Five out of the six members of my family teach. Four of us—my husband, my two lawyer-daughters and I all teach law while another daughter now teaches pre-school children although she used to teach financial management to BA students. Oh, and I have to add that my son-in-law teaches animation in college, too, making six of us in the teaching profession. Sometimes when we talk about this over dinner, we share various reasons why—despite the tough challenges of teaching and the not-so-lucrative pay—we can’t seem to stop teaching. My husband who teaches labor law says he enjoys it and this is the best way to beat Alzheimer’s disease; one’s mind is kept active in teaching. My two lawyer-daughters say they enjoy it and it gives them reason to keep learning too. My daughter who shifted from teaching college students to pre-schoolers says it is such fun to be with small children who are all eager to learn new things in activities that seem like play.
As for me, sharing knowledge and skills brings so much joy especially when I see my students appreciating the law and learning. Once, when I did a lecture to lawyers in a Mandatory Continuing Legal Education seminar, two lawyers approached me. One was a young lady lawyer who was a former student of mine. She exuded excitement at seeing me and intimated that I have been her peg, her role model, which is why she now teaches too. The young male lawyer said he will never forget the techniques of learning and remembering that I taught them and these, he said, made him breeze through the bar exams. I continue to meet many other former students who are now colleagues in the profession either in court rooms, in seminars or social functions and it never ceases to give me immense satisfaction knowing I have been a part of the molding of their minds and the lifting of their lives.
This brings me to look back to the teachers who have shaped me to be what I am now. It was in my high school at the La Consolacion College, formerly St. Joseph’s College, where I met my own peg—Ms. Irene Justiniano. She was the kind of person I then hoped I would become. She was my English Literature teacher who, from what I remember, took up AB Philosophy. She inspired me so much with the way she taught us how to analyze classical literature and the life’s values they impart. I started writing poems then and read books voraciously. She was slim, always well-groomed and refused to drink soft drinks saying they do no good to the body. I have been hearing my father say the same thing about sodas but when it was my teacher who said that, I stopped drinking even a drop of any kind of soft drink altogether. Before we parted ways as I was then about to graduate, she gave a card which said, “If all students were like you, chapels would be churches and poor men’s cottages, princes’ palaces,” adopting a quote from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. I have kept that card as a priceless possession to this day.
When I was in college at UP, my English teacher, Tessa Jazminez, became my next role model. She was a good writer and an activist who, in many ways, taught us why we should value democracy and freedom. She encouraged me to send to magazines my essays and poems for possible publication. Several of my works, in fact, landed on the pages of Graphic magazine and the Free Press.
Many people, especially parents, take their children’s teachers for granted especially in this age when being wealthy and successful is what commands respect. Teaching is unfairly perceived as a career for people who are laid back and who cannot slug it out in the competitive corporate world or challenging public service. The truth is, teaching may be the most challenging profession of all because it involves handling human beings, molding their minds, and inspiring them to be the best of what they can be. As Henry Adams, a historian, said, “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”
Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the USA and a lawyer, once said in a speech, “Teaching is one of the noblest of professions. It requires an adequate preparation, training, patience, and a deep sense of responsibility. Those who mold the human mind have wrought not for time but for eternity.”
To all those who have taken up teaching as their career, may the world be kinder and more grateful to you. Mabuhay kayo!