Finding Hope amid the Rubble

November 21, 2014

Global Filipino Teacher Ernani Fernandez teaches his high school class inside a makeshift classroom after Typhoon Haiyan's onslaught.

All may be dire and bleak, but there is hope. This is something Ernani Fernandez, a teacher at Palo National High School, learned on November 11, 2013, two days after Super Typhoon Haiyan leveled his town, Palo in Leyte province.

Ernani was still realing from the onslaught of the Typhoon when he received word that he made it to the prestigious Microsoft in Education Global Forum, a worldwide educator recognition program.

"When I read the congratulatory remarks, I didn't really know how to react and I ignored what I saw in the announcement," Ernani says. "I only thought of one thing at that time: ‘God, let my family live and that is enough blessing for me.'" Ernani was among those airlifted to Manila due to the widespread devastation left behind by the typhoon. Palo alone reported more than 800 casualties and thousands of families rendered homeless.

After he had had more time to take stock of what had happened, Ernani says, "Little would I know that this phenomenon which I thought at first has brought misery to my family, would be the same phenomenon that will bring me to new and higher heights in my life as a teacher."

Ernani was a graduate of the Global Filipino Teachers (GFT) Program, an initiative of Globe Telecom and the Coalition of Better Education that aims to train teachers on the integration of Information and Communications Technology in the classroom as well as problem-based learning approaches.

As a Global Filipino Teacher, it became part of his responsibilities and advocacy to ensure quality education through technology integration in teaching. Thus, Ernani decided to design a Project Based Learning (PBL) project for his Business Technology class to motivate students to learn and acquire business and accounting skills through technology integration.

This earned Ernani one of the spots in the Innovative Teachers Leadership Awards Competition in 2012. Because of his vision and skill, he was then chosen to be one of the 30 GFTs nationwide to serve as a Peer Coach, which allowed him to share his GFT expertise with his colleagues.

It was all of these that led to him bagging a place in the 2014 Microsoft in Education Global Forum. Focusing on making Accounting exciting, Ernani's entry featured innovative and engaging ways to teach an often dreaded subject. Using Microsoft Excel, designing comics on Microsoft programs, and eventually, establishing real-life applications of what they learned, his students truly maximized technology to bring learning into the 21st century. "In this project, my students didn't notice that they are still working with accounting because their apprehensions turned into excitement," he adds.

"We are proud of our GFT graduates. A number of them, like Ernani have been recognized by various local and international organizations for their projects which started in the GFT program. It shows that we are on track with our goal to make our teachers globally competitive," said Issa Cabreira, Senior Vice President for Globe Consumer Mobile Marketing.

The GFT Program is part of Globe Prepaid's strategy to improve the quality of education in public schools and is one of the pillars of Globe Telecom's Project Wonderful, which aims to assist in nation-building and to help Filipinos live better lives.

Meanwhile, the Microsoft forum took Ernani to Barcelona, Spain in March 2014 and earned his entry praise from judges, making it one of the top picks. His group entry along with other delegates in the Learn-a-thon fared much better – it landed them the top prize.

Ernani shares, "I realized the effort of my students who were involved in the project which I submitted. I smiled and became proud of the wonderful achievement. Amidst the horrors of surviving a devastating typhoon, I found solace in the fact that my innovation in teaching is proven to be globally competitive."

Today, Ernani continues to persevere in elevating his students' learning experience. He shares, "All GFTs are trained on how to overcome challenges, hence, I told my students that even if we are in the tent and sometimes no room because of the shifting schedule just to accommodate the other classes, the importance is their learning. I told them that education is important and don't be absent. Just ignore the environment and focus to acquiring knowledge. After several months, it seems nothing happened to our school, everything is back to normal now."