My Australia Awards Story Teachers Special - Toni Dinah Cheer Fernandez
To celebrate the culmination of National Teachers’ Month (4 Sept – 4 October) and World Teachers’ Day on 5 October, Australia Awards Philippines will feature three of its teacher-scholars who are making a difference in their communities through their Australian education. Know more about our educators, and their hopes and inspirations in the following multi-part interview piece for the “My Australia Awards Story”.
Toni Fernandez is currently the Programme Head of the School of the Future - Iloilo National High School. She took up her Masters of Leadership and Management in Education at the University of Newcastle under the Australia Awards Scholarships Program.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
Having the love for numbers, I have dreamed to be an accountant just like my father. This dream changed because of my high school Math class. I was awed by my math teacher and enjoyed her lessons very much. She would explain math concepts in such a way that even the “number-phobic” students would look forward to classes with her. I began to wonder how it would be like in her shoes ---inspiring students and sharing my love for numbers. It was then that I fell in love with teaching. In the end, I became a teacher yet I was still able to emulate my father who taught part-time aside from working as an accountant.
How did your Australian education and your experiences in Australia shape the way you teach today?
I believe that teaching is the noblest profession. Nowhere is it more true than in our country. One could hardly imagine how learning takes place in public school classrooms filled with 50-60 students. I have always struggled in developing problem-solving skills in my students. Being a perfectionist (Math is exact!), I wanted my students to step out of my class ready to use these skills not just in numbers but also in everyday situations. I was halfway to giving up but my exchanges with public school principals in Australia have rekindled in me the fire to mold young minds and made me realise that every child is worth teaching. Now that I’m Programme Head, I push my teachers to never give up on students because I believe that time spent teaching is never lost.
What are your dreams and hopes for Filipino students and the education sector in the Philippines?
Filipino kids have always been competitive and resilient. There is however a downtrend in the quality of education offered in Philippine schools. This is a result of the migration of our topnotch teachers to greener pasture (I also was lured into doing that not so long ago). This should not be allowed to continue. Government has to take measures to make teachers stay in the country and in the profession. The good news is that Filipinos still believe education is the great equalizer. Thus, no matter where they may be, Filipino kids would always be excellent students. I just hope there are jobs waiting for them when they are done with school.
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