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The road less traveled

(From left) Miss World 2014 Rolene Strauss, Miss World chairman Julia Morley, Miss World 2012 Megan Young, Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corp. president & CEO Alice Eduardo, and Miss World Philippines National Director Cory Quirino.

MANILA, Philippines - They are achievers. They are activists. They are artists and scientists. They are graduates of the most prestigious universities in the country. They are idealists and visionaries.They decided to take a journey beyond their comfort zones, challenging themselves and their capabilities. They took on a job seldom recognized and oftentimes neglected: They decided to teach for the Philippines.

Their burning desire to create a change in the public school landscape became possible through an organization that works to provide all Filipino children with an inclusive, relevant, and quality education – Teach for the Philippines.

TFP, a network partner of Teach for All, is a non-profit organization that unites some of the most promising fresh graduates and young professionals who are compelled to make a change but don’t have the avenue to give their service to others. Yearly, they employ teachers who are deployed in some of the most populated elementary schools in the country.

Rarely do we see non-education majors taking a path that is often described in the same breath as “noble” and “unglamorous”, largely because society equates success to the amount of money one earns, not by the fulfillment one achieves. Rarely do we see people ready to turn their backs on a more sophisticated life to educate young minds in public schools for two years. This is how they leave a mark.

Ade Elpidama Psychology, UP Diliman

As an education advocate, Ade sees quality teaching as a necessity. While she had no real experience going to public school as a student, she believes that being able to pass on the kind of education the children deserve opens opportunities; it opens a child’s sense of possibility that if he/she just dares to dream and pairs it with good education and action, ideas can happen.

“My parents were really surprised with my decision, but I just had to do it. I see the future with education being really taken as a right, that children don’t have to work just to have access to education,” Ade stressed.

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Gian Karlo Dapul Chemistry, Ateneo de Manila University

Gian has always been fascinated with the Sciences since he was young, which made him a scholar from grade school until college. He found himself competing in many science contests, acing most of them. He was thought to be one of the next young pioneers in the industry, until he decided to give back to the community by educating others.

“Ever since, it was all about science, then college came. I realized it’s about communicating the concepts that I love the most. It’s different when you share to others how things work, and it creates greater impact,” Dapul said.

Over the past two years of teaching at Commonwealth Elementary School, one of the most populated public schools in the country, he realized that there are many untapped, hidden potentials that just need to be discovered. Integrating what he knows about the existing education paradigm, he saw a lot of children who are hungry for knowledge.

“There are lots of curious kids, and what’s surprising is that they come from the lower sections. As a teacher, I encourage them to ask questions. And they actually have intelligent inquiries.”

Like any other teacher, Gian at times feels like giving up, especially when giving his all does not suffice. “Sometimes it really hurts, but I guess when you stop feeling hurt, you stop loving and caring,” he shared.

Emil SENTILLAS Philosophy, UP Diliman

Growing up in a family of educators, it wasn’t really surprising that Emil would decide to join the nation’s pool of educators, but his parents weren’t the sole reason why he decided to teach for the Philippines.

“Being a product of the public school system from pre-school to college, which are  areas where education can be improved, I wanted to partake in the endeavor,” he said. Working for the Department of Education has also helped him see the Philippine education system on a macro perspective.

For Emil, teaching in a public school means educating young minds and opening their hearts to overflowing love, and building in them the capacity to do something for themselves and for others.

“I envision a country of good citizens who can love deeply, those who know when to fight back and when to step back,” he added. 

Kar Zambas, DevComm, Central Mindanao University

Growing up in the province, Kar’s first challenge was the difficulty of adjusting to the system and ways of life in urban Manila.

“It was really different. Public school systems in the province and in Manila are poles apart,” she explained. In the province, she recalls, normal daily school sessions would last from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., giving them ample time to learn various subjects.

At Nueve de Febrero Elementary School, there were three daily shifts, with only four hours devoted to each shift. “It was challenging to impart knowledge to children with the time restriction, especially since we teach eight subjects,” she added.

Kar and her co-fellows rose to the challenge, developing strategies to use the time efficiently, and after a year of fellowship, they were happy to see their students improved and developed, not only in academics but also in their attitude.

 

Mark Afable, Philosophy, Xavier University-CDO

Mark has always believed that teaching is his purpose. During his elementary days, he was struck by the experience that public school gave him.

“There will always be one teacher you will never forget. It’s that mentor who pushed you to become who you are, developed your strengths, and told you that goodness is better than good grades,” Mark recalled.

“It made me want to be that one person to my students. I want to be that person they will remember because I gave them the chance to be bigger than who they thought they could be,” he averred. 

For Mark, teaching for the Philippines allows him most of all to create wonderful, timeless stories of hope and love.

Trisha Palaganas Legal Management, Ateneo de Manila University

Trisha may not have been a product of public schools, but her stint as a student-teacher in Ateneo Gabay, an organization that hones scholars for others, taught her the importance of equality in education.

Trisha envisions a “country that dares to dream, and a nation of open minds that can work for and with ideals”.

She strongly stressed that education as a right and should be of quality and relevance. “I hope the time comes that every Filipino family would think of sending their kids to public schools because these schools house the best teachers.”

Trisha also aired her sentiment over the stereotyping of the public school system as “rotten and inefficient”. According to her, “before we judge the system as a whole, we have to understand that there is individuality. There are bad teachers, but that doesn’t mean the entire system is bad, because that is a total disrespect to the many passionate teachers who do their job without seeking credit.”

Sofia Santiago Asian Studies, UST

As a debater and an activist, Sofia thought she knew all the problems plaguing the country’s education system. Little did she expect that a two-year fellowship program would open her eyes even more to public school realities – the usual story of students walking a distance to attend classes, of those having to take on odd jobs just to make it through the day, or of students that skip classes because of bigger household duties such as taking care of siblings.

“It’s different when there are faces you connect to the issues. You learn how to solve the problems first-hand and see how the solutions work,” said Sofia.

Sofia believes that collaboration is far more effective than competition. “In collaboration, everyone grows, while in competition, there are levels, there’s segregation, and that highly affects the confidence of students.”

Sofia believes that the more socially-privileged should understand how public schools can work if they just help in building a better, more developed education system.

Teaching, they say, is for the passionate. It is for the dedicated, for those who want to plant seeds of change. Teaching is not for everyone, but quality, relevant, and innovative education is. Every child deserves a good, free education, and with Teach for the Philippines trying to make that change happen, the vision is clear.

You have graduated from college, and are now trying to find where to pour the overflowing passion and desire to make a change. Most people take the beaten path, while others, the few brave souls, take the path less traveled. Whether or not they make a huge difference, they are sure to contribute to the change they want to see in the world.

So why not leave a mark and teach for the Philippines?

 

 

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