On Thanksgiving, grateful teachers recall the struggles, triumphs working in high-risk NYC schools

Setting aside mentoring challenges to enjoy the holidays with family and colleagues

Setting aside mentoring challenges to enjoy the holidays with family and colleagues

Members of the Association of Filipino Teachers in Eastern America, Inc.

Members of the Association of Filipino Teachers in Eastern America, Inc.

By Mayette Timblaco Geraldino

There was something refreshing and familial in the fun-filled celebration by the New York’s brightest and their families, while the rest of the country was occupied with snatching the best Black Friday deals.

Full of gratitude, the Association of Filipino Teachers in Eastern America (AFTEA) Inc. held a Thanksgiving Party on November 28th at the Blue Room of the Loving Life Learning Center in Manhattan. It was attended by more than 50 teachers and their families coming from the five boroughs and some from as far as Prince George’s County in Maryland.

Ably hosted by Pocahontas-attired Elsie Paragas Reyes and cowboy-clad Roger Cuerques, the party was an event worth attending if only for its family ambiance and the very accommodating officers led by Chairman Eufemia Patrona and gracious host Ligaya Bernaldez, the better half of the organization’s founder Pancho Bernaldez.

“We have been blessed so much and we acknowledge it,” declared Eufemia Patron during her inspirational message and Chairman’s annual report rolled into one.

She recalled a February wine-tasting at the Astoria Manor. She was asked by some Filipino organizations as to what her organization is doing to help the community. She humbly replied that “AFTEA’s objectives are: Building lives, strengthening family relationships, and helping the community, in that order.”

She then related that the teacher members and their families have been to seven group tours just this year. She explained that as a teacher organization, “We believe that happy people in a happy home can do meaningful ‘kawanggawa’ (charity). We can’t give love if we do not have love within us. Building communities start by building ourselves and our family.”

And true to its core organizational value, the party that began with an invocation by Dioso Torre was reminiscent of a typical Philippine family gathering replete with laughter, children dancing to the karaoke tune of Pastor Alexander Caabay’s “Born Free” and Alyssa Bernaldez’s “Looking Through the Eyes of Love” and over the ubiquitous menu of lechon, lumpia, rice, adobo, biko, leche flan, and fruit salad, among other home-cooked dishes.

The educators’ sharing of their teaching experience in the Big Apple spoke volumes of their gratitude for making it through the tough job of educating the “least, lost, and last children in high-risk schools,” in the words of Chemistry teacher Leonarda Villaceran.

“Each one of our stories can be a potential novel,” said Marvin Cadornigara, a Science teacher and winner of NYC DOE Excellence in School Technology Award 2014.

He recalled that during the first few months, he and three other fellow male teachers would take turns in crying secretly behind the walls of their apartment’s only comfort room and thank the Almighty for “just allowing me to go home intact,” he said. He concluded by saying that “with God, we can do everything.”

Rowena Inojales recalled walking three to four blocks to look for a deli store that sells rice and described her first day in class as a “nightmare…and a baptism of fire.” She expressed her utmost gratitude for her 11 momentous years of teaching struggles and triumphs.

Her sentiment was duly affirmed by Irene Raagas who joyfully declared that after 10 years, she finally “got the feeling” of an accomplished educator who is able to successfully deliver her three-page lesson plan without being side-lined by major behavior management issues.

The informal sharing of experiences was interspersed with medley dancing, raffle draw, children games and a Thanksgiving trivia quiz skillfully led by AFTEA Vice-Chairman Ildefonso Salva and the lively masters of ceremonies.

Grouped heterogeneously to mimic how “highly effective” teachers engage their students in learning based on Danielson’s Component 3c, the teachers, who at times were much more rambunctious than their student counterparts, gamely participated in the contest. Retired NYC DOE Math teacher Pilar Calubiran was so engrossed with the contest that she would intermittently raise her hand to give the answer when the instruction was for the group to quietly write their response on a whiteboard. Dr. Shiela Buot’s team defeated the Surigaonon-led group after the much-contested tie-breaker question of “Where do turkeys come from.”

A serenade to the November birthday celebrants who were treated to cake slicing and blowing of lily-petal candles capped the fun-filled thanksgiving celebration that lasted four hours.

My husband, Maxim, and I left the party as enriched individuals with Essy Malibiran and Edna Alcantara’s invitation “Kain na” – a distinctly Filipino way of welcoming guests to a family feast — still echoing in our minds.

Parlor games keep the kids busy

Parlor games keep the kids busy

It’s not a Filipino party if there is no table full of food

It’s not a Filipino party if there is no table full of food

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2 Comments

  1. […] How does a New York City teacher make it through the tough job of educating the “least, lost, and last children in high-risk schools?” Find out at Celebrating thanksgiving with NYC’s brightest and their family. This article is also published at The FilAm.net. […]

  2. […] On seizing opportunities in adversity… […]

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