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Bayanihan spirit helps Bicol volunteer tutors become licensed teachers

Russell Ku

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Bayanihan spirit helps Bicol volunteer tutors become licensed teachers
(1ST UPDATE) Former vice president Leni Robredo is among those who recognized the collective success of the six volunteer tutors who performed their duties while reviewing for the March 2023 LET

MANILA, Philippines – The work of molding young minds requires a lot of time and sacrifice. This is specially true in the Philippines where 9 out of 10 students struggle to read simple text. Now, imagine having to teach while reviewing for an exam that could make or break your dreams. 

That effort was well-rewarded for six volunteer tutors of the Community Learning Hub in Barangay Sabang, Naga City, who became licensed secondary teachers after passing the March 2023 Licensure Examination for Professional Teachers (LET). 

The tutors – John Laurenciano, John Karl Notario, Bianca Monasterial, Jenny Mae Sapico, Joshua Sabordo, and Jastynn Arias – started their volunteer work in the learning hub in 2022 after getting their Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) degrees at the Bicol State College of Applied Sciences and Technology.

Tulungan talaga kami. Minsan, nakakatulog kami sa break kasi sobrang pagod na talaga pero kinayanan namin at sabay sabay pa kami nakapasa [ng exam],” Notario told Rappler. 

(We really helped out one another. Sometimes, we would fall asleep during our breaks but we conquered and even managed to pass [the exam] together.) 

Former vice president Leni Robredo even recognized their collective success in a Facebook post on Monday, May 22. The learning hub in Sabang is part of Robredo’s Bayanihan e-Skwela program, which continued under the Angat Buhay Foundation

“When FVP Leni Robredo congratulated me and my co-tutors on our success, I felt so special. We talked among ourselves in the hopes that FVP could notice Sabang Community Learning Hub’s post. When she shared our post, all of us were thrilled,” Monasterial shared in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Motivation to teach

The tutors had different motivations in pursuing their dream to become licensed teachers. For Laurenciano, it was to reach his mother’s unfulfilled dream of passing the LET as she failed in all 10 attempts in taking the exam.

Gusto ko siyang ibawi, gusto ko tuparin yung naudlot niyang pangarap. (I wanted to make it up to her, I wanted to realize her unfulfilled dream) I love my mother so much, I want to make her proud and I will do anything to make her happy,” he said. 

Sapico, meanwhile, was inspired by her high school teacher’s “natural ability to make any topic interesting.” 

She said that being the oldest among her siblings, her family expected her to land a job immediately after graduating from college. But she had a difficult time job hunting and decided to become a volunteer tutor.

“Others don’t know that I’ve tried so hard to find a job related to teaching [as I passed] around resumés [and] application letters. I also once thought that I could settle [for any field] as long as I had a job,” Sapico said. 

However, their time at the learning hub gave the tutors a reason to pursue teaching as a lifelong career. The tutors dedicate themselves Monday to Thursday to teach elementary school students to read and write. Recently, they also started teaching every Saturday afternoon. 

“Reading is their foundation para maintindihan nila ang mga content ng libro or modules (So that they can understand the content of their books or modules). While I am tutoring those children, that motivates me more in becoming a licensed professional teacher,” Monasterial said.

“The students’ work and improvement motivated me since I think I’ve fulfilled my duty as a teacher and made me realize that this is the right path to take,” Sabordo added.

TEACHING SESSION. Volunteers of Sabang Community Learning Hub mainly teach elementary school children to read and write. Photo courtesy of Joshua Sabordo

Some of the tutors also volunteered to assist Naga City School of Arts and Trade Grade 7 students with reading difficulties as part of the Department of Education’s Brigada Pagbasa program.

Even if their hectic schedules wore them out, they were energized when their students actively participated and recognized their efforts. 

“One of our students grabbed my hands…tapos sabi niya pa po [sa] mama niya: “Ma, teacher ko ‘yan.” Sobrang nakakatuwa po ‘yun (and then they said to their mother: “Mom, that’s my teacher.” That made me really happy),” Monasterial said.

Monasterial added that she only planned to become a volunteer teacher until December 2022 to focus on LET review, but decided to remain as she wanted to continue serving as it may be hard to recruit other volunteers. 

Preparing for the exam

Although fulfilling, the tutors’ hectic schedule made it hard for them to balance their responsibilities with reviewing for the LET. 

Nakakapagod siya physicaly and mentally…there were times na same yung date ng activities sa learning hub and review center. There were times na after ko mag-review, kailangan ko dumiretso sa learning hub para magturo…. So, ang ginawa ko nun is morning nag-review ako and afternoon, humabol ako sa program,” Laurenciano said. 

(It was tiring physically and mentally. There were times that the activities at the learning hub and review center were on the same date. There were times that after reviewing, I had to go directly to the learning hub to teach…. So what I did then was I reviewed during the morning and catch up with the program in the afternoon.) 

For some, it meant having to stay up late at night to review so that they could put their full efforts into teaching during the day. 

“The only time I can fully review is when everyone in my family is asleep. Sometimes I would start at 12 am since noise can easily distract my focus from studying so I wait until they are all asleep. My rest time was only four to five hours,” Sapico said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

However, the tutors knew each others’ struggles and banded together to help prepare themselves for the exams during their breaks and free time.

BAYANIHAN. The volunteer tutors of Sabang Community Learning Hub were supportive of each other from teaching work to reviewing for the March 2023 LET. Photo courtesy of John Laurenciano

Laurenciano added that the six tutors would exchange reviewers to further prepare themselves for the LET. “Talagang bayanihan kaming 6 pag nag-re-review (We really help each other out when we review),” he said.

Finally licensed

After months of tight schedules and late-night studying, the six felt mixed emotions as they finally reached their dream of becoming licensed teachers. 

“To be honest, I was really shocked. That day [when I took the LET] is indeed nerve-racking…. Also, the questions I was unfamiliar with, especially in TLE that I didn’t get to review, ended up on the exam,” Notario said.

Sapico added that passing the LET meant that all the tears and hardships from getting her TLE degree to reviewing while working as a volunteer tutor were “worth it.” 

Arias also credited her volunteer work towards for her successful LET result as it “greatly aided me in reaching what I wanted, particularly becoming a qualified educator.”

With the six tutors earning their teaching license, most of them plan to apply as teachers in public and private schools, and then get a master’s degree to help enhance their teaching craft. However, they also agreed that they would continue their volunteer work in their free time.

As for their advice to future teachers? Sabordo says: “Always try to remember your goal and reason why you are taking this profession.” 

Laurenciano added that there are many children who are depending on the next generation of teachers to guide them. 

“The things that made me want to become a teacher [are the reasons] why I can see myself in this field…. It is not about the salary, it’s about the passion,” Monasterial said. – Rappler.com

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Russell Ku

Russell Ku is a digital communications specialist at Rappler who believes in the power of stories to build an empathic society.