Mastering The Heart of Teaching
Going above and beyond her call of duty, one teacher makes a difference in the lives of her students and out of school youth.
In a small barangay in Taguig, where most families live below the poverty line, one teacher knew that despite financial hindrances, education must be within reach. Such is the determination of 61-year old Remelita Estanislao, Master Teacher and Grade Chairman of Napindan Elementary School in Taguig City. She has now been teaching for 37 years and working with out-of-school youth as the District Coordinator of the Alternative Learning System (ALS). Coming from a family of fishermen and second of 10 siblings, she has experienced first-hand the struggle of parents to send their children to school.
“Our barangay is composed of families of fishermen, farmers, vendors, and factory workers. There are many students who graduated from elementary but very few are able to continue studying through high school, much more through college. Parents cannot support the transportation allowances and tuition fees of their children,” says Estanislao. The lack of a high school within their vicinity is another stumbling block for parents who would like to send their children to secondary education. “Students have to travel to nearby town Pasig or to Taguig proper just to attend secondary school,” she adds.
Pressing Problems, Simple Solutions
“Once there was a mobile teacher assigned to our barangay, and we shared stories about how we observed the growing number of youth dropping out of school because of financial hindrances,” she relates. Then came the privilege to be assigned by her school to the ALS program where she had the opportunity to gather the out-of-school youth, orient them about the program, help them all throughout the review and exams, and eventually guide them in the acceleration process.
Tackling the problem of out-of-school youth is not for the faint-hearted. Often, the children themselves do not believe they need to be helped—the biggest obstacle of all, according to Estanislao. “The fact that the youth do not admit they are illiterate may be because of pride and self-esteem. It is very hard for them to realize that. Some try to attend the program until they get the Acceleration Equivalency Test, but the problem is the requirements. Since they are required to submit documentation such as a Certificate of Live Birth and photos, they neglect submitting them thinking that we teachers should take care of it,” she shares.
Along with other teachers, she has resorted to shouldering the transportation expenses and snacks for the kids just so they can take their exam for the program. But she soon found out that the best way to deal with it is through communication. “To handle these frustrations, I just talk to them heart-to-heart, inspire and convince them personally, and tell them the advantages it will bring if only they strive to finish the program.”
Always Room for More
Now a District Coordinator of the ALS, she has been assigned to no less than nine schools in the district which she visits every Saturday to observe literacy classes. “Aside from this, I have Project-Reach Integrated-School-In-a-Box (ISB) at a farawaybarangay of Lower Bicutan. This is a flexible learning intervention program for out-of-school youth, mostly street children of different ages and grade levels,” she says. She does all these on top of her regular job as Master Teacher in Napindan Elementary School where she assists the principal in the implementation of school policies, checks lesson plans of teachers, leads discussions on professional ideas or problems related to classroom instruction, orients and gives support to new teachers, helps plan, implement, and evaluate school activities, and many more.
With so much on her plate, she does not seem to have a weary bone in her body. In fact, she is constantly ready to heed every call for help, especially during times of crisis. She says, “During typhoons, it always floods in our barangay.Classrooms are used as evacuation centers. Classes will be suspended for weeks or even months. When classes resume, it will be on shifting schedule just to accommodate all students. Very few pupils come to school, thus hampering their studies. To make matters worse, evacuees do not leave immediately because they are supported by relief goods while staying in evacuation centers. They destroy the room’s decors, dirty the desks and leave the mess for teachers to clean. To help the school during these times, I volunteer to make the shifting schedule, assign classrooms and coordinate with the barangay hall to announce all throughout the barangaythat classes will resume. More importantly, I help the students by giving remedial instructions to cope with the competencies missed during suspension of classes.”
Strong and Steadfast
Even at the age of 61, Estanislao takes steps to always be smartly dressed in school and on other occasions, such as when going to the District Office. She attributes her strength to taking food supplements, vitamins, and walking on her way to school. Her daughter, Concepcion Bernabe, says they have been encouraging their mother to retire for health reasons, but her passion for teaching will not allow it. “She sometimes gets sick but she keeps telling us that she can still teach and that many students need her. She also thinks of the school saying there are only a few new teachers who are as dedicated as the old teachers.”
Despite her own children’s worries, they are proud of the difference their mother has made in other people’s lives. “If you ask the graduates of the school who their favorite teacher was in elementary, one hundred percent will tell you Mrs. Estanislao is their favorite! Every year, she has students who win inter-school contests in different subjects. Because she is very much concerned about the students, she really takes time to give them reviews and rehearsals. She even gives food or snacks to pupils who do not have baon for the day,” says Bernabe proudly.
Though she receives a little honoraria from the Local School Board, the real reward comes from seeing her learners pass the acceleration and equivalency test and pursue formal schooling. While some students featured her in their school paper and sent letters to give thanks, she is very happy that there are also several who have taken it upon themselves to pay it forward. “Others went abroad and even donated materials for school use as a token of appreciation. Some parents who were my former students have endorsed their children to me and they are now my pupils,” she beams.
A Teacher’s Dream
Estanislao continues to have high hopes for her school and her students. “My vision for Napindan Elementary School is for it to be a model school—a school whose graduates have fully mastered the academic competencies, are work-oriented, creative and critical thinkers. For the out-of-school youth, my vision for them is to continue their studies to make them productive citizens, to function effectively as a member of the family, community, and nation, and for the Alternative Learning System leaders to be more committed and dedicated to help the out-of-school youth,” she shares.
For an ordinary teacher who hails from a fisher folk clan, there is no extraordinary formula for making a difference. Only three things come to mind: dedication, perseverance, and humility. Until when does she see herself teaching? She quickly answers, “As long as I can manage doing all my work, I will continue doing it to the best of my ability.”