By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Teachers who are used to being at the sidelines take the center stage as the Department of Education (DepEd) highlights their efforts and contributions to deliver education for learners this National Teachers’ Month (NTM).
Starting September 5 until its culmination on October 5, DepEd has been celebrating the NTM. With the theme, “Gurong Pilipino: Handa sa Makabagong Pagbabago,” the agency continues to stress the “crucial role, loyal service, and dedicated commitment of teachers in developing globally minded citizens, nurturing families, strengthening communities, and building the nation.”
In an effort to highlight the contribution of teachers who cater to seemingly marginalized set of learners, DepEd shared the stories of Hannah Concepcion, a special education (SPED) teacher of Olongapo City in Zambales; and Maria Rosario Landicho Banzuela, an Alternative Learning System (ALS) mobile teacher from Calamba City in Laguna.
Teachers who inspire other teachers
DepEd noted that while tributes are usually given to teachers who teach in formal education, equal recognition should also be given to those who cater to students with special needs and those who are under ALS.
Jerick Laganzo Anas, an ALS Mobile Teacher in Division of Calamba City – Region IV-A CALABARZON, said that Banzuela continues to inspire him for the work she does for ALS learners in Calamba City.
Anas said that Banzuela is an “illiteracy buster” and a hero who has “has been shaping futures and fulfilling dreams.” For the past 12 years, Banzuela has been toiling to reach 20 barangays in Calamba City to teach out-of-school children and adults. “She has filled community learning centers with hopes and dreams as she became her learners’ lodestar and helped them achieve their ambitions,” Anas said.
Banzuela, Anas said, has “diligently educated inmates in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP)” for three years. “During that period, she brought light to inmates who realized that their lives would be better with education,” he added.
Due to her passion for teaching, Anas said that Banzuela was bestowed the Best Teacher Award in 2015, and the Most Outstanding Alternative Learning System (ALS) Mobile Teacher of 2016 in the 1st Gawad Calambayan. She got the same award in October 2017. She also bagged 1st place with the highest number of ALS Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) passers in the same year. She also ranked 2nd place in 2018. In 2019, she was hailed 1st place in the Division Oplan Pagandahan ng Silid Aralan at Paaralan in the 2nd Gawad Calambayani.
Despite all these recognition, Anas noted that Banzuela “counts her success not by the awards she received but by the smiles of the learners whom she helped fulfill their dreams.” He added that Banzuela’s “satisfaction is the life-changing decision of her learners to commit their time learning through ALS.”
For Selesthe Bilog-Cahiwat, Head of Guidance and Counseling Unit in Olongapo City National High School, Concepcion is an “epitome of a true hero.”
Concepcion, a Doctor of Education, is a SPED teacher and coordinator at Olongapo National High School for 17 years. Cahiwat shared that Concepcion “made a brave decision when she took off her veil and started a new life outside the congregation.”
For Cahiwat, Concepcion is at her “best when it comes to being an instrument of love and devotion” because she believes that love is best for the SPED learners. “Devotion to the little ones with special needs, and the ones who need special attention and deep affection, is also her guiding principle,” she added.
Cahiwat shared that Concepcion has 40 students with unique and different needs – learners with Down syndrome, autism, dyslexia, processing disorder, visual impairment, and hearing impairment, among others – in each school year. However, she could not help but admire the SPED teacher for handling her classes “efficiently and effectively” despite challenges such as managing students who are having tantrums and those who turn violent towards her.
“Even if these incidents happen almost every day, these do not stop the fire burning in her heart,” Cahiwat said. “She keeps the passion of her specialization and ministry – to serve with all her might, to give a lot of patience and understanding, and most of all, to show enduring love for the children with special needs,” she added.
Cahiwat also commends Concepcion for being “true to her devotion and ministry as a SPED teacher.” For her, Concepcion is also “blessed in many ways” as she is able to raise SPED learners who are mainstreamed in regular classes in the formal education system.
“Some of her former students even secured a certification or an endorsement from her for their job application [while] others were given the opportunity to travel abroad,” Cahiwat said. “These are her great accomplishments from her untiring public service,” she ended.