Meira van der Spa

My Hebrew name, pronounced "may-eera," actually means (or so I have been told by a friendly Jewish lady) "bringer of light." In Latin, however, when the two syllables are separated, it would mean "my fury." Both meanings are equally applicable since my sunny disposition may indeed shed light on the lives of those I love, while my stubbornness, ceaseless questioning, curiosity and rebellious nature at times may cause exasperation. The two extremes of the meaning of my name, however, perfectly express the extremes of my character. So the name, although practically unpronounceable, suits me like no other would.

Like my name, my life has hitherto known many extremes, both at a personal and at a professional level. The child of expatriates living and working in several developing countries, I had seen a great deal of the world at a relatively young age. The fact that we moved from place to place obviously affected my schooling. Despite the obvious practical implications, I managed to successfully complete both my O-levels and International Baccalaureate, inclining toward the arts and languages. At age 18, I moved to The Netherlands, where I enrolled at Utrecht University and studied Languages, majoring in Latin-American Studies. After obtaining my university degree at Utrecht University, I proceeded to obtain a Journalism degree at the Hogeschool van Utrecht.

"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." (Mark Twain)

After completing these various degrees, it was time for some education. I deliberately moved away form the relatively protective university environment and into the "real world" to discover, with a shock, that all of my schooling had left me ill-prepared for the challenges of daily life as well as robbed me of much of the self-confidence I had as a child.

I fell deeply in love, and joined the object of my passion (now my husband) in working in his Gym. The years that followed, in which I became co-owner of a sports centre, taught me a great deal. They have taught me self-confidence, self-esteem, humility, pragmatism, the meaning of the word "sacrifice," the value of true love, but also, they have revealed to me my passion for teaching. Teaching in the purest sense of the word: a continuous interaction between people, learning with and from each other, critically appreciating each other's performance and motivating each other. I teach several disciplines of aerobics and fitness, but see myself more as a motivator than as a teacher. It is my firm belief that once we perceive of ourselves from the perspective of our possibilities rather than from the perspective of our limitations, our opportunities are virtually limitless.

At present, I still teach various disciplines of sports. In addition, I work full-time as Communications Officer at Wageningen University and Research Centre. Besides I serve, in my spare time and on a voluntary basis (like all learndev-ers), also as Communications Officer for LDI.

In my spare time I draw, write and, with my husband, enjoy our Ragdoll cat and my beautiful Friesian horse Nynke, with whom I practice classical dressage. Classical dressage, because I believe that through the patience and intelligence of animals, man is humbled. And training a horse is, in my view, an honour that requires humility. It is only through humility and unconditional love that a rider may hope to reach a complete and total collaboration with his of her mount, so that riding becomes a pleasurable and liberating experience for both the horse and the rider.

In addition: I am Internet enthusiast, spending quite some time on newsgroups and platforms. Through my personal experience with schooling and education, I have always had a keen interest in lifelong learning and informal education. From this perspective I have followed the work of LDI, to which I have contributed in the ongoing research in the field of The Scientific Mind, investigating the Internet and electronic media as a feeding ground for the development of the scientific mind. While not building on extensive research experience or thorough familiarity with research methodology as an academic field, I do not believe my lack of experience to be a handicap. After all, it was one of the greatest minds of our time, Albert Einstein, who said: "If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?"

For those interested, here is my resume. I can be reached at meira@learndev.org.