The Laguna Resettle-ment Community School (LRCS) in San Pedro, Laguna, is where you can find Teacher Tina Medina. She faces Herculean tasks every day, but she faces them all with a smile and an upbeat disposition to rival the brightest of days.
Teacher Tina is a career educator with over three decades of experience and accolades. In giving her all for her students, her family, her peers and her fellow Persons with Disability, she embodies the generosity of heart and spirit that is the hallmark of an excellent teacher. It is that generosity that has guided her as a teacher of both Special Education pupils and regular students at LRCS, even as she navigates her own challenges: she is visually impaired.
“It’s really not easy to teach children who are differently abled. There was a time when I wanted to teach children with hearing impairment, because I was really fascinated with sign language,” Teacher Tina explains. “But never did I expect to have sight limitations. And then I started to ask so many questions of God. Why of all people, me? But I realized that I have a child to raise, and an 85-year old father to look after. I have to get up and move forward, and think that one day, [others] will realize that [even with] small sight, I can still work, smile, joke around and work with people who are sighted. That was the beginning of my life as a differently abled teacher.”
The LRCS pursues inclusive education, expanding the oppor-tunities and futures of all children regardless of ability. “It’s a regular school, catering to children with special needs also. They are part of the inclusion initiative.” One of Teacher Tina’s tasks is to assess if a child [with special needs] is ready for mainstreaming. If so, she asks them to take the Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT) through the Bureau of Educational Assessment (BEA).
Seeing a brighter future
Teacher Tina feels that both she and the students are blessed that many of the other faculty members in the school are supportive of inclusive education, especially because the SpEd kids display a clear desire to learn. “Most of them are [hopeful that] our children in SpEd be included in their regular classrooms. Very supportive naman sila, and nakikita naman nila, comparing the regular pupils with our SpEd pupils, nakikita nila yung dedication ng bata to come to school daily. Even without guides, nag-papahatid sila sa tricycle, just to make it to class.”
Outside of the classroom, Teacher Tina is just as tireless in her advocacy for Persons with Disability. She feels passionately about making sure PWDs receive what is fair and just, demonstrated by her campaign to properly implement a Persons with Disability Affairs Unit (PDAU) in her area, as mandated by the law. “It’s better if you advocate not only for your disability, but across all disabilities,” she maintains. “We should fight for what is right for us, and claim what is to be claimed for people with disabilities. Nowadays we are under the umbrella of City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD), which is the social work department. [If we had a proper PDAU], we can be of equal footing. We would have our own division that would be manned by people with disabilities, not by regular [abled] people.”
Building the road
As a familiar face in news features and media outlets, Teacher Tina always looks for ways to improve the visibility of Persons with Disability in mainstream media. She feels this is important,to uplift everyone’s views and to emphasize the value of inclusivity not just in education, but in employment as well: “We deserve decent jobs with dignity. PWD kami, pero equal footing tayo. Nagkataon lang na we have limitations. Time and again, [as a PWD], you really have to prove your-self, prove your worth.”
As an educator of children, Teacher Tina’s holistic view of the potential of PWDs gives her an inspiring sense of vision, one that can motivate both regularly and differently abled individuals alike. “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of anyone else,” she affirms. “Walang sinuman na pwedeng mag-claim na wala kang silbi.”
Even as Teacher Tina acknowledges that PWDs face multiple challenges, her enthusiasm for her work and the value of inclusion is undiminished: “You just have to know yourself, know how to deal with it, and then people will look at you and decide whether you can be a good person to work with. And I’m really blessed to say that now, most of our teachers in the elementary are very supportive of our program. All the parents in the community are starting to accept the reality of having children with disabilities, or differently abled children, in regular inclusive education.”
This is the fifth in a series of special features on Persons with Disability in a variety of workplaces, both in the private and the public sectors. Stay tuned to the “May 1% Ka Ba?” campaign via https://www.facebook.com/ProjectInclusionPH/