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Once your teacher

When my fifth-grader son Elmo’s first quarter report card was distributed last month, I looked forward to seeing Mrs. Corazon Jocson, his class adviser. I wanted to know how he was doing, being a new student and all. She said he was behaved (I did not believe her at first) and was in fact the chosen recipient of the Deportment Award for the period. He was also getting up the stage for the Penmanship Award (I know—a boy who writes beautiful cursive does not come by often). She said I should come the following day for the recognition ceremony. I better not have any appointments. “Yes, ma’am!” I said, almost on impulse. It was a habit that was hard to break. After all, Mrs. Jocson used to be my Christian Living teacher when I was in Grade Four—back in the day when she still went by the name Miss Corazon Bacason.  She was pretty strict and scary during those times. I must admit, I have never really shed it all. “Yes, ma’am!” was also my eager answer when, a few days later, I received a letter requesting that I speak before her class for their Career Day celebration. I was supposed to share my experiences about how values from our childhood can influence how we choose our life’s work. It was as if the 26 years did not happen in between. Mrs. Jocson looked the same, walked the same, talked the same. These were my sentiments, exactly, when just a month earlier I saw my first year high school adviser and English teacher, Mrs. Priscilla Catanauan at a newly established science high school in Caloocan City. She has since moved to the public school system and is now science coordinator of Kalayaan National High school. That day, she took some time off to hop over to the nearby school where I spoke with some campus journalists who were joining the Secondary Schools Press Conference for the first time. Ma’am Precy—affectionately called Ma’am C (Mamsie?) by her colleagues —had some great news of her own.  She had just passed the screening to be principal. She then eagerly told me about the rewards and difficulties of her current posting and gushed about her extended family’s recent vacation to Baguio—on a shoestring, mind you. It could be done with a lot of planning, she advised me. Ma’am Precy was not the only English teacher who had made a dent on my career choices. Mr. Reynaldo Binuya was the adviser of our school paper as well as being my English teacher in junior and senior year in high school. He instilled in me the habit of reading when I did not have to, and of expressing my ideas clearly and succinctly. He was a constant chaperone during the times we went out and competed on our school’s behalf. In 1993, while billeted at the Rizal High School in Pasig for a week, my schoolmates and I were accompanied by Mr. Binuya to the then-new and must-experience attraction of SM Megamall, the ice skating rink. During that week, I was also called to be interviewed for a scholarship grant at a university (which I did not end up attending), it was he who made sure I got to Taft Avenue from Pasig and back safely; we told everybody he was my uncle. Felt that way, too. The last time I saw Mr. Binuya was last year, where he recommended my participation in the contests we only used to join before. I enjoyed our lunch immensely. It was another great lunch my friend-since-grade-school Evelyn had last summer with our second-grade math teacher Miss Erlinda Bigaw.  The three of us also watched a local romantic comedy at the cinema where the lines were, well, kilometric. Ah, good times. These teachers are those with whom I have spent time with recently; I’d like to go back some more, and converse with many others. They always say that it always gives them joy to see us, their former students, as adults, and that it is gratifying to see us pursuing careers, raising families. What they don’t know is that we are even happier when we get to see them. It is like coming home. It is like browsing through a photo album that’s old and dusty and something you can actually hold. These are the people who knew us when we did not know anything, or any better. They spoke with our parents and family members, some of whom have now passed on. They were constant while we shifted and went through life via trial and error. They saw through our childish pranks and quiet spells and knew, then and there, where we were good at, and where we were vulnerable. They knew, period. Happy Teachers’ Day to all teachers who selflessly dedicate their lives to enable others to realize their full potential. [email protected]
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