Elgie Radaza believes in second chances.
Hailed as “Philippines’ Woman of Dedication and Most Innovative Alternative Learning System Teacher of the Year” in the 2023 Dangal ng Lahi Awards, Radaza is an advocate of the transformative power of education to make a difference in a student’s life.
“Gusto kong mabigyan ulit ang mga learner na nawala sa formal na sistema ng edukasyon dahil sa ibat-ibang rason ng second chance. Kung mahirap ka, hindi hadlang ang kahirapan para baguhin mo ang buhay (I want to give a second chance to learners who have dropped out of the formal education system due to various reasons. If you are poor, poverty is not an obstacle to changing your life. If you want to succeed, what you need is determination),” she said.
Turning setbacks into comebacks
Radaza, the daughter of a farmer and a housewife in a brood of 10, knew all too well what it was like to be poor at an early age. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, she had her mind set on a specific goal: She would be the first college degree holder in the family.
It is her testimony as somebody who was able to make it despite the insurmountable challenges in life that have made her a beacon of hope for her students.
Nicole Shane Mendaza, 23, an ALS passer who was forced to quit formal school due to teenage pregnancy, remembers her former teacher with so much fondness.
“Sobrang thankful po ako sa kanya dahil siya po ang tumayo bilang pangalawang magulang ko. Siya po ang gumabay at nagpalakas ng loob ko upang matupad ang aking pangarap na mairaos ko ang pag-aaral. Tiwala lang sa sarili ang lagi nyang payo sa akin dahil walang ibang tutulong kundi sarili ko lang. (I am very thankful to her because she served as my second parent. She guided me and encouraged me to fulfill my dream of completing my education. She would always advise me to trust myself because no one will help me but myself),” she said.
Radaza believes that more than the information that the teacher is giving, it is his or her influence that really counts in the grand scheme of things.
“Most of my learners have encountered so many hardships and difficulties in life, yet they choose to rise above these challenges. As a teacher, it is my duty to help them believe that they can do it and be there for them when they achieve their dreams,” she said in the vernacular.
In her 14 years of service as an ALS teacher, Radaza could no longer remember the names and faces of all the out-of-school children, out-of-school youth, and out-of-school adults that she has mentored.
One 64-year-old grandmother, however, who is working for a local barangay council, stands out from the crowd.
“She is very special to me because, despite her age, she has a dream and is very willing to learn. She values me as a teacher. She diligently does her modules, and she listens to my advice.”
Asked why she has such a strong affinity for this senior learner, she said it is because she reminds her of her mother, who instilled in her the value of education when she was young. Her mother, who passed away at the age of 82, only finished Grade 4.
Radaza’s story is a testament to the power of education to create a ripple effect on the lives of individuals. Through her second chance philosophy, she empowers her students, making them believe that they are not defined by their circumstances and that their future lies in their hands.
Leaving an indelible mark
Radaza’s impact extends far beyond the four corners of her classroom in the Anislag Community Learning Center.
To Dave, her second eldest son, she is a “wonder woman” for her ability to maintain a cheerful disposition and a calm demeanor despite her personal struggles.
As a mother of five, who is now the family’s sole breadwinner after her husband figured in a motorcycle accident in 2017, her selfless attitude to “put the needs of her family first” speaks volumes about her character.
To Jemah Brecia, her former mentee and now co-teacher, what sets Radaza apart is her unwavering pursuit of academic excellence.
“Up until now, she has consistently and diligently taught her students. Even though there are so many changes and challenges in the curriculum, she always delivers,” she said.
For Bryan Advincula, an ALS teacher from another school, Radaza’s legacy is her infectious attitude toward work that is driven by her passion and dedication to serving the needs of her students.
Radaza has received numerous accolades for her outstanding contribution to the field of education.
In 2022, she was a finalist in the “Most Inspiring ALS Teacher’ during the Albay Recognition of Unconditional and Genuine Action for Nobility (ARUGAN) Awards. Just this year, she was also hailed as one of the Dangal ng Lahi Awards winners.
More than the awards, however, Radaza believes that the real reward is seeing her students achieve their dreams.
“Watching my students become successful is the greatest reward of being a teacher,” she said. (PNA)