Teachers are the Foundation of Everything Great

September 28, 2019 Voluntourism

(Story published at the Philippine Star's Starweek, September 8)

We are a nation of greats. And, behind every great poet, doctor, engineer, artist, leader, and hero are the teachers the world knows little about.

For sixteen years now, “The Many Faces of the Teacher” (TMFT) of Bato Balani Foundation and Diwa Learning Systems have been putting the spotlight on these faceless individuals who have devoted their lives honing, molding, and guiding all of us to greatness. 

This National Teachers’ Month, TMFT honors four teachers who have one common denominator—serving in the fringes of society with the belief that the next great Filipino can come from there.

One is a teacher who innovates to help address the needs of large class sizes. Another one is from the Alternative Learning System who equips dropouts, working individuals, out-of-school youth, and senior citizens with the skills that can lead them to better lives. Third is an educator who has left a comfortable teaching environment to serve a remote community, not just by educating them but also by feeding them. Last is a scientist who helps fishing communities understand a phenomenon that affects their livelihood and subsequently, the future of their children.

These stories are presented to kick-off the month-long celebration for teachers.

Venus Metilla-Alboruto, PhD
The stronger the foundation, the greater the possibility

Understanding science lessons can be tough. It becomes increasingly challenging for a large-sized class of 55 to 60, as learners are easily distracted and teachers are not able to pay close attention to each of their specific needs.

This prompted Dr. Venus Alboruto, Master Teacher 1 at Surigao City National High School to innovate using Strategic Intervention Materials or SIMs. These are solutions employed by the Department of Education to enhance the academic achievements of students.

Using a design approach she grew up loving, Dr. Venus developed SIMs focusing on least-learned competencies. In studying photosynthesis, for example, students browse comics strips, which are supplemented by hands-on activities.

This approach has led to marked improvement in students’ performance, and a decrease in dropout and absenteeism.

The SIMS are most useful for working students who are able to catch up on lessons or do advance studies during their free time. 

Through the Department of Science and Technology–Science Education Institute, Dr. Venus upgraded her SIMs using augmented reality and called it SIMATAR. With the use of an application in a cellphone, science lessons pop out in 3D.

For Dr. Venus, the SIMs and SIMATARs are products of hard work and love. “Making these SIMs take a lot of effort and dedication. These are not easy to do.  It really requires love and attention.”

Yrene Aguilar-Dineros
The stronger the foundation, the higher the hopes and bigger the dreams

Opportunities are limited for some members of our society. While the right to education is for all, marginalized sectors are often left behind.

Ms. Yrene Aguilar-Dineros, a mother and a teacher, knows about this. 

“May apat akong anak. Lahat napalaki ko ng maayos.  Pero nakita ko ang ibang mga bata, naka-istambay lang. Kawawa naman. (I have four kids. I raised them all well.  Then, I saw these kids not attending school and I felt sad)," explains Ms. Dineros. The informal settlers live around her former school—Carlos Albert High School.  

Ms. Dineros decided to act on this. In 2010, she requested her superiors to give her an additional task of teaching dropouts, out-of-school youth, working individuals, and even senior citizens. This was granted and thus started the growth of her brood. From four kids, hundreds now call her “ma” or “mommy,” which includes not just school-age kids, but also learners older than her.

Her intervention does not stop there. Aside from giving classes on basic literacy, she also provides skills training like dressmaking, food and housekeeping, wellness, electronics, and customer service to allow them to earn.  

And because she also has bigger dreams for her students, she teaches them Nihonggo, a language she learned after receiving a scholarship grant in Japan.

Because of all of these, Ms. Dineros proudly shares that her former students have afforded better lives, with some now even working abroad. 

Ms. Dineros is currently an ALS Instructional Manager and a Master Teacher II at Quezon City High School.

Junmerth Cretecio Jorta
The stronger the foundation, the brighter the future

Because of isolation, the students of Sitio Balugo in Barangay Kalagangan, San Fernando, Bukidnon had very limited access to fill their basic needs: they had no school of their own, and were not properly fed. 

These were all addressed when Junmerth Cretecio Jorta decided to accept the role as a permanent teacher in Sitio Balugo, thus establishing Kèupiyanan Tè Balugo, a school for the young learners of the Matigsalug cultural group in Barangay Kalagangan.  

The decision was not easy for Teacher Junmerth. Sitio Balugo is located hours away from the main road, making it very challenging to get there. Aside from the distance, there is also the discomfort of sleeping in the classroom and the challenge of learning to cook for himself.  

But Teacher Junmerth, a missionary by heart, placed the need of his students above all of these.  

His first few months were like a baptism of fire. Junmerth had to handle 104 students, from kindergarten to Grade 6 on his own. Add to that was the difficulty of teaching kids who were hungry, with some even severely malnourished and wasted.

After becoming aware of the predicament, Junmerth decided to go above and beyond his role as an educator by advocating to bring much-needed nourishment to the community through a feeding program called "Balugo Pagkaon Sakto." This initiative was created to encourage more students to enrol and curb absenteeism and dropout in their school.

Knowing how much work has to be done, he sought the support of Hapag-asa, a non-governmental organisation that pledged them two sacks of Mannapack Rice per month. In addition, the Municipal Mayor’s Office also gave two sacks of rice every monthly.

To make the program more sustainable, Junmerth got the help of their Municipal Department of Agriculture to provide them assorted vegetable seedlings and fingerlings, which the entire community used to start a farm that will serve as their food source.

Today, other IP schools in his barangay are also benefiting from the program. Junmerth shares not just the packages he receives, but also his expertise in implementing such programs.

Aletta Tiangco Yñiguez, PhD
The stronger the foundation, the bigger the change

Under the sea lies the promise of a better tomorrow for the fisherfolks of Jiabong, Samar, considered the “tahong” or green mussels capital of Eastern Visayas.

However, the unpredictable threat of Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs), more commonly known as red tide, plagues their primary source of income. Here, when red tide happens, people starve and lives are disrupted.

These are the reasons why Dr. Aletta Tiangco Yñiguez is bent on bringing her science to the people.

Dr. Aletta Tiangco Yñiguez, Assistant Professor at the Marine Science Institute, University of the Philippines Diliman, is one of the country’s foremost experts on HABs. She and her team of scientists and students conduct studies on the factors that trigger red tide. They also look at the potential for predicting it.

Through COASTS (Community Alliance for the Sustainability of our Threatened Seas), a project she leads, Dr. Aletta is helping communities like Jiabong.

COASTS is a partnership between the academe, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, coastal communities and LGUs. Their overall goal is to improve food safety, livelihood security, and ultimately good quality of waters through an early warning system that would help address problems related to the occurrence of HABs.

Melvin Labendia, a fisherman from Jiabong enthuses, “Natutunan namin kung ano ang gagawin namin kung may problemang darating tulad ng kung may red tide or may bagyo. Kaya, masaya kami na pumunta sila rito. Nandito sila para mabawasan ng kaunti paghihirap ng Jiabong. Kasi pag may red time, kulo ang tiyan.” (We learn what do when there is a red tide.  We are so happy they came here. They help alleviate poverty in Jiabong because when red tide happens, our stomachs go empty.)

Aside from teaching her students and reaching out to communities, Dr. Aletta also leads summer camps helping high school students understand the fragility of the environment and rehabilitate the way people interact with marine life. She also manages a Facebook page called Baybay-Dagat to further her advocacy of caring for our oceans and securing it for the next generations.

A Tribute to Teachers

These four remarkable educators were introduced to the public last night in an event called “A Tribute to Teachers”, presented by Diwa Learning Systems and Bato Balani Foundation.

Both annual programs aim to inspire teachers to keep on pursuing their roles of building a strong foundation for our nation.

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