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|8:30||10:30||Talk about computer science education with Nix|
Proud to be Teachers By: Queena N. Lee-Chua, Ph.D. Ateneo de Manila University
(Response during the 2003 Metrobank Outstanding Teachers Awards, Sept. 5, 2003)
Former President Corazon Aquino, Senator Ramon Magsaysay, Jr., Secretary Edilberto de Jesus, Chairman Rolando Dizon,Chairman Bayani Fernando, Mayor Jose Atienza, Jr., Mayor Feliciano Belmonte, Mayor Maria Lourdes Fernando, other members of the boards of judges, Dr. Ronald Post, Chairman George Ty, Dr. Placido Mapa, Jr., Mr. Antonio Abacan, Jr., ladies and gentlemen: Good evening.
I never dreamed of becoming a teacher.
In elementary school, I wanted to follow in my parents’ footsteps and grow up to be a doctor. But in high school, shocked with the dissection of my first frog in biology, I vowed to make money, and where else would the path lead but to business—preferably, as the boss of my own enterprise.
I have always loved math and English, the sciences and the humanities, equally, and at the college crossroads, I had an excruciating time debating upon which to expend my energies. A counselor remarked that not possessing a literature degree would not stop me from immersing myself in great works, but that the abstractions of advanced math would probably require mentorship. Of course at the back of my mind there was always the thought that math would open doors to multinational corporations, banks, and ultimately—my own business. To ensure that I did not lose my enthusiasm for the arts, I chose Ateneo, and happily immersed myself in philosophy, theology, and the classics, amidst abstract algebra, number theory, and finite geometry. I decided to join a transnational firm after graduation, work there for a couple of years, and set up my own company.
But fate—God!—intervened. In senior year, during my theology oral exam, Fr. Asandas Balchand, S. J. bluntly inquired as to my plans. Then he urged, "I think you should teach for a bit. Give back to the school." My next class happened to be graph theory, and after an oral presentation, Dr. Marijo Ruiz, herself a Metrobank Outstanding Teacher awardee, smilingly said, “Your discussion was clear and thorough. You should think about teaching.”
Two invitations to teach in a day! Yes, God often works in mysterious ways, but sometimes it does not take a genius to figure out His call. Fine—I would teach in Ateneo for a year—and after that, start earning!
During the final judging phase of the Metrobank Search last July, I was struck by Education Secretary de Jesus’ question: "Why do you think teachers today are not as respected?" At that time I argued that never in my career did I meet with disrespect. On the contrary, I claimed, every time I gave a seminar or spoke on air, my ideas seemed to be taken seriously, and parents, businesspeople, and students alike would seek my advice. However, after much reflection, I realized that there was truth to the query. When I first decided to teach, some people wondered why I was wasting my efforts on such an inglorious profession.
BUT...students’ eyes would light up after a difficult—albeit rewarding—calculus session. They would ask for exercises beyond homework requirements, and exclaim that math was after all, quite enjoyable. At the end of the semester computer science majors serenaded me with melodies of thanks, accompanied by guitars and flutes. Moreover, kids poured out their heartaches—about parents on the verge of separation, sweethearts caught in betrayal, lives seemingly without purpose. More often than not I could only remain silent, for what these not-quite-children-not-quite-adults needed most was empathy, and concern, and time.
So how could I leave after a year? After two years? After five years? That was 1987, and I am still here. All 12 of us are still here. Because in teaching we have received so much. We have been rewarded more than we have given away. In a world where finance and power rule, our lives have oft been plagued with frustration and doubt; but in this same world sorely lacking in ideals and compassion, our lives have also been illumined by faith, hope and love.
Where else but in teaching would we continually be astounded by the creativity of our charges? When Mrs. Salvacion Calabucal noticed her visually-impaired students shaking bottles aimlessly, she placed beans inside empty containers, asked the kids to follow her 1 – 2 – shake-up – shake-down instructions, and formed a band. Soon they were performing musical renditions in Hard Rock Café, Shangrila, and Makati City Hall. When narra trees shed their leaves, Mrs. Lilia Ramos’ class would catch the falling leaves and all of them would make a wish. The kids would place the leaves under their pillows at night so their wish would come true. Other grade levels joined in, and now their school in Iloilo has an official “Make-a-Wish Day.”
Where else but in teaching would we learn to be creative ourselves? Not content to specialize solely in Filipino, Mrs. Marilou Yogyog designs indigenized instructional materials in folk dance, and trains athletes in table tennis, track and field, and softball, who have won honors for her school. Venturing beyond the classroom, Dr. Samuel Soliven, once dubbed the “Batang Kaingero” because of his humble origins, took his class to the airwaves, hosting a School-on-the-Air at DWRN Bayombong, where he taught science and technology in the vernacular. Though the subject Rizal is often deemed trite and boring, Dr. Sonia Daquila analyzed philosophical, psychological, and social contexts, and changed students’ and educators’ perceptions in Bacolod.
Where else but in teaching could we make a difference in young people’s lives? When Mrs. Ma. Luisa Gibraltar’s pupil feared going home to a father who beat him, she welcomed him into her own home, and had a heart-to-heart talk with the parents, lovingly advising them to care for their son and to treat him with respect. Though her specialty was research, Dr. Evelyn Sorolla founded the “Balik-Paaralan Para sa Out of School Adults Program,” and inspired less privileged adults to return to the academe, finish high school, uplift their dignity and become productive members of the community. As for Dr. Jaime An Lim, who declared, “I did not choose teaching; teaching chose me,” he was destined to be a teacher. First and Second grades in his old school used to share the same classroom, the same teacher, the same class period. While the teacher was handling the first graders, he would teach his classmates how to read. He says, “An open book on my lap, a finger moving from word to word, I patiently guided them through a reading passage.” Dr. An-Lim was seven years old then.
Most of all, where else but in teaching, could we have received so much unconditional affection, respect and love in return? When Mrs. Lourma Poculan’s former Grade 3 student got married, she was the emcee during the reception. The bride’s mother confided that all these years her daughter had been admiring the way her teacher spoke. Another little boy wanted to marry her when he grew up. When Mrs. Dahlia Fabillar witnesses her former students, among them a mayor of their town, a professor at a university, and a vice-president of a big firm, she cannot help but feel pride, for they are proof of the success of her mission.
Perhaps Mr. Renato Carvajal, with whom I am proud to share the same campus, sums it up best. He was a barefoot schoolboy from La Union, the son of a janitor. He was a pandesal vendor at 6, a shoe shine boy at 8, a sacristan at 10, and a teacher at 19. He says, “There is no wasted time in teaching. I always go home tired but not burned out, spent but not weighted down, emptied but still looking forward to giving more the next day. All my school days give me a good night’s sleep, and I would not exchange teaching for any other job in the world. Every school day, well spent, is already a reward in itself.”
Past Metrobank Awardees would humbly state that they accept this honor on behalf of the unsung public and private school heroes of our land. And they would be right. They would also acknowledge that they were the lucky ones—we were the lucky ones—the ones with supportive administrations, encouraging colleagues, motivated students. In the words of my friend Dr. Ricky Abad, Awardee two years ago, “We are blessed that we come from schools and homes that keep the torches of our teaching flame aglow in our increasingly naughty, naughty world.” And again they would be right.
These heroes exist. I know, for I have met one of them. Let us call her Zeny.
Zeny was a high school math teacher down south, and a scholar of the Department of Education. She never dreamed of setting foot in the Ateneo, and when confronted by state-of-the-art computers and laboratories, at first she feared even touching them, so awed was she by such display.
For Zeny came from a place impoverished. In our psychology of teaching class, we discussed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and what teachers could do to address them. But unlike the textbook, we could not take the most basic needs for granted, for Zeny’s students often came to school hungry and tired, having worked alongside their parents most of the night without nary a snack. How could they even concentrate on algebra? In class when we harnessed the power of multimedia, Zeny would dutifully participate, but the most advanced equipment her school had was one single microscope—kept behind hallowed glass panes in the principal’s office, to be taken down only for the benefit of visitors. Blackouts were frequent, and Zeny believed that even if computer donations would come (as they were promised), these would be useless unless electric flow was unimpeded. Worst of all, often there would only be less than 5 math books in a class of 80 students. How could children learn without books?
So Zeny did what she had to do. Out of her salary, she would pay for the xeroxing of exercises for the whole class. Out of what remained she would buy pan de sal and margarine for her starving students. In a country where everything was publicized, where every construction project had emblazoned on it the names of officials and every building the names of donors, Zeny did her good work anonymously. Not even her own students knew that their snacks and practice sets came out of her pocket.
I asked her how she could afford to do so. "I am single," she smiled, "and my parents are no longer here. My siblings are married. I don’t need a lot. How can I teach if my students are hungry and have no books?"
I wanted to write about Zeny in my column, but after some thought, she told me not to do so. Having such poor facilities would embarrass her school, and she didn’t want to cause any trouble. She was also certain that hers were not the only heroic deeds, and that many teachers across the nation were creatively coping in their own ways. I am sure she is right. And--if her school could command such loyalty from its teachers, then maybe it was also doing something right.
I promised Zeny not to reveal her real name or the name of her school, and I have kept that promise. But tonight, of all nights, with outstanding teachers as the theme, how could we not honor her? This award is for you, Zeny, and all other teachers like you.
Our heartfelt thanks to the Metrobank Foundation, and to Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company itself, especially Chairman George Ty, who by making possible this recognition, has inspired and continues to inspire teachers to do their best. To the judges, in the preliminary, semi-final and final rounds, who painstakingly pored over documents and patiently listened to what we had to say, thank you for making the process memorable—and I daresay—quite fun. Our gratitude to our schools, mentors, and colleagues—in my case, Immaculate Conception Academy in elementary and high school, and now the institution in which I have spent half my life—the Ateneo de Manila, especially the mathematics and psychology community, serendipitously enough represented here tonight by our school’s top officers--Fr. Ben Nebres, S. J. and Dr. Miren Intal, who are not only my bosses, but advisers and friends as well—Fr. Ben whose problem solving abilities I learned from and put to good use during the semifinal teaching demo, and Dr. Miren whose whole-hearted encouragement supported me throughout this entire process. I would also like to thank Fr. Dan
McNamara, Dr. Jose Marasigan, Dr. Honey Carandang, and the late Dr. Doreen Fernandez – all great teachers, great colleagues, great friends.
To our students, thank you and may you continue in your journey with us in critical thinking, perseverance, and service to others. We promise to be there for you, and to guide you the best we can. Our never-ending thanks go to our families and friends—my father William, my husband Smith, my brother Garrick, my sister Portia, my son Scott--whose sacrifices have made it possible for us to stay in a profession we love. And to Almighty God, to You, as always, be the glory.
In return, all of us promise that we will continue to nurture every student we are privileged to have been given, to guide them to discover and uncover their potential, to shape them as citizens our nation will be proud of. We recognize that to us, much has been given, and from us, much more is expected. Is it fruitless to be “just a teacher”? Not according to the one whom I hold dearest in the world—my five-year-old boy, who would introduce me to friends as, “My mommy is a teacher! I am so proud of Mommy!” We are all proud—so proud and honored—to be teachers.
Earlier I confessed that I had never dreamed of becoming a teacher. But that might not be totally true. My mother Dr. Anita Ngo graduated at the top of her class in UP medical school, and to the consternation of her batchmates, after volunteer work in PGH, she decided not to pursue a career and instead devote her efforts to her family. What a waste of talent, they said. Sounds familiar? But what everyone did not realize was that she was my first—and my best—teacher, and subconsciously, her example, her brilliance, her dedication throughout the formative decades of my life must have molded me in ways I was not aware of. Without my mother, I would not be in front of you now. Mom, I miss you a lot, but tonight, I know you are here. I dedicate my award to you.
Thank you. Good evening.
You can find the slides at http://sacha.sachachua.com/cs21a/lectures.sxi (openoffice.org 1.1) or http://sacha.sachachua.com/cs21a/lectures.pdf . The OO.o version has annoying animations, but is otherwise the same as the PDF version.
Nodding and smiling from class. I guess that means they got the