Making a difference

“Can you make a difference?” That is the question that Jane Goodall asked me when I had the opportunity to meet her face to face many years ago when she visited Taiwan.

When I replied: “I don’t know,” she said: “Then how do you expect your students to make a difference?”

Jane Goodall is a primatologist and famous environmentalist whose mission was to travel the world spreading her message of hope, love and peace.

Her three core values — “care for people, animals and the environment” — were the message that she shared with everyone she met.

My name is Mike Honda and I am an environmental science teacher at Wagor International Elementary School in Taichung.

I would like to thank the Taipei Times for allowing me the opportunity to speak on behalf of my students, who have been pouring out their hearts to make our local community a better place.

I have set up a special program at my school called “Wagor Roots and Shoots.”

Roots and Shoots was created by my mentor and past teacher, Jane Goodall.

Throughout the years, she has written letters to me and kept in touch by visiting Taiwan.

Every time she visited, our students would present various projects that helped people, animals and the environment.

As a teacher, Jane Goodall has shown me how to develop into a positive role model for my students and how to connect with them. She became my guiding light and helped to reignite my passion for teaching.

I also realized that being an effective teacher meant passing down my passion for helping people, animals and the environment to my students, because she once said: “One person cannot do it all. That’s why you need an army of followers who will help you. The children are our future. They are the next generation.”

I kept this in my heart and was able to find a school with many parents, teachers and administrators who shared my vision to instill in our youth that just studying for exams would not make for a better generation of students.

If we want to create a better world for our future, we have to instill the ideals of compassion, empathy and problem-solving in the next generation.

Today, our students have created a pond for mosquito fish to help fight local mosquitoes and reduce the danger of dengue fever, make eco-friendly products, and grow organic vegetables and set up a farmers’ market for the local community.

During the pandemic, our students have also made eco-friendly hand sanitizers and soap.

Today, when I ask my students if they can make a difference, they always say: “Of course.”

Thank you, Jane Goodall.

Mike Honda

Wagor International Elementary School,