Every so often, one of our students would drop by our center and show us his report card. He’d point out his improved grades and proceed to thank his tutor profusely. Whenever I witness such acts of sweetness, I whisper to myself, “God bless our teachers!”

Yes, where would we be without our teachers? Next only to our parents, our teachers opened our minds to the wonderful world of learning. They were thorough enough to explain the hardest concepts and patient enough to answer the simplest questions. They challenged us every day in the classroom with their pop quizzes and graded recitation sessions. At the time, we hated these impromptu tests of our abilities. Little did we know that we were actually being trained to think quickly on our feet, something that would come in handy once we got out to the real world.

That’s why everybody has a favorite teacher. Everybody has a favorite story to tell about a teacher he hated or loved, about a teacher who was a stickler for rules, or about a teacher who acted more like a mom than anything else.

Yet, some of us never bothered to thank our teachers. We figured that it is their job to teach us and train us. Only later on did we realize the sacrifices that they had to go through to be able to enlighten our minds.

I am particularly proud of our Filipino teachers. For me, they are the best in the world because of their passion and dedication to their vocation.

Here are just some making headways in their fields:

Queena Lee-Chua: Queena is known for demystifying the complexity and difficulty by which students approach mathematics. Graduating summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Math at the Ateneo de Manila University, Queena could have easily taken the corporate world by storm. Instead, she chose to teach Math. She has attacked her one-woman mission to make learning math and science easy and fun with much zeal, and her efforts have not gone unnoticed. Heaps of awards have been bestowed this professor, columnist, and author including the Outstanding Young Scientist (National Academy of Science and Technology, 2002), Outstanding Teacher Award (Metrobank Foundation, 2003), and National Book Award for Science (2003). Queena currently teaches at the Mathematics Department of the Ateneo.

Ambeth Ocampo: Ambeth breathed life to ancient history. He made heroic figures real, telling us what Jose Rizal was like and what Emilio Aguinaldo ate for breakfast. He studied at the Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University and taught at San Beda College, De La Salle University, and the University of the Philippines. His column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer is always an enjoyable read and his numerous books have won for him three National Book Awards. A keeper of our nation’s history, he maintains an extensive Filipiniana collection. Ambeth is the chair of the Department of History of the Ateneo and a professorial lecturer at University of the Philippines.

Solita Collas-Monsod: Mareng Winnie, as she is more popularly known, can outtalk anyone when it comes to economics, among other topics. A cum laude graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics, Winnie began teaching at her alma mater in 1963. A fierce nationalist, Winnie exhorted her students to stay in the Philippines and try to do deeds honorable and good.

The academe could not contain her energy and she went on to hold various government positions, most notably as President Corazon Aquino’s Secretary of Socio-Economic Planning. Later, she would serve as co-host of the popular GMA Network show “Dabate with Mare and Pare.” Currently, she is hosting “Bawal ang Pasaway Kay Mareng Winnie” on GMA News TV.

The many awards that Winnie has received include the Professional Award in Economics (University of the Philippines Alumni Association, 1987), Cabinet Secretary of the Year (Philippine Free Press, 1988 and 1999), Broadcaster of the Year (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, 2000), and Best Public Affairs Program (Catholic Mass Media Awards, 2000).

Josette T. Biyo: Dr. Josette’s academic star shines so bright that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology  named an asteroid after her, the 13241 Biyo. The first Asian to win the Intel Excellence in Teaching Award in 2002, Dr. Josette was recognized for the ingenious ways she taught science research. Her techniques were so inspiring that her students produced exemplary works in the fields of physics, oceanography, and robotics.

Among the many awards she has received include the Outstanding Teacher of the Philippines (Metrobank Foundation, 1997), The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM, 1998), Award for Continuing Excellence and Service (Metrobank Foundation, 2004), and Presidential Award (Philippine College of Physicians, 2007).

Dr. Josette is the Executive Director of the Philippine Science High School System.

Christopher and Maria Victoria Bernido: When this couple bid farewell to their posts at National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines in the 1980s, not a few of their colleagues were surprised. They were at the top of their game, as they say, and had won recognition for their zeal for excellence. But the Bernidos chose the hard road, devoting their lives to the Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF), an antiquated high school in Jagna, Bohol.

There, they showed that excellence can bloom anywhere, even in an impoverished town. The Bernidos introduced an innovative way of teaching called CVIF Dynamic Learning Program (DLP). Their strategy worked, producing remarkable improvements in their students’ academic performance. Later on, they came up with the “Learning Physics as One Nation” project, which addressed the shortage of physics teachers. For their efforts, the Bernidos received the 2010 Ramon Magsaysay Award.

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