On Being an Eco-Friendly Model Teacher

MEF started it all
It was October 2010 when Mother Earth Foundation, headed by Sir Froilan Grate, came into the lives of CRACMES teachers. He introduced us into a new world of Environmental Concepts.  Through the seminars and workshops given by MEF, we were awakened to the reality that our mother earth needs our care, and that we should do our part in taking care of it.  The students became aware of the value of the things around them, the importance of trees and water, and the place where we live in. MEF taught us many lessons that we will forever be grateful for. I became aware that we are in a position to save mother earth. I realized that if we could just love and take care of the earth, we will see the beauty of life. I know it’s never too late; we can work it out.

The Green School, Blue School Network
One of the programs of MEF was the Green School, Blue School Network, which was launched on October 18, 2010. As part of this program, we had some requirements to comply with to be able to step up in ranking. First, the teachers should undergo trainings and workshops on environmental education like Project Water Education for Teachers (Project WET) and Project Learning Tree (PLT). We were required to make lesson plans  integrating therein environmental concepts. Then we had to organize a group, The Mother Earth Kids Club, composed of young boys and girls which will be trained to become young eco-heroes of the school and the community. We also had to teach in our classes what we learned from the seminars and workshops.
Everyone in our school participated actively in this program, specially the teachers, students and even the janitors. We were so hopeful that after a year we will achieve something good. We were aiming then to become an eco-friendly school. Now we are glad that we were given Rank 3 in this Green School, Blue School Network program of MEF. With the help of MEF, we were also awarded 4th place in the DENR’s National search for Sustainable and Eco-Friendly School last September 2011.  All of us were proud of our achievements.

Search for Eco-Friendly Class and Model Teacher on Sustainability and Environmental Education
Then, the search for eco-friendly class and model teacher came. I know it was one way of MEF to motivate the teachers and students to be eco-friendly. Everybody was entitled to join. In my case, I was not after the award or the recognition. I joined the search because I knew it was something worthy.  And even if there was no award or prize, I would still apply and do the things taught by MEF. I enjoyed  the activities, especially decorating my room and teaching my students about the environment. The first season was tough, though, and only a few teachers joined. It was tough because of the set criteria. We were required to do lesson plans integrating environmental concepts and principles, apply Project WET and PLT activities in class, be a role model to the students and so on. I’m happy I met the criteria and won in the first season. I was not expecting to win but I’m so proud I did.

Another thing that I should be happy about was the achievements of my students. Last school year 2010-2011, I handled Grade 4 class. Though they didn’t win the search for eco-friendly class, still I’m proud of them because they have been applying what they learned on environmental concepts until now. They also received several awards on the poster and slogan making contests, and they participated actively in every activity of MEF and of the school. As their teacher, I am happy and proud of what they have accomplished.

This school year, as I received my award as model teacher on solid waste management, my Grade 3 students also received theirs. They were awarded as an eco-friendly model class last December 2011. They received a certificate, MEF bags, school supplies, and food for Christmas party, courtesy of Mother Earth Foundation.  My students were so pleasantly surprised with their award. I can see in their faces the happiness they felt when they were awarded by MEF during the Christmas party. I’m so proud of them because at their young age, they are well aware of their responsibilities to the environment and to the community. I hope they will continue doing these good things.

Class Activities/Policies
During the implementation of the Damayan for Zero Waste Program in class, the teachers were required to do some classroom activities, like Zero Waste Monday, wherein there should be no waste or trash on Mondays in every classroom. Another is, Mother Earth Kids Time every Wednesday, when the members of MEF Kids Club will share and teach some environmental lessons in class. Then, the Poster and Slogan Making contests which were participated in by students from Grades 1-6. We also taught them how to recycle and use a compost pit for the biodegradable trash.

There were also classroom policies set for each class, like proper segregation of trash, and the MEF Kids Club members were the ones monitoring their implementation. Along with the classroom activities and policies, the teachers were also advised to decorate the classrooms with environmental pictures or posters, like The Ten Simple Things You Can Do for the Environment, Ten Ways to Conserve Energy, and so on. These will serve as reminders to pupils to do something good for the environment.

Winning the Search
I will never forget that moment in March 2011, during our meeting, when our principal announced that I won the Search for the Eco-Friendly Model Teacher (first season). My first reaction was of course, one of surprise and happiness. I was not expecting the award, though my co-teachers kept on saying that I might win in the search.  But what excited me the most was the prize-- a trip to Palawan which was one of my dream places to visit.

Being chosen as an eco-friendly model teacher is an honor, but I know it carries with it lots of responsibilities. Imagine leading the school, and being a role model to the students and teachers in doing good things for  the environment.  It never entered my mind that by just doing simple things, I will receive this kind of recognition. I was so flattered of course but I had lingering doubts on whether I can discharge my responsibilities as a model teacher. I was afraid I might fail, but I nevertheless took it as challenge.

One big test for me on being a model teacher was being asked to be a facilitator in a workshop, which is my weakness actually as I have a very low self-confidence. I was doubtful on whether I can do things right. During the Turn-over Ceremony and Workshop on Eco-Friendly Schools last October 18, 2011, I was asked by Sir Froilan to present a 10-minute talk about Curriculum Integration of Environmental Concepts. I repeatedly begged off because I know I couldn’t do it. But he never stopped convincing me. He encouraged me and even said, ”You’re the perfect person to do it because you’re practicing what you’ve learned on environmental concepts”. So I accepted the challenge. I still don’t know how I mustered my self-confidence, but I finished my talk with flying colors.  It was like magic that I was able to discuss my topic continuously, without being nervous at all.  Maybe it was because it came straight from my heart and I really love what I’m doing.

I was so happy that day, not only because of the award given me as an ‘eco-friendly model teacher’ but because I had proven to myself that I did something worthy. When I saw the faces of those people listening to me, I felt proud of myself again. It was so overwhelming when I heard the applause, the appreciation and the congratulatory greetings after my talk. I could not express how happy I was at  that time. It was unforgettable.

Another thing that I should be proud of was the opportunity to meet some foreign visitors. There were so many times that our school was visited by foreign delegates from the USAID, Rotary Club, Zero Waste International and others. We’re so proud that they considered CRACMES  as an eco-friendly school. And every time these visitors were around,  I was called upon to assist and tour them around the school. During these times, Ma’am Zeny Mallillin, our principal, and Sir Froilan always introduced me as a model teacher of the school. And this made me feel so flattered and overwhelmed.

Palawan Tour
Aside from the certificate given to us by Mother Earth Foundation as winners of the Search for Eco-Friendly Model Teachers, we were given another award--a trip to Palawan which excited me the most. When the search was launched, as I said I was not really after the prize, since I know that as a teacher, it is my responsibility to teach my students whatever I have learned about the environment. I am happy doing these things so much so that the trip was a big bonus. I am so happy with the opportunity given to us by MEF.  Sometimes I ask, do I deserve this award? Isn’t it too much for the little things I’ve done so far? Then I realized something:  if you are doing things that are worthwhile not just for you but also for others, the reward will double up. It will just fall onto your lap without even asking for it. Sir Froilan was always thanking me for my efforts in doing something good for the environment,  but we at CRACMES should be the ones to thank MEF and him for the great lessons he had given us, for waking us up, and making us  realize many things about taking care of mother earth.

Last February 18-20, 2012, I headed to Palawan along with Sir Joey Robrigado, winner of the second season. The trip excited me and I told myself I should enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience. It made me realize not to be contented within the four corners of the classroom. We should go out, explore and see the beauty of the world because it has lots of things to offer. Though I have travelled to some parts of the country, Palawan was so different. The place was amazing, not just because of its beautiful spots but also on account of its cleanliness, the green forests, and the warm welcome of the people living there. They were so kind and accommodating. I even talked to some locals and asked if there are crimes happening there, and they said none, that their place is so peaceful. I hope Manila is also like Palawan, in terms of cleanliness and the kindness and hospitality of its people.

The Palawan trip also taught me some lessons in life, that when you travel, you should enjoy the best you can, and forget your problems and worries for a while. Take pictures, jump and shout to show your happiness, write poems, notes or stories while on trip, build memories and leave footsteps in that place. But we must also remember that travelling is not just about having fun, sightseeing and picture taking; it’s also about knowing the history of the place, its economy and culture, and the life of the people living there. While on Palawan tour, I met some people and it was nice to have conversations with them-- the guides, drivers, boatmen, vendors, and co-tourists. We talked about how lovely their place is. That’s why I envy them, I envy how disciplined they are, and the kind of environment they have. The place was so clean. I noticed that there were trash cans along the streets, and you can’t see trash thrown anywhere.  Can we be like them? Can we also duplicate the things they do to protect the environment? Can we do our share as citizens of the country? I know we can, if we just work hand in hand. We can protect the environment, we can save lives specially the young ones, and save Mother Earth.

We left Palawan with a smile but with a heavy heart also because of the limited time. Three days were not enough to explore the place. As we bid goodbye to that beautiful place, I promised myself that I will come back and discover other things about it. I will never forget the good things about Palawan, the images of the clean and beautiful places, and the friendliness of its people.

We would like to thank MEF for sponsoring the trip. It was a wonderful experience. We can not thank you enough for the opportunity you’ve given us in exploring the place. It was awesome.

During the entire year of MEF’s program with CRACMES, there were so many life- changing experiences that happened. One is the big transformation of our school. I once heard the comment of a foreign visitor that he was amazed with  the cleanliness and best practices of the school. Some teachers also told me that their lifestyles changed a bit by practicing the lessons taught by MEF. There were also some inspiring stories from parents on the good things done by their children. And it’s a happy feeling when I heard they did something good for the environment. I once said this in my talk-- teach the children to love and care for mother earth, whether they are our students or not. Lead them, guide and mold them to become young eco-heroes.

Another thing I learned about this whole activity is that, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a teacher or not, whether you’re young or old, educated or illiterate, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, famous or unknown.  As long as you have a heart and do something worthy and noble, you are considered a hero. We can make a difference, and we can be HEROES.

Ms. Lourdes R. Cabrilles 

Congressman Reynaldo A. Calalay Memorial Elementary School (CRACMES)
Brgy. Damayan, Quezon City