Teacher walks extra mile during pandemic to help students in Sorsogon
MANILA, Philippines – Even as the country grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, the call to be an educator never stopped for Michelle Rubio, a public school teacher from Calao Elementary School in Sorsogon City.
In her desire to still educate students during the pandemic, 45-year-old Rubio established a mini-library equipped with laminated learning and reading materials which the students could borrow in their barangay.
“Bilang guro, ngayon pa lang ay gumagawa na rin ako ng mga hakbang upang matugunan ang kanilang pangangailangan… Madali lang itong i-disinfect just in case. Sisikapin po nating maging maayos at accessible sa lahat [ng mga bata] ang internet connection sa aming Barangay Mini Library,” Rubio said.
(As a teacher, I have begun planning on how to provide for their needs… It is just easy to disinfect [laminated learning materials] just in case. We will do our best to organize everything and have the internet connection accessible in our Barangay Mini Library for the children.)
For Rubio, who has been teaching for 24 years, the concerns of her students remain a priority, even during a health crisis (READ: [OPINION] Have you asked your teachers how they're doing in this pandemic?)
To show her love and care for them, Rubio literally walked the extra mile to personally visit them and donate food packs to more than 300 children in Barangay Calao.
She also taught them how to prevent the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through the mnemonics SPOTS which stands for stay at home; pray and wear a mask, observe proper hand washing; touching your face is not allowed with your dirty hands; social distancing.
“Gusto ko pong makatulong sa mga pamilyang masyadong naapektuhan ng lockdown. Gusto kong makita sa pamamagitan ng pagpunta sa mga bahay nila ang kanilang kalagayan at makapagbigay ng moral support at maipadama sa kanila ang pagdamay bilang kapwa tao,” Rubio added.
(I wanted to help those families who were gravely affected by the lockdown. I wanted to see their condition by visiting their homes to provide moral support and to be one with them.)
“Gusto ko ring makita at makumusta ang mga estudyante namin. Alam ko na sa pagpunta ko po sa bahay nila ay naibsan ang kanilang pangamba laban sa coronavirus (I also wanted to see and greet our students. I know that their anxieties with coronavirus have been eased by personally visiting them),” she said.
Rubio said that the health crisis pushed her to go beyond her duty as an educator. She emphasized that teaching should be more than just providing learning materials to its students.
“We don’t just need material things during this time. Encouraging words that will uplift the spirit of our students and other people would be enough. Let’s pray for one another,” Rubio said.
“I give not to get. I [am giving] because I want to inspire others to also give. If we have something to give or to help with, then share it. The feeling of being someone who could lend a hand is priceless,” she added in a mix of English and Filipino.
She also had recognition day in the houses of deserving honor pupils.
Rubio said he was anxious abiut the reopening of classes, raising concerns of safety and limited internet access in their area. (READ: No student left behind? During pandemic, education ‘only for those who can afford’)
A frontliner herself
Aside from being a champion in her field, Rubio also extended her initiatives to her community by distributing food packs to health workers and other frontliners in various villages in Sorsogon.
She has worked with other stakeholders to be able to provide cash assistance worth P500 each to at least 60 Bicolano families stranded in Manila during the lockdown.
Rubio was also able to help a father sick with Parkinson’s Disease in need of assistance to rebuild his home destroyed by Typhoon Tisoy in December 2019. Since the family did not receive aid during the lockdown, she also brought them food and grocery items, and 1-month worth of medicine and a comfortable bed for the head of the family.
Rubio mostly targeted the marginalized sectors especially the indigenous peoples (IPs) in their area.
She also organized programs intended to support and assist grassroot communities in their province, such as Dugtong-Buhay Program, a charity work for identified indigenous families in Barangay Calao; Resort for Learning, an advocacy to improve the reading capability of young children which has also been adopted by other regions around the country; and PINK SENIORS Pangkabuhayan which aims to share its profit with senior citizens who are also members of the said group.
Even as she worked with advocacy groups, her heart remained firm for her students. One initiative she organized dubbed MMJ Project was named after her deceased adopted pupils, Manuel and Marianne Joy.
Manuel passed away because of a chronic kidney disease, while the latter, who is the daughter of one of Rubio’s sponsors died in a school accident in the United Kingdom.
In their memory, she continued her advocacy to support poor school children.
“Of all my accomplishments, saving the life and staying with Manuel up to his wake was my greatest accomplishment because it was a test of my faith, my commitment and dedication as a teacher. It really defined me as a teacher, a mother, and as a person,” she said.
Because of her unwavering effort to help many people, she was awarded a certificate of commendation as community service provider by the barangay officials of Calao, Prieto-Diaz, Sorsogon.
“My advocacy to help people and my goal to continue what I have done for Manuel serves as an inspiration to extend my initiatives. By helping the needy especially the children, it feels like I am also helping Manuel himself. I believe that there are still a lot of people like Manuel out there who I can give joy and hope to just continue living despite being poor,” Rubio said in Filipino. – Rappler.com
Abegail Kyla Bilan is a Rappler mover from Naga City. She is an incoming 2nd year AB Journalism student in Ateneo de Naga University and the associate editor of ThePILLARS Publication.