Teacher Gemma: an Inspiration from Manila

It seems as if the last few days have been a total blur. Having gone through unforgettable experiences, we all have clicked from word go, and it’s so crazy to think that it was over all too soon. For team Netherlands and one Australian (myself), we had to be checked out the hotel by 7:30 a.m. as we had an early start on the last day.

The morning of our last day, we set out to the F. Serrano Sr. Elementary School, a public school in the south of Manila. Due to school holidays, most of the school wasn’t there; however, we were very lucky to have witnessed one of the summer school programmes where Teacher Gemma had a group of three-to-four–year-old boys and girls. To all of our delight, upon entering we were greeted by the most adorable kids on this planet. They were all asked to come sit down and they started to listen to Teacher Gemma tell the story of “Under the Sea”. Teacher Gemma was fantastic and constantly engaged the kids with skills of counting, listening and capturing their imagination with the story. It’s quite amazing that, despite being told in a different language, the art of storytelling is a universal.

Dean, schoolkids with teacher Gemma and class assistant, Jordi, Nayana, Damien, Marielle and Shambhavi - by Denvie Balidoy
Dean, schoolkids with teacher Gemma and class assistant, Jordi, Nayana, Damien, Marielle and Shambhavi – by Denvie Balidoy

We then went on a school tour with Teacher Gemma before meeting up with some other school officials. With more than 3,500 students in the primary school alone, it seems as if this school is bursting, but all in the name of education. This school takes in kids from far and wide, while building on Save the Children’s Kasali Inclusive Education programme.

 

Teacher Gemma’s colourful classroom - by Dean Kaplan
Teacher Gemma’s colourful classroom – by Dean Kaplan

It is great meeting people like Teacher Gemma, as she often attends the Save the Children programmes. After teaching for more than 25 years, she still is very motivated, as she was in her early years. Teacher Gemma says without Save the Children’s programme, she wouldn’t be able to convince her colleagues and  teachers from other schools to include children with disabilities in the mainstream education. Educators like Teacher Gemma put so much time, energy and effort into the classrooms to include children with disabilities into their mainstream classes. We were all so lucky to meet such an inspirational person and thank Save the Children for taking us to meet her.

 

Nayana, IKEA Teddy, Teacher Gemma and Dean at the F. Serrano Sr. Elementary School - by Denvie Balidoy
Nayana, IKEA Teddy, Teacher Gemma and Dean at the F. Serrano Sr. Elementary School – by Denvie Balidoy

There are so many stories and photos to share, so I do hope I can write another one soon. I also want to take this opportunity to thank IKEA Perth for choosing me to represent them as the store’s IWitness ambassador for 2015. I am truly honoured and grateful for this awesome experience.

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    Dean Kaplan