Priming pupils for the win

Pisay teachers share the ground works in prepping up for international tilts

“Minds-on activities coupled with hands-on activities give our students the confidence they need to win.” – Suzette A. Palicte, PSHS-Central Luzon Campus

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Rex S. Forteza during laboratory work at the APTJSO competition

 

Through the years, teaching has been considered a noble profession and one that entails dedication and self sacrifice. For what they have selflessly offered, teachers are now accorded more opportunities, and, subsequently, more responsibilities.

Two teachers ‒ one from Southern Mindanao Campus (SMC) and the other from the Central Luzon Campus (CLC) ‒ of the Philippine Science High School System (PSHSS) are among the mentors whose task is to hone students for the Philippine S&T workforce.Particularly, these two teachers served as coaches to a couple of teams who bagged the gold in the ASEAN Plus Three-Junior Science Odyssey.

APTJSO is an annual educational event in the field of science and technology for young students aged between 13 to 15 years of age who are considered as gifted in science. This event is designed specifically to develop young students in the field of science and technology and to nurture future scientists and engineers.

From the SMC, Suzette A. Palicte armed her team to championship in several events at the 2014 APTJSO held in Thailand. Meanwhile, CLC’s Rex S. Forteza poised his team to the top during the 2012 APTJSO held in Brunei.

Both of Palicte and Forteza served as coaches to students who won in the APTJSO.

Childhood dream to being a teacher

For Palicte, becoming a teacher wasn’t her childhood dream though she’d often find herself as the teacher in her role-playing days. The case of Rex is the total opposite. He came from a family of teachers; his father and some cousins were teachers. He was no longer  surprised to find himself playing the teacher role since he was eight years old.

“I respected my father’s craft seeing that he is able to change the lives of his students back then, I also wanted to make a positive impact to the lives of other people,” Forteza said.

Palicte is a product of PSHS-SMC herself and her love for talking and listening to people made her opt for teaching. As a way of giving back to her alma mater, she chose to teach at PSHS-SMC and has been there for 10 years.

Forteza has been teaching for six years and he chose to teach in PSHS campus because he believes that teaching in Pisay (as PSHS is endearingly called) would challenge him and make him grow as a teacher. And by doing so, he believes he can make an impact in training future scientists and engineers of the country.

For these two, teaching in Pisay compels them to make the lessons more challenging but enjoyable for students, given the students’aptitude in math and the sciences.

Winning formula and areas for improvement

One of the challenges for both teachers and students in Pisay is joining international competitions in math and science. One of said competitions is APTJSO.

The Philippines has been the undefeated champion in the APTJSO in the last four years. The winners came from the different campuses of PSHS in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. And it isn’t merely luck that made this happen.

The coaches attribute the winning of the Philippine team to rigorous training, PSHS curriculum, linkages with experts from higher education institutions, and students’ discipline.

“Aside from the inherent intelligence of the students, it is also their dedication to learning that spelled out their winning streak. Even at their young age, they have tried and succeeded the tough act of balancing academics and other aspects of their life with the daily grind of training,” Forteza said.

 

Teachers’ training also plays a big role.

“Since most of Pisay’s faculty (members) are trained in the scientific disciplines, they can effectively relate the deep interconnections of the scientific concepts in their disciplines and can even connect them to other disciplines,” he added.

One of the biggest  support in terms of enhancing the Pisay teachers’ skills and knowledge comes from the Science Education Institute (SEI) of the Department of Science and Technology. SEI has been consistently providing teachers with learning opportunities through its various programs and projects, such as theCompetence Upgrading Programs which aim to increase teachers’ content knowledge and upgrade their competence in teaching and assess their learning. Another is the Science Teacher Academy for the Regions (STAR), a project  that provides an organized scheme of innovative trainings in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

On the whole, Forteza believes that it was both the discipline and dedication of the students and teachers that enabled them to bag the prize for several consecutive years.

At the CLC, during international competitions, the teachers would usually go first on a briefing. This entails knowing the event, understanding the mechanics, reviewing past results, and checking the availability of needed materials (equipment, chemicals, and books) to train the students.

Afterwards, they would proceed to the training phase.  At times, they try to learn first the materials (concepts the students have to learn)and spend time researching on it before relaying it to the students.

Forteza said he rarely comes across seminars for coaching for competitions so what they do is to learn things as they move along with the preparations.

Pisay campuses may have been on top of their game in producing the country’s future scientists and engineers, but there are still plenty of room for improvement. Palicte cited laboratory skills training for one. Forteza, on the other hand cited communication skills as one area which the students can hone. Communication skills can help them effectively deliver what they want to convey, especially during presentation of their researches in research fairs.

CLC embarks on the challenge of improving the creativity and design thinking of the students by putting up facilities like the Fabrication Laboratory, providing students with an avenue to try out and realize their ideas.

The APTJSO experience and the future

The APTJSO has given said teachers opportunity to improve their craft. The training has compelled them to teach some ideas, concepts, and skills that they don’t usually teach inside the classroom. The experience enabled them to teach the students how to merge the scientific concepts and practice through experiments.

“APTJSO served as a vehicle to develop the mentor-mentee relationship between us and the delegates, where we can have a more open line for dialogue and discussion not only for academics but into life in general,” Forteza said.

The APTJSO experience has inspired Palicte to look for more strategies on how to make her classes engaging.

“Minds-on activities coupled with hands-on activities give our students the confidence they need to win,” she said.

Aside from teaching, which she sees herself doing until she retires, Palicte likes to sing and organize events. Forteza, on the other hand,plans to embark on a higher degree, most likely a doctorate in physics. His other goals include doing better in photography or hiking towards the peak of at least one mountain in the Philippines.

To the young people, “Innovate and be a catalyst of change,” Palicte advised.

Forteza, meanwhile, has this to say: “Never shy away from hard work if it makes you reach your dream. It is by investing your time and effort to worthwhile activities that you can find fulfillment on what you do especially if it is your passion.”(S&T Media Service, Geraldine Bulaon-Ducusin)

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Coach Suzette, with her students in lab skills activity

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