Filipina Teacher Gives Inmates Second Chance | Pinay.com
Anecia Zapata, a Filipina elementary teacher for almost two decades, never thought she would be teaching in an unlikely classroom like the provincial jail with students in trying circumstances.
That was in 2009 when Ma’am Amy, as she is fondly called at the South Cotabato Rehabilitation and Detention Center, became a mobile teacher. Unlike the traditional teaching job, the Alternative Learning System (ALS) mobile teacher moves from place to place.
Zapata’s direct supervisor offered her the district coordinator position for ALS. When she accepted she had to move to the City of Koronadal from her day job at Maasim Elementary School, a typical public school located in a far-flung area in Sarangani Province.
“I didn’t think twice and accepted it immediately. I was thinking it’s a new adventure, new work, new experience and new challenge,” Zapata shared.
ALS aims to extend formal education to people who have not gone through school because of poverty. And the people inside the detention center are one of the important clients of the program.
Before she became Ma’am Amy inside the Provincial Jail, Zapata tried her hand at mobile teaching for out of school youth and adults in far-flung areas in Koronadal. She knew of the sacrifices. There were no travelling or daily allowances given to mobile teachers. They have to use their own resources. Teaching in the provincial jail had its own challenges.
“I was scared to teach my enrolees,” she confided. The feeling remained in her for almost two months. “I was thinking these people are in jail and they are capable of doing bad things to other person.”
Her experience working in humanitarian organization for six years helped her established rapport with her students; her feelings of being judgemental eventually died down while a new feeling of fulfilment emerged.
Meet one her of students: Joel (his surname is with held upon his request) is in his early 20’s; he was 18 when he was locked up in jail in 2011. Joel was in his senior year in high school when he was among a group of students suspected to have stabbed a schoolmate. The victim survived but Joel was the only person nabbed by the police. The rest of his friends flew out of town.
Joel was unable to graduate then but in jail, Maám Amy patiently taught him and encouraged him to complete high school studies. In March of 2012, Joel was among the ALS students who graduated in good standing.
“She did not only teach me but she taught me how to survive life,” Joel said. “I owe this all to Maám Amy. If not for her words of encouragement, I may not be able to survive the struggles inside the jail.”
Joel is now living a regular life, tending the farm with his parents, Ma’am Amy said. He became a free man in 2013 when the court dismissed his case. Along with his freedom was his high school diploma.
“Knowing them individually through conversations gives us an idea on the kind of strategy to use in our class,” Maám Amy said. To have an engaging classroom setting, she invited speakers to come in and talk about certain topics. This way helps students feel they still belong to the community.
“I realize that my job is a life fulfilling job,” Ma’am Amy said, quoting American author Philip Wylie, “One good teacher in a lifetime may sometimes change a delinquent into a solid citizen.” (Read another Pinay story on second chances, “Ex-Drug Addict Michelle Perez Turns New Leaf.”)
Photos are courtesy of Anecia Zapata unless otherwise credited.
|Sparkle and Shine like Ma’am Amy!
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