MANILA, Philippines - It has been said time and again that teaching is more than just a profession. To many, it is a calling, a vocation, and a mission, as it equates to honing, nurturing, and enriching the lives of children entrusted upon the teacher's care.
But for Alternative Learning System (ALS), Filipino teachers like Ms. Ednalyn Estrella Fajardo, teaching is taking care not only of schoolchildren, but also of out-of-school youth and adults (OSYA) including jail inmates, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, reformists, and even guest relation workers.
Fondly called Teacher Eds by her learners, this 52-year-old educator is not content with teaching from Mondays to Fridays. She travels all over the province of Pampanga, in the Central Luzon region of the Philippines on the northern shore of Manila Bay, during weekends to seek OSYA groups and encourage them to enroll in ALS. Even Mayor Dante Datu Torres of Guagua noticed her efforts and lent her his own service vehicle so she can further expand the reach of her advocacy.
A Master Teacher II at Pulungmasle Elementary School and the ALS Coordinator of Guagua West District, Teacher Eds holds classes inside chapels, in barangay halls, under the bridges, and even in cemeteries. Since 2003, she has already helped 527 learners pass the Accreditation & Equivalency (A&E) Test, while a total of 6,947 has already been under her tutelage in informal education (InfEd).
Teacher Eds' father was a taho vendor, and she herself has worked as a housekeeper and a babysitter. She also served as a canteen helper and a messenger while she was studying, and this did not deter her from finishing her two Bachelor of Science degrees in elementary and secondary education. She is also a Master of Arts graduate.
Her humble beginnings molded her to become the devoted, caring, and selfless teacher adored and revered by her students. This is also why she goes out of her way to perform speakership, trainer, and assessor duties at the various trainings spearheaded by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). These include massage therapy, food and beverage services, housekeeping, and carpentry, so that the OSYAs – even the reformists in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) in Guagua and in Central Luzon Rehabilitation Center (CLRDC) – can acquire the skills and competencies that can help improve their lives.
Going the extra mile
With 34 years in service, Teacher Eds shares that ALS has a special place in her heart. She has embraced the program, as well as the many faces, stories, and struggles of her learners with all her life and soul.
This is why she deserves all the titles and accolades bestowed upon her including being the Regional Outstanding ALS Coordinator in 2008; a national semi-finalist in the Search for Most Outstanding District ALS Coordinator in 2010; the District Most Outstanding Teacher in 2011 and 2015; the Division Most Outstanding InfEd Trainer for the Youth in 2012; a Regional finalist in the Metrobank Foundation Search for Outstanding Teachers in 2014; the Division and Regional Most Outstanding ALS Teacher in 2015; the Most Outstanding Kapampangan Awardee for Youth Service in 2016; a Regional awardee of the Civil Service Lingkod Bayan (group category); and just recently, a National Awardee in the Antonio L. Cabangon Chua Gintong Parangal Para sa Edukasyon – Guro 2018.
Teacher Eds is likewise engaged in co-curricular endeavors. She served as a coaching staff for the Pampanga Little League Softball Youth which represented the Philippines in Michigan, U.S.A. some years back, where the team won silver medal. She is also musically inclined, and even composed the official hymn of ALS Pampanga. She teaches her learners how to play drum and lyre, and perform Ati-Atihan numbers for extra income.
Not surprisingly, she has already been invited to share her best practices in teaching in various places including Bulacan, Davao, and Cebu.
This extraordinary teacher strongly believes in Mia Hamm, a retired American professional soccer player, who stated, "Celebrate what you've accomplished, but raise the bar a little higher each time you succeed."
The writer Allan M. Delos Reyes is Master Teacher II/District ALS Coordinator (Minalin, Pampanga)