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What a student taught a teacher

Heroes, warriors and torch-bearers—these are words that are used to refer to us teachers.

We are called heroes because of the sacrifices we make for our students. We are called warriors because every single day on the battlefield that is the school, we fight ignorance. Our main weapon is our strong will to impart knowledge to our students which they can use to achieve a better life in the future. We are also called torch-bearers because we guide our students and give them inspiration and hope.

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Our students thank us for teaching and inspiring them. They tell us that we have made a mark on their lives and will never forget us. But there are also times when it is we who learn lessons from them. And there are students who have touched our lives in special ways and will always be in our hearts.

One student I will never forget is Mylyn. I met her in 2013 when I served as a local school board teacher in a barrio school in our town. Like most of the students in the school, she came from a poor family. The hardships that she experienced could be seen on her frail body.

But unlike many students, Mylyn showed me an inner strength. She manifested a different kind of resilient spirit. She displayed eagerness to improve her life and to help her family. I never heard her say that poverty could be a hindrance for her to attain her dreams.

I saw how she worked hard in school. She impressed me with the high scores she obtained in quizzes and exams. I still vividly remember how her eyes sparkled when I discussed lessons that were new to her. It made me realize that aside from her dreams, a thirst for knowledge motivated her to study hard.

Mylyn was humble, unlike many smart students I knew. She never bragged about her achievements. She studied hard, and not to gain the admiration of her classmates. I hope she will stay humble no matter how far she will go.

During the celebration of Teachers Day in 2013, some students were assigned to read letters addressed to us. Mylyn was one of them. I was surprised when she announced that the letter was for me. In the letter, she thanked me for all the things that she had learned from me. I appreciated all that she said. After she finished reading the letter, I thought of the lessons that I had learned from her — lessons I never expected to learn from a student.

She taught me to become more compassionate as a teacher because she made me aware that there are students with difficulties in life that might be more serious than the ones that I usually encounter. She also taught me the importance of reaching out to students so that they would not hesitate to seek advice or help when they face any problem. Because of her story, I learned to become generous as a teacher. In public schools, it is inevitable for us teachers to spend our own money to help our students.

Mylyn also proved to me that, indeed, we teachers can set our country aglow. A big number of our population live in poverty. Education can open doors for them to attain a better quality of life. So if we will teach our students wholeheartedly, then we will be able to contribute to the progress of our nation.

Mylyn opened my eyes to the many responsibilities of public school teachers. Through her, I saw the other matters that a teacher like me can fix and rebuild — not just broken windows and chairs, but also students’ self-esteem, character, hopes and dreams. Teachers, especially those in public schools, have a lot of tasks to perform. To become an effective teacher, it is not enough to have a brilliant mind; it is also important to have a big heart and industrious hands.

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Above all, Mylyn inspired me to remain a teacher. To be honest, during that time I was thinking of going back to my first job as a call center agent because I was unsure whether I would ever be employed as a permanent teacher. But after listening to what Mylyn wrote in her letter, I realized that I have to remain teaching for there will be more students like her who will be needing my help. Her words of gratitude stoked my love for teaching, not as a profession, but as a vocation.

Thus, before that school year ended, I applied again for a Teacher I position instead of going back to Clark for a call center job. Fortunately, I was finally hired for a permanent teaching post. But I was deployed to a different school.

I miss Mylyn and her classmates. But in the school where I am currently teaching, I meet some students like her—students who are not giving up on their ambitions despite the adversities that they experience in life.

They are my inspirations. They are the reasons I don’t mind sleeping late sometimes in preparing the lessons that I teach. They are the reasons I stay in the country despite the opportunities to earn a higher salary abroad.

For them, I will never get tired of being a warrior fighting ignorance. For them, I will always be a torch-bearer to guide them in their quest for the stars. For them, I will always strive to become a better teacher. For them, I will always be willing to make sacrifices, to ensure that they are properly guided and educated even without receiving recognition.

I will always be grateful to Mylyn and to other students like her who have taught me lessons and given me inspiration. I will always be thankful to them for reminding me that the way to live life to the fullest is to serve. I will forever thank them for teaching me what it really takes to become a good teacher.

As long as I meet students like Mylyn, I am certain that I will always learn lessons about teaching and about life.

* * *

Princess D. Lasquite, 27, is a secondary school teacher at Urbiztondo Integrated School in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan.

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