Why an Ateneo graduate became a public school teacher

Posted at Oct 03 2014 03:55 PM | Updated as of Oct 05 2014 12:15 AM

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MANILA - Sabrina Ongkiko originally planned to be a doctor or a nun. She took up BS Biology at the Ateneo de Manila University as her pre-med course.

After graduation, she decided to take a break from school and joined the Jesuit Volunteers Philippines. She said she took the break because she wanted to experience volunteer work and being sent where the need was greatest.

After her volunteer work, a mentor invited her to teach and she described the kind of teacher that the Philippines need.

Ongkiko, or Sab, said she was encouraged to join but had to tell her parents about her plan to abandon her dream of medical school.

"I made a deal with God that if you are invited to a mission, dapat buong-buo. Walang safety net. Hindi yung kalahati ng puso mo - baka sakali magbago pa yung isip ko na pwede pa ako mag doctor so ipapasa ko siya. Pero kung tatalon ka, mas delikadong tumalon kapag tumalon ka na kalahati lang. Dapat buong-buo kasi may sasalo naman sa iyo," she said.

Sab received a scholarship to study education in Singapore for one year. In return, she had to teach elementary school students at a Philippine public school for three years.

Sab was assigned to teach science to Grade 5 students at Culiat Elementary School in Quezon City. Many of her students had trouble reading and could barely keep their grades above passing level.

Sab said she forbade her parents from picking her up from school. According to her parents, Sab did not want her students to see her taking a jeep while they walked home. Some of the students would even run beside the jeepney just to see their teacher off.

Sab said her "solidarity walks" helped her understand the plight of her students.

"Gutom sila pumapasok. Naglalakad sila papunta sa school. Marami silang problema sa pamilya. This is why they sometimes act out in school. They seek attention and affirmation," she said.

Sab is proud of her students. She recalled one student, Anton Jay, had trouble reading during the first day in school and it affected his grades.

Sab used a big English book to encourage her students to read. When it was Anton Jay's turn, the student read his two lines slowly and then answered Sab's questions correctly.

She said Anton Jay then asked if he could read some more. "Ma'm, pwede bang umulit. Kasi ang sarap magbasa."

Another student, Mary Rose Ibanez, was always absent.

Sab said Ibanez was not the brightest in her class but was the most determined to learn.

Ibanez said she flunked science subjects from Grades 1-4 because she couldn't understand her teachers. When she reached Grade 5, she started to flourish under Sab's teaching and even made it to the top 3 in her class.

Sab said seeing her students excel gives her a sense of fulfillment.

"Yun yung sarap sa pagiging teacher, na hindi sasabihin ng estudyante na: 'Mam, ang galing mo.' That's not what teaching is about. Teaching is about your student telling you that: 'Mam, ang galing ko na. Natuto na ako.'"

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