What It Takes to Teach STEM Effectively, From the Lens of a GBF Scholar

TeachSTEM Master's Degree Scholar Johann Shaira Malicana from the University of the Philippines-Diliman talk about how she equips herself to become an even more effective STEM educator in the public sector.

For a teacher like Johann Shaira Malicana, the sky is the limit when it comes to setting her goal as an educator. A 26-year-old graduate student at the University of the Philippines-Diliman taking up Master of Arts in Education Major in Chemistry, she believes that education holds the most important function in culture. With that belief, she has the goal of making the world a better place by being one of the greatest teachers out there.

“I believe that teachers individually and collectively can not only change the world but improve it. I am proud to be part of this noble profession, and someday, I want to be recognized as one of the greatest educators my students had by motivating them to be the best versions of themselves.

The goal might seem too grand, but it actually is fitting, especially for someone who specializes in STEM education. The Philippines, as it is, has an undersupply of STEM-trained professionals according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), a gap that needs to be fixed and prioritized given the significance of the disciplines in today’s cultural setting. In fact, the Department of Education (DepEd) itself has highlighted the role of science and research in the current global challenges caused by the pandemic. Consequently, the State of Science Index reported that public trust in science has reached an all-time high at 91 percent in light of COVID-19.

“We cannot talk about quality education without also teaching or nurturing our learners in the intricacies of technology and communication, creativeness, and invention,” Education Chief Leonor Briones said in the recent National Science and Technology Fair (NSTF) held by DepEd this year.

This is something that Johann definitely agrees with. “My six-year experience in public school helped me observe and realize how significant science subjects are especially during these hard times caused by the pandemic. Through research, we can help teach students to adopt the habit to propose feasible and meaningful solutions that can help solve global problems today. Also, through STEM, you develop their appreciation and empathy towards real-world problems. The goal is to nurture their sense of innovation, creativity, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.”

But how does one do that? According to Johann, it all depends on where the first step starts; in this case, the teachers. “Finding an appropriate teaching strategy in the learning process in science is a must. I believe that integrating the lessons in a real-world context develops the students’ understanding and retention.”

This, at least, holds true for her because she is a product of being inspired by her own teacher when it came to her field of specialization. “Taking science as my major in teaching was not actually my first choice. I considered English, Early Childhood Education, and even Speech and Theater Arts back then but I was greatly influenced by my Chemistry teacher in high school. I was inspired to become like him because even though he was teaching what is considered one of the most difficult subjects in the curriculum, he still made the teaching light, fun, and exciting so that his students enjoyed learning. Since then, I told myself, ‘I want to be like him.’”

It is this pursuit of making learning fun and meaningful that pushed Johann to decide to apply for a graduate program. “To improve the way you teach, you need personal and professional renewal,” she shares. This is something that she is currently trying to accomplish as a scholar under the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation (GBF) TeachSTEM Graduate Scholarship Program. The scholarship is the foundation’s contribution to the country’s need for advanced STEM education by providing teachers excellent content and pedagogy through financial assistance and additional training and materials. The goal is to help create champions who can advance STEM-oriented culture in the country.

“GBF fully provides for my financial needs as well as my hunger for new learning experiences. Ever since I joined this program, I was given all types of opportunities such as being part of the KaSaMa Teachers Community which provides free access to learning resources. The additional materials provided by the program have so far helped me a lot in crafting modules in research and I also enjoy the webinars and other discussions that teach scholars like me about the best teaching strategies that we can employ for the ‘new normal’ setting in education. This program expands my horizon, not only when it comes to my teaching skills but also in upskilling my technological skills”

Johann continues, “My most favorite thing about being a GBF scholar is the community though. I am very happy to meet other great teachers who have their own inspiring stories to tell. The scholarship really opened new doors of opportunities for us.”

When asked what she thinks should be the ultimate goal of educators like her, Johann also has this to say. “I believe teaching is the most powerful profession in the world. Why? Without teachers, there would be no doctors, engineers, and other careers. The role of educators in society is both significant and valuable. We should inspire, motivate, and nurture our students to bring out the best in them, but to do so, we should start with ourselves.”

The TeachSTEM Master’s Degree Scholarship offered by GBF includes benefits like P65,000 financial support per academic coursework plus additional scholar support programs. The foundation is also inviting educators to apply for their new wave of scholarship slots until October 15. For more information, visit this link now.