The accountant maker
AS EASY AS ABC - Atty. Alex B. Cabrera (The Philippine Star) - May 5, 2019 - 12:00am

We vaguely remember what they’ve taught us but we remember their person and we remember their names. Personally, I thought my accounting teachers then were either too old, or too young, but invariably, too patient. The way they write with chalk on the board – just too neat. And the way they solve the problems they themselves presented – just too clever.

It took a while, like a long while, for a serious truth to sink in for me. That for their love of teaching, they sacrificed too much for so many, and got appreciated too little. So the plan was for PwC Philippines to give the first-ever National Accounting Teacher’s Award (PwC’s NATA) last week during the annual convention of the National Association of CPAs in Education. Little did we know that the awards journey would bring us to an even heightened respect and admiration for accounting teachers.

To put it in perspective for my readers – every year, accounting schools churn out around 14,000 graduates and an average of 8,200 CPAs.

Why are accountants important? Well, how do you read a book with gibberish words? Then how can a financial report without reliable numbers exist? Expect, then, a ripple effect of less investors, less business, less employment, etc. Unlike lawyers who can annoy, accountants bring peace of mind and build trust. So we step back, and look back that behind the accountants, there are their makers – the accounting teachers.

For this first NATA, more than 70 universities nationwide participated, each fielding only one candidate through their respective deans. An aggregate of 2,384 students gave feedback for their nominated teachers. Six teachers landed on top of the heap, all of them extraordinary. Allow me to mention their names and their schools: Angelito Descalzo (finalist, University of the East, Manila), Mark Francis Ng (finalist, Bicol University), Christopher German (finalist, University of Santo Tomas, Manila), Lope Dapun (runner-up, University of Southern Mindanao), Joselito Florendo (runner-up, University of the Philippines Diliman), and the winner of the 2019 NATA, Ms. Eden Cabrera (De La Salle University-Dasmariñas).

We recognized them and wound up still learning from them. See why.

Ms. Eden Cabrera is a student’s dream educator – technically excellent, multi-awarded, and has a caring presence that one can see and feel. She is known for bringing the best out of her students. Maybe you can credit her character as an educator to her educational training from her humble beginnings. She finished her elementary and high school studies in “girl’s town” (a facility for underprivileged girls) in Cavite run by nuns, and got her bachelor’s degree through university scholarship.

It probably makes sense that she believes teaching is not a profession, but a vocation. But she is so realistic, too. She knows that the best way to gain technical and practical knowledge is outside of the academe. So she stepped out of the academe to be a public practitioner and became a partner in a medium-sized firm. As a partner, she enjoyed financial convenience and benefits that she could not have acquired if she remained in the academe.

Then, she did the almost unthinkable. She resigned, turned her back from all that, and returned to what she believes is her purpose. Teaching. Inspiring. Making the young ones driven. The other amazing thing about this part of her story is that when she returned to teaching from a lucrative professional public practice, it was a family decision. She warned her family that they would not be able to do what they use to do (like vacations and frequent dine-outs), but they remained supportive. She was even compelled to give up her car and commuted to school instead.

Do you want some trivia? Because of her talent and sincerity, the team that interviewed her for this award, including the cameramen, were fighting back tears as they listened to her touching story. To tell you the truth, I wished I had a teacher like her.

It’s also worth looking at Dr. Lope Dapun of the University of Southern Mindanao where he became dean of the College of Business, Development Economics and Management. This runner-up for the NATA is called the Father of Accountancy in USM for being instrumental to the establishment of the Department of Accountancy. As an educator, he has also immersed himself in a number of externally funded research projects. Even as they are an institution in the far South, he upskilled the way they teach by leveraging on technology by using virtual learning in teaching where lessons and assignments are given online. But what truly endears him to students in USM is his fatherly care. He does not only advise, but he helps solve problems, like looking for sponsor institutions to aid those who cannot afford to go to school.

Not to be missed is Mr. Jo Florendo of the University of the Philippines, who wears two hats there as accounting professor and VP for Planning and Finance. Jo turned his back from a lucrative career as a banker to do what he loves most, which is to teach. His accounting teaching style is refreshing as he insists that his students analyze and find the “story” behind the financial statements of successful Philippine companies. He does not only involve himself in teaching UP’s best and brightest, as he is actively involved as well in teaching financial literacy to ordinary folks like housewives, OFWs, SMEs, NGOs, co-faculty, and various public and private organizations.

The one thing that’s common among our admirable winners, candidates, and perhaps most teachers is that they all agree that teaching is not a well-paid job. But they feel rich from the psychic income that comes from giving, not receiving.

This recognition to our accounting teachers is long overdue but then again, teaching for them is never about personal medals, but about the joy of helping students become successful.

A wise man said, “True teachers are those who use themselves as bridges over which they invite their students to cross; then, having facilitated their crossing, joyfully collapse, encouraging them to create their own.” (Nikos Kazantzakis)

And that is the admirable truth.

* * *

Alexander B. Cabrera is the Chairman of the Integrity Initiative, Inc. (II, Inc.), a non-profit organization that promotes common ethical and acceptable integrity standards. And he is the Chairman and Senior Partner of Isla Lipana & Co./PwC Philippines. Email your comments and questions to aseasyasABC@ph.pwc.com. This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

ALEX B. CABRERA
Philstar
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