BY BISAI YA
After clocking in over 30 years of teaching in university and high school in Cebu, she embarked on a much-needed sabbatical leave only to find out that her soul-searching journey has taken her right back to the work she dearly loved.
Silvana Lauron-Hermosa is one of those who we can call an excellent mentor. But greatness could be exasperating too, especially by all frustration brought by the system in the workplace. She thought her leave might unlock her loss of teaching appetite and reboot her back to her academe senses.
Silvana went on to Indonesia to enjoy the company of her teaching friends and former students. And as they say old habits die hard, one day she was enticed back to teach English as a second language to secondary students in Indonesia. And here she found herself teaching again, not one but to two leading high schools, whilst serving as a Coordinator for UK’s prestigious Cambridge University Qualifying Exam.
Back to her old self, Silvana practices her profession with passion, and what she describes as her greatest accomplishment.
In Cebu, she brought her dynamic attitude and caring ways to many classrooms in Philippines for 25 years. Her hardwork, enthusiasm and generosity have been an inspiration to the thousands of students in the two countries she has served.
Looking back, the likable and good-humored Hermosa started as a mentor to her siblings, before landing a job as an English and Literature teacher. Here she shared her love for writing and the arts, often acting as patron to her fine arts students who could not afford the cost of an exhibit.
Hermosa continues to share her time in helping students prepare for qualifying exams to enter Cambridge University in the US, and in mentoring Filipino teachers in preparation for their teaching jobs abroad.
The 52-year-old mother of three talks to OSM about being a mentor, a friend and a working mother who had chosen to work away from her family in the Philippines.
You have achieved so much. What has been your inspiration?
During my days as a student, poverty was my inspiration. I had my own youthful understanding that if we go to school it will make us rich someday. Reason enough why I wanted my younger siblings to have a good education. On the contrary, my father had wanted me to drop out after finishing high school and encouraged me to work as a salesperson at a store in the city. I needed to prove him wrong and so I pursued college education through a scholarship. I vowed to myself that I would never allow him to achieve his plan for me to work as a salesperson, and instead I worked hard at becoming a teacher.
Tell us about your work.
I teach English in two international high schools in Jakarta. I have been in this job for six years. I am also the coordinator and exam officer for International General Certificate of Secondary Education, a qualification from the University of Cambridge International examinations, where I am an accredited examiner for English as a second language. Being a Cambridge Center Coordinator is both challenging and inspirational for an expat like me who comes from a country where English is only a second language.
Is it difficult to be away from your family?
Coming here was a personal choice I insisted on doing. Thankfully, my family also supported me on this decision. Teaching in Jakarta is fulfilling; aside from being in a new environment, it also allowed me to recharge. Coming here was a fulfillment of a long time dream to teach abroad while earning an experience in an international set up, and being well compensated for it.
How has teaching changed your life and the lives of people around you?
I was part of a team that trained teachers to teach in America and I was happy to see that some did an overnight improvement of the tools they need to survive in an American school. In UP-Cebu, I was a member of the English trainer’s group for the Gurong Pahinungod, a volunteer arm of the university, where I was the coordinator for two years. That role enriched my realization on the value of education in our country, particularly in Cebu where students value education above hunger, poverty and the like.
What was your aspiration?
When I was student, my aspiration was to graduate from university, find work and help send my younger siblings to college. My family did not quite understand the value of education back then so I vowed to myself that I would motivate my siblings to graduate one day.
When I became a teacher, my aspiration was to teach not only English but also human values we need to survive in this world such as perseverance, patience, assertiveness, and positive thinking/optimism to make my students understand the true value of hardwork.
You are passionate about art.
Being an art enthusiast, I serve as a mentor to friends, my students in Fine Arts or other artists. I would extend sponsorship however little it may be and just try my best to help because I know it means a lot to them.
What talents you do believe you possess?
You might say I’m perfect in dealing with people from different walks of life, my sense of humor, my talents in singing and in playing the guitar and piano. These have made me an instant entertainer at small parties. I also scribble some Cebuano short love poems.
What are your plans?
When I feel I have had enough of teaching and my time is up, I would go home for good. Home is where my heart is. I would like to watch my grandsons grow. I am sure it will be a delightful pastime for me.
Is there anything you can do about teachers going out of the country to work elsewhere? This has downgraded the quality of education in the Philippines, because the experienced ones have left the schools, perhaps it is detrimental too to the families that they live behind. What is your take on this?
Teaching anywhere abroad entails better remuneration, newer and more challenging experiences, a different taste of life in exchange of nostalgia, oftentimes broken heartedness being away from the people we value and hold dear in our hearts, in our country, and honestly I can’t do anything about this phenomenon of leaving the country “for greener pasture, “braindrain” as it is popularly termed.
I can only share the real-life, bitter-sweet experiences about working abroad and make these teachers who have plans to teach abroad, be made aware that their plan is being packaged with these advantages and disadvantages.
I also agree that most of the teachers who left our country are our best teachers or else adjustment to the new set-up or curriculum would be very difficult to adjust. It takes some amount of intellectual capacity and intelligence to absorb and adapt you know. It takes some good brains, a very good psychological and mental preparation and eventually emotional readiness when all the other requirements have been addressed to. Call me one of the best teachers , that’s why am also teaching using an international curriculum, that of Cambridge and the Singaporean curricula.
Teaching outside the country may not have been all associated with success stories but whatever outcome that is detrimental to all we have been used to live with and the challenge of family break up, every Filipino teacher abroad has already learned to embrace and accepted with open hearts and open minds. It is our label, we survive in all adversities abroad, we survive because we are Filipinos. Every Filipino teacher working abroad would wind up saying. I am doing this for the betterment of my family’s life back home.
What more positive motivation can challenge this to make these teachers hang on, stay abroad and teach for better salaries and benefits than stay in our country whose educational budget corruption ranks first in the past years among the other types of corruptions our country seems to have been phenomenally popular of. I am a teacher, and I continue to be a teacher wherever I am in this world we live in.