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Today we celebrate World Teacher’s Day. Truth be told, celebrate seems inapt. While there is joy as we mark such a special and universal occasion, I believe honor is most suitable in capturing the action we give (often overdue) to our beloved teachers.

I have always believed teaching is the noblest of professions. Often times, other fields like medicine and law, although impactful to human lives, can be lost in “business” desires, served for profit, position, and power. Teachers on the other hand, especially those engaged in public schools, will often find no money in their profession, ending up overworked and underpaid, tasked with Herculean duties teaching impossibly large student populations in a country where education is much desired, but often overlooked or taken for granted. There are of course noble physicians and lawyers as well, who reach other to underprivileged members of Philippine society, and improve lives with little to no financial compensation. But today is reserved for our teachers, whom we fondly call titser.

Huge responsibilities rest on the shoulders of men and women who have taken the path of teaching. While their roles may vary accordingly, all teachers have one goal – to educate their pupils. It may sound easy, compared to defending a client in a trial, or carrying out complex medical operations. But to teach is not merely to impart knowledge. It is in different educational settings that individual minds are shaped, views are transformed, and lives are altered. What we learn in school is something we will carry for the rest of our lives. From something as basic as arithmetic, to as metaphysical as philosophy, teaching is a profession that changes how we think of our world, the spaces inside and beyond it, and consequently, guides us in how we act and react.

Learning is as fundamental as walking. Teachers must take on this challenge of guiding us in our first steps towards knowledge, and hopefully, wisdom.

How do we we make sure the students grow to be productive members of the community? How do we teach them to respond to challenging realities? How do we encourage them to think independently, desire the good, and do what is good? Educational tools are just that, tools. They are not enough. Teachers bridge the gap between the intangibles of knowledge, and make them creative and applicable concepts to help us live, and in the end, improve the lives of others too. They make knowledge more accessible to us, and demonstrate how we can use it to make good of our lives.

I am very fortunate, as most of us are, to have been under the guidance of persevering and dedicated teachers, tutors, instructors, lecturers, and professors. I have been blessed to be formed by men and women of strength and character.

From my kindergarten teacher who helped me overcome my shyness, and interact with my peers; my elementary English teacher who put so much trust and confidence in my capacities that it enabled me to join public speaking competitions; the diverse faculty in my high school, who were most encouraging in the most impressionable years of my life, and sparked in me the desire to write; to my Literature professor in my summer classes back in university, who enkindled in me the pleasure of reading; and the eccentric personalities of instructors in Art, Mathematics, Philosophy, Communications, and Sciences who all made a dent in my life – countless men and women have shared their time to strengthen both my mental and physical capacities.

While I received my education in private academic institutions, there is no doubt I must also be grateful towards the teachers in public schools. To me, they are the unsung heroes of our country. Often tasked to go beyond their duties (especially during national and local elections), these individuals have hearts bigger than anyone I have ever encountered. Undeterred by the almost crippling lack of educational resources, they work long hours to give dignified education to the members of our society who need it the most. While most of us would probably be more concerned about our financial stability, public school teachers are brave custodians of knowledge who sacrifice time they could spend with their own families, and money they can use to for their own good, to truly make a difference. Considering the lopsided student teacher ratio in public schools, the voices of these teachers continue to be heard, echoing instruction, imparting new skills, and educating the youth of their roles in the community. I applaud them for their generosity, unwavering compassion, and unyielding passion.

Beyond the academic setting, there are also teachers – advisors, counselors, mentors – who provide learning beyond the formal education we receive. They can be a colleague, a friend, or a spiritual advisor. They can also be individuals who simply teach by example. These are men and women who lead groups, organizations, and whole communities in order to accomplish goals that benefit the members of our society. Whether it be through the discovery of new scientific concepts which explain the practical workings of the world, or thought provoking philosophies which heighten our critical thinking, they must also be celebrated for their additions to the growing body of knowledge about our universe, and most importantly, ourselves. Through their creativity and unconventional wisdom, we are exposed to soaring views of life, and are opened to perspectives that allows us to be wiser in our decisions, and kinder in our actions.

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To all the teachers in the world who practice their noble profession with honesty and love, may your enthusiasm never wane. For all the sleepless nights developing lesson plans; for the vocal chords taking the wear and tear to be heard in all corners of a classroom; the immeasurable patience they possess and constantly exhibit – may every day be a reminder of the honor we must give to the men and women who teach.

I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

– John Steinbeck

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