We are reprinting here a column written by Rudy Romero in today’s issue of The Daily Tribune, which is a tribute to a former teacher of his. October 5 is World Teachers’ Day and we are enjoining everyone to remember and thank the wonderful teachers who all played a pivotal role in our lives.
Who were your favorite teachers? Please share.
Our teachers, our heroes
Written by Rudy Romero
Several years ago the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) declared Oct. 5 of every year as World Teachers’ Day. In keeping with the declaration, the Metrobank Foundation took advantage of the awarding ceremonies for its Search for Outstanding Teachers awardees to lead the launching of the 2009 Teachers’ Month Campaign. The month ends today.
Started in 2008, the campaign seeks to bring together the government, the business community, academe, the non-governmental organization (NGO) community and the media to “celebrate teachers and their role in society.” Metrobank’s campaign partners are headed by the Department of Education, De la Salle University and the business-community consortium Philippine Business for Education.
Two weeks ago I received a letter from my friend Aniceto Sobrepeña, Metrobank Foundation’s chairman, inviting me to “join (them) in hailing our classroom heroes by writing (my) thoughts on the role of teachers in our country.” Chito Sobrepeña suggested that I write about “a teacher in (my) elementary, high school or college days who helped (me) in one way or another to develop interest in a particular subject.”
I am only too pleased to oblige Chito Sobrepeña because rarely does one get the opportunity to write about the teacher described in his letter ‘ “a teacher in (my) elementary, high school or college days who helped (me) in one way or another to develop interest in a particular subject.”
I have searched the four corners of my memory to find the teacher who helped me, in one way or another, to develop interest in a particular subject. The teacher I settled upon was not one of my high school (St. Benedict’s School, London, England ) or college (London School of Economics and Political Science) teachers but a teacher from my fourth-grade days in Sta. Ana Catholic School (Sta. Ana, Manila). My brothers Jose Jr. and Ernesto and I were in Sta. Ana Catholic School for only one year; in the succeeding school year my parents transferred us to San Juan de Letran College.
Though my memory is no longer as good as it was, it has not deteriorated to such an extent that I can no longer remember Mercedes Jimenez, my fourth-grade teacher. Indeed, I remember her almost as well as though my time with her in fourth grade was only yesterday.
As I recall her, Mercedes Jimenez was of medium height (around 5 feet 4 inches), mid-twentyish, slim, fair complexioned, clear-skinned and with a hairstyle reminiscent of the hairstyle worn by Hollywood actresses Ann Sheridan and Evelyn Keyes. Lord, she was cute.
She was usually dressed in white, which fact, combined with her fair and unblemished complexion, gave her an aura of near-transluscence. I learned that the Jimenez family lived on Lamayan Street, along the Pasig River, and because her residence was walking-distance from Sta. Ana Catholic School, Mercedes Jimenez was invariably at her desk in the classroom to welcome her students when the bell sounded the start of the school day.
In sum, so neat, so well-organized and so punctual was Mercedes Jimenez that in my fourth-grader’s mind she epitomized everything that a school teacher should be. So strong is the impact of a school teacher like her that students feel driven to strive to be like such a teacher ‘ neat, well-organized and ever punctual.
But it wasn’t because of her physical attributes and punctuality that Mercedes Jimenez has stuck to my memory all these years. It was because of the encouragement that she would give me regularly. Being the class valedictorian, she didn’t need to impress upon me the virtue of diligence, but from time to time she would say to me things that made me feel capable of scaling all of life’s heights. I cannot recall exactly what she would tell me, but they were things like “You’re a good student, and you can achieve in life whatever you set your mind to achieve.” Mercedes Jimenez did not help me to develop interest in a particular subject; she helped me with her steady words of encouragement, to develop interest in achieving educational excellence. That kind of teacher support has no price.
I lost track of my fourth-grade teacher, but I have maintained contact with some of my classmates. They, too, have lost touch with Ms. Jimenez, and, like me, they want to know where she can be reached. Whether I come to learn about her whereabouts she will always be in the memory of this student.
The theme of the 2009 Teachers’ Month Campaign is “My Teacher, My Hero.” A large part of the credit for the good that is discernible in the youth of this country is attributable to the approximately 500,000 Filipinos who toil as teachers on a year-round basis, very often underpaid and with inadequate facilities. Truly, our teachers are our heroes.
Today, let us give our thanks to, and pray for, these heroes.