Ma. Cheryll Cloma used to be teacher-adviser of selected learners of Science, Technology, and Engineering at Libertad National High School in Suralla, South Cotabato until she was tapped to teach Learners with Special Educational Needs (LSENs) in 2015. This was the time her school was just about to start their special education (SPED) program.
Willingness before skill
Teacher Cheryll accepted the SPED assignment with a willingness to help students with disabilities even though she did not have previous SPED training. She has always loved teaching but she was inspired even more when she met the students.
Eventually, she was able to establish trust with the learners and after that, she gradually saw improvement in their behavior. Now she sees that her students are genuinely happy to be in school.
Teacher Cheryll with her SPED students. PHOTO Courtesy of Cheryll Cloma
She attended nearby training and seminars to equip herself for her role as a SPED teacher. She also worked closely with the local government unit (LGU) to support the LSENs’ needs.
In 2018, the DepEd Schools Division of South Cotabato saw her efforts and she was given a scholarship for 18 units of SPED courses in Davao. She spent two summers there to complete her training.
With her hard work, there are now two SPED teachers in Libertad National High School and they have 34 students. The majority of them are in the inclusion program, which means they attend regular classes, and 13 are in transition to adulthood class, where they are taught daily living skills.
Teacher Cheryll treats her students with genuine care and fosters joy and boosts their self-esteem, according to Mr. Enrique U. Dela Cruz, Jr., Principal at Libertad National High School. He is particularly proud of how their LSENs were able to attend seminars, conferences and participate and win in competitions up to the national level. These include the National Festival of Talents and Palarong Pambansa.
He said these accomplishments are all thanks to Teacher Cheryll’s loving leadership. “She is the first teacher to institutionalize SPED in the secondary schools Division of South Cotabato. Today, other secondary schools have followed in her footsteps," Mr. Dela Cruz shares.
Making her students' lives better
Teacher Cheryll teaching one of her students to do the laundry. PHOTO Courtesy of Cheryll Cloma
Teacher Cheryll's job is made easier because their LGU is doing its best to support their students with different physical and intellectual disabilities. The municipality of Surallah has a solid PWD (persons with disability) program which prioritizes students who are differently-abled.
Through this PWD program, they were able to connect with Jubilee Foundation, Tebow Cure, Resources for the Blind, among other NGOs and government programs that provide means and aid for persons with disabilities, as well as the school.
Teacher Cheryll says all their students with hearing difficulties now have hearing aids; a club-footed student has received operation from the Tebow Cure Hospital and can now walk; the students get free annual checkups and even receive medicines and vitamins from different agencies. If not for the quarantine because of COVID-19, a boy born with no legs would have already received his prosthetic legs from the Jubilee foundation.
Teaching SPED during a pandemic
Teacher Cheryll with one of her students at the Palarong Pambansa 2018 in Vigan. PHOTO Courtesy of Cheryll Cloma
Despite the lockdowns brought about by the pandemic, learning continues for Teacher Cheryll's students. Learners in inclusion classes are doing modular learning like their peers.
Teacher Cheryll supports them by constantly communicating with them either by calls or group chat. Her students know they can call her anytime they have problems with their modules.
For learners in the transition to adulthood class, Teacher Cheryll implements an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) and she follows up with the students to see whether their targets are being met. She does video calls with them where the children demonstrate certain skills like folding or washing clothes.
Dreaming for and with her students
Asked why she chose to teach learners with disabilities when she used to teach the brightest students in their school, Teacher Cheryll says she finds greater fulfillment doing this.
"Mas fulfilling makita mong matuto yung may mga learning difficulties. As a teacher yun naman ang source namin ng happiness, yung makita yung students na mag-improve or succeed," she shares.
Teacher Cheryll still has many hopes and dreams both for their SPED program at school and each of the learners. She wants to be more equipped to teach her students, particularly in Braille and sign language. She says teaching higher Math is particularly a challenge right now.
Teacher Cheryll is supportive of all her students’ aspirations. Some of her students in the inclusion class want to pursue college and one even wants to become a teacher. As four learners are bound to graduate in June 2021, she also thinks of her students in the transition to adulthood class. They do not follow a structured academic curriculum, but Teacher Cheryll hopes they would find jobs that could really sustain them and help them become independent in the future.
PHOTO Courtesy of Cheryll Cloma
Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) teams up with Smart Parenting to shine a spotlight on teachers who go the extra mile. For every #HeroTeacher featured in Smart Parenting, GBF pledges P15,000 donation in kind.
This story originally appeared on SmartParenting.com.ph. Minor edits have been made by Gokongwei Brothers Foundation.