I have been guided by a teacher even before I was born. My mother was a teacher.
From a very early age, my siblings and I have been taught the value of education. I came from an average family but I have always felt privileged because I felt we were all well provided for when it came to the basics – and that would mean tuition fees, books, field trips, and other expenses that are all related to education. Toys, household appliances, cars, clothes would be secondary.
Now that I have my own family, I am still amazed at how my mother, as a public school teacher, and my father, a common government employee could have afforded to send all four of us to college, with two of them taking very expensive courses in the field of medicine.
Teaching is hard work. At that time, my mother would have around 50 students in a class. I remember how my mother would spend a lot of time preparing her lesson plans at night when the family was quietly sleeping. On weekends, she would cut out some pictures and letters from magazines and make letters from colored special papers, to come up with interesting visual tools and pictures on the wall of her classroom.
She taught Social Studies such that piles of magazines and newspaper articles would occupy much of our small house then. Every end of summer, when schools were about to open, she would go to her classroom to have it cleaned and decorated with all the visual tools she prepared at home. She would take one or two of my siblings to accompany her and help her. She would stand on a desk so she could reach the high end of the wall to put up her homemade posters. While balancing on the desk, she would call on us to direct her so that what she put up would be aligned.
I am privileged to be greatly influenced by teachers. While my mother honed and shaped my values, another teacher I choose to honor today, helped me with some basic skills that guided me on which course to take in college.
She was Mrs. Letty Paler, my journalism teacher in high school. She did not only teach her students how to write, she also taught them the more important part of learning, that is, critical thinking. She would ask us to read the newspapers and in our class discussions, she would identify a news story and ask us, “what is the implication of this news/event to the country? To you? To us?”
We took it for granted at that time because we cared more about winning the volleyball game or for most of the boys, their thoughts were how they could bring down the sipa, - the small object that is being kicked in the traditional Filipino sport of the same name, that went up the roof of one of the classrooms. Still, amid our playfulness, she made us sit and reflect. And then compelled us to write our thoughts.
I was privileged to be tutored by her. We had writing competitions across all public and private schools in Metro Manila then and our school would always emerge to be one of the top three winners. I remember she would take me to her house so she could give more attention to me by giving me more writing exercises while she did her household chores. This would happen a few days before the competition. And then on the day of the competition, she would accompany me. She would come in a brightly-colored dress with matching shoes and bags and her smile and laughter would just be a great source of encouragement to me.
Before she died a few years ago, I was able to visit her with a few of our classmates in high school . We had a good time talking about the past and we took the opportunity to thank her. Way in her late 80s, she was still strong, and when we asked what her secret was, she imparted to us another important lesson, “I have never forgotten to laugh.”
My mother passed away in 2003. Mrs. Paler and my other teachers may have passed, too. But I am happy that up to now, I am still learning from a teacher.
My daughter chose to be a pre-school teacher. My wish for her is that she would influence many young children and be remembered well by her students, in the same manner that I have treasured so much the lessons I have learned from my past teachers.