Aspiring SPED teacher on TikTok hopes to inspire youth to teach special needs children

Christina Quiambao, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 23 2023 09:36 AM

Intern SPED teacher Clarenz Nalaunan teaches Math using sign language. Photo courtesy of Nalaunan
Intern SPED teacher Clarenz Nalaunan teaches Math using sign language. Photo courtesy of Nalaunan

MANILA — "Dadalhin ka talaga ng paa mo sa pangarap mo," 22-year-old Clarenz Nalaunan said as he recalled the moment he decided to become a special education (SPED) teacher.

Nalaunan gained recognition on TikTok after sharing his experiences as an intern SPED teacher in Rizal, with an accumulated 1.2 million likes and 37,000 followers in the video-sharing platform.

He is currently a fourth year Bachelor of Elementary Education Major in Special Education student at Our Lady of Fatima University - Antipolo.

With only over 4,000 public school SPED teachers in the Philippines in S.Y. 2020 to 2021 based on government data, Nalaunan hopes to increase this number by inspiring youth on TikTok to consider this kind of career. 

Inspired, ignited

His parents, both community leaders of a local Catholic lay ecclesial movement, served as an inspiration for his dream to be a teacher, he told ABS-CBN News. 

"Having the kids enjoying and seeing them smiling is something na musika po sa tenga ko kapag nakita ko po sila na natututo po and tumatawa," he said. 

@itsyosunnyboy 🤟🏻 #SpEd #teacher #deafawareness #fyp ♬ Here With Me - gyu dae nai

His first encounter with a special needs person during an inclusion program in high school further ignited this dream. This time, it was to be a special education teacher. 

"Meron po akong mga classmates who are deaf and who has autism and meron po kasi silang na-build na world po na sa kanila lang... parang na-curious po ako," he explained. 

What started from mere curiosity, lead to igniting his passion for teaching special needs children. However, that doesn't mean he never doubted about his future. 

Daring to be different

Nalaunan admitted that there was a time he thought twice about being a SPED teacher after being told that it was an unconventional college course or career path. 

"Medyo natakot pa [ako] i-pursue ang SPED o ang teaching kaya nag-drafting course ako nung high school ako kasi baka kaya ko po mag engineering and such," he said. 

@itsyosunnyboy Dare to be something more🤟🏻 #SpEd #DeafAwareness #SignLanguage #teacher #fyp ♬ original sound - CameronBronson

Overcoming those doubts, Nalaunan now believes his younger self would be proud of him for pursuing SPED teaching. 

"He will be proud of me kasi we continued our dream, hindi ko siya binigo sa pangarap namin," he said. 

His advice to those who are also on similar crossroads? Dare to be different, especially in a world that needs more SPED teachers. 

"Kailangan po tayo ng mga bata at kailangan po tayo ng bansa. At kung ikaw po [ay] may kakayanan na umunawa [at] magpasensya na magturo sa mga bata na kagaya nila, i-push mo na kasi kakaunti lang po 'yung mga tinawag," he added. 

Addressing special needs

Beyond his efforts to make SPED teaching more known to youth through TikTok, Nalaunan still hopes that SPED training will be more accessible for them as well. 

"There are many young people na gusto nilang i-push 'yung passion nila for this field pero wala silang resources, wala silang school na mapasukan," he said. 

@itsyosunnyboy 🫶🏻 #teacher #fyp ♬ original sound - Tian

He also hopes that that special needs children will be provided transition programs so that after education, they are also able to have equal opportunities in the work force. 

Beyond this, Nalaunan also shared that advocating for SPED teaching on TikTok can help create a world that is kinder to special needs children. 

"Tayo po 'yung may kakayahan na umintindi po at magpasensya at umunawa po. It will cost us 0 peso to be kind and to be patient po para sa kanila," he said.