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Three Pinoy teachers make waves abroad

From left: Analiza Amurao’s research helped Mahidol University International College finetune its reading program, which benefited students taking TOEFL tests.Ramil Buenaventura’s enthusiastic and creative teaching techniques earned him this year’s Big Apple award from the New York City Department of Education. For her effort in promoting rocketry excellence in Presidio, Sheila Condino was awarded the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s award for Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year in 2011.  

MANILA, Philippines - Just because World Teachers’ Day is over doesn’t mean we should pass the chance to honor our teachers. After all, they sacrifice valuable time, effort, and resources to ensure learning  among students well beyond the confines of the classroom.

Even more worthy of accolade are those who possess total  dedication and passion for the craft – traits that are admired not only in the Philippines but in other countries as well.

Here we meet a few Filipino teachers who are making waves abroad for their unconventional brand of teaching.

Math through rap and dance

Math is like a foreign language to most seventh and eighth grade students at the Renaissance Charter School in Jackson Heights, New York City. And it took a foreigner with a knack for catchy rap beats and sleek dance moves for them to get a better grasp of the subject.

Ramil Buenaventura left the Philippines in 2003 in pursuit of the American dream. Today, he is teaching to inspire his students to find theirs. With his Michael Jackson moves and karaoke skills, he makes solving Algebraic equations fun and engaging. Even as mobile phones are banned in most classes in New York, this 44-year-old teacher uses gaming apps in teaching. Some dance moves here and there and he can teach geometry without the need for a protractor.

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“My sessions normally start with a little lecture, but I make sure they are continuously engaged by adding a little game where they can apply the math skills they’ve learned,” says Buenaventura, who adds that students get extra points for participating in the games.

Unusual as they may seem, his enthusiastic and creative teaching techniques have earned Buenaventura this year’s Big Apple award from the New York City Department of Education. He was one of 12 awardees chosen among 3,000 nominees. Apart from the award, he received a fellowship grant that will allow him to continuously grow professionally.

“Teachers must have the passion for their profession. We’re not here to just impart knowledge. We also learn from our students,” says Buenaventura.

Rocket Science

A CBS News report in 2012 described Shella Condino as “a firecracker of a science teacher”  as a tribute to how she turned Presidio, a one-horse town (city actually) in Texas near the Mexican border, into a place of opportunity for its students.

Condino graduated from the Philippine Normal University in Manila with a degree in Physics and went to the United States on a temporary work visa. She came to Presidio, one of the poorest school districts and third poorest city in Texas, because no other teacher wanted to be assigned there.

Where students dreamed of being able to build their own rocket, Condino’s presence turned the city in the Texas desert into an oasis of learning. Armed with her knowledge in rocketry, she founded the Presidio Rocket Club and immediately worked to teach her students about the physics of rockets and aerodynamics.

“I wanted to teach the kids. [When] you want something so bad, you put your heart into it,” Condino said in her interview with CBS News, who called her the motivating force behind Presidio’s students.

Before dawn, her students would already be up and ready with their home-made rockets, eager to learn about how to blast it up into the sky.

Despite a lack of resources, the students have now competed in various state-wide and nationwide student rocketry competitions, and managed to place fourth in the national Team America Rocketry Challenge in May. Not only that, they’re the only team to compete that is not from a city associated with NASA’s Space Program, a distinction which students from cities like Houston or Cape Canaveral hold.

For her effort in promoting rocketry excellence in Presidio, Condino was awarded the National Aviation Hall of Fame’s award for Aerospace Education Teacher of the Year in 2011. “God really works wonders. He will provide you with the right people to meet and work with,” Condino said in her acceptance speech.

Language made easy

Not all Filipino teachers making waves abroad are in America. Some are in nearby countries, like Analiza Perez-Amurao, a Filipino teacher at the Mahidol University International College (MUIC) in Thailand.

A graduate of the Philippine Normal University in Manila, Perez-Amurao is a celebrated professor at the university  where she has taught for six years now and is a recipient of several awards.

In 2009, she was chosen as the Most Outstanding Teacher of the school’s Preparation Center for Languages and Mathematic.

For her research on students’ reading skills and how it affects their TOEFL reading comprehension scores, the university awarded her the Dean’s Initiative Seed Grant in 2009. Her research helped the university finetune its reading program, which benefited students taking TOEFL tests. In 2011, she received the same grant again, this time for her research on job satisfaction of foreign educational administrators within the Thai higher education system.

Outside the university, Perez-Amurao has also been recognized in the field of research. Her article, “Innovation in Education”, was awarded 5th place in the 2010 SEAMEO-Australia Press Awards. In 2010, she presented her research paper at the 7th International Conference of the International Test Commission held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her paper was published in the April 2011 issue of the International Journal of Research and Review.

But the most prestigious award Perez-Amurao has ever received is one that came from her kababayans.

In 2011, she was awarded the Bagong Bayani Award for Most Outstanding Employee. The Bagong Bayani Award is conferred on outstanding and exemplary OFWs and President Benigno Aquino III personally conferred the award on her.

Wherever you put the Filipino teacher, passion and dedication for their sworn duty are hallmarks of their craft. If other countries salute Filipino teachers, shouldn’t we do the same for those who stayed and dedicated their lives to teaching in the country?

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