up with my literature, as people keep inspiring me.
What are your strengths?
I have “GUTS”, that is in Dutch “LEF” which is an abbreviation of the initials of my three names namely Lisette Emilienne Fatima.
I don’t know if my mother did this on purpose, but since I was a child, I knew what I wanted and would go after it. I would take up issues that were for the good of all, not only for my personal gain. I don’t back off easily once I have decided to do something, but I don’t bulldozer other people.
I am resilient, as you get setbacks.
Another of my strengths is decisiveness, even if the choices are difficult one’s. Let me share a story. This one is related to my father. He loved to ask me questions and have discussions with me. He always respected my opinion, even if it would be different from his. He would present me with a difficult ethical dilemma on life or death and if I didn’t want to make a choice, he would come back with it after I have gotten some time to give it a thought. After years, I still didn’t dare to choose one of the alternatives, because both options were extremely painful.
In one of the last years of his life, he gave me his advice on his preferred option. His advice taught me an important lesson. The lesson was: “No matter how difficult the options are, you should always choose.” As a leader in all the different positions I have held, I always remembered this lesson. Whatever the situation, a leader has to make choices and decide what to do. As a leader, it isn’t possible to make everyone happy at times. Making a choice is always better than not making a choice. That was the biggest lesson I have learned from my father.
Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Not really, I like reading books and love to watch movies, especially regarding people with problems. I always ask myself, what are the lessons that I can learn from this? My husband loves sport and he loves to watch a lot of sports and we would watch sports together with all the emotions involved and I would cheer more enthusiastically than he does.
If you meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Holland or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
I would mention my name Lisette and won’t say anything else. I won’t use my title or my function at RK-Schoolbestuur.
Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
There were many, my children, even my dogs and my parrot. If I have to mention one person specifically, I would choose my youngest son. He once asked me if I didn’t like to hand out money to people or young boys who asked for it. I told him, I send lots of positive light to people all the time, because I know that it works. And I mean that.
When he was 4 years old and we were on our way bringing him to his Kindergarten school, we got stuck in traffic behind a car that wasn’t moving. And I got irritated and very impatient, and after a while the car started to move slowly again and we could continue our ride. Now my son was 4 years old and he told me: “Mom I love you dearly, really, but maybe the other driver couldn’t move for valid reasons. Maybe you shouldn’t get mad.” He told me this with so much love, that it made me self reflect deeply and this taught me a big lesson.
Furthermore, my former teachers have inspired me. But what I would like to share with you is, that I am constantly sending light to people especially to those that don’t like me for whatever reasons, to help dissolve this negativity.
Where there always positive role models, or where there also negative role models that you didn’t want to identify with?
Yes, I don’t want to identify myself with those who spread hate, as this is a serious issue worldwide. Worldwide, this phenomenon is increasing. It is a spreading of intolerance towards everyone who is different, it could be race, gender, religion or social background. They disguise this under the umbrella of nationalism, the national flag and nation building with a deep hatred under its surface. This is scary.
When you ultimately discovered your talents and strengths? What was a defining moment in your life?
There were many moments, one that comes to mind now was the time when my mother and father passed away. I was only 22 years old and it was a heavy burden on me. I was forced to deal with myself and help others pass through these difficult times, but it was also the time that I discovered the strength that lies within me, that had served me well later on in my life.
In my work, there were also defining moments when people attacked me with force and below the belt. But I developed this gift to stay my authentic self and in spite of what they say or do, I send them Love.
Where do you want to be 10 years from now with your career?
I want to be a practitioner in mediation and restorative practices.
What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you, let’s say 20 years from now?
I love them and they love me, nothing more, nothing less.
What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao?
I am very hopeful because of the potential of our youth. For example, the other day we were on a vacation and I couldn’t get a hold of an Uber, so I asked my son to help me out. He suggested I take Lyft instead of Uber. His advice was based on a moral issue. Uber has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment in the workplace, so Lyft looked like the morally superior alternative. As I argued with him, I was used to taking Uber rides, he told me this: “Instead of listening and understanding my reasoning, you remain stuck in your beliefs because it is easier. If everyone in the world did that, then nothing would ever change.This is why we don’t advance and progress.”
I was flabbergasted, he was right, I wasn’t listening. Normally I do listen and have dialogues with him, just like my father use to have with me, but in this case I wasn’t listening because I needed a ride as soon as possible. So, I have great hope for Curaçao because of the upcoming generations.
One of the 250 Community Influencers
Lisette Van Lamoen-Garmers is a decisive, “gutsy” and resilient leader, representing the educational sector. She knows what she wants and if it is “for the good of all” she will go after it. She doesn’t back off easily, once she has decided to do something, but respects other people’s opinions, as she sincerely believes in dialogue as a means to solve conflicts and problems based on common goals, respect and a safe environment. No matter how difficult the options are, she would always make a choice, as she understands that in a leader’s role, it isn’t possible to make everyone happy at times. While maintaining her authentic self, in spite of what some say or do, she wouldn’t blame them, but forgive them and send them “Love”. We deeply respect and love Lisette and definitely consider her one of the 250 Influencers in our society representing the educational sector.