In 2011 I spent six months teaching Kindergarten at a rural barangay (neighborhood) school in Sariaya, Quezon, Philippines as part of a study abroad program with the Institute for G.O.D. Being in a crowded classroom with 30 five year old children who primarily spoke Tagalog was not the most comfortable experience in my life, to say the least.
Furthermore, because the children were too young to travel alone, many of them coming from the coast, the mothers were also present, peering through the open windows, observing my cross-cultural class management skills, delighted at the scene while giggling with one another over the “American teacher”. Fast forward 8 years later to August 2019 when I visited the Philippines for a week-long leadership summit conference with the Association for Christian Schools International (ACSI) Global. My perspective on education in the Philippines has grown much deeper after spending the past 6 years as part of the school administration and start-up team at the Academy for G.O.D. I have learned lessons in school administration and a holistic approach to education for children that can be transferred into any culture, and that’s just what I was blessed to teach at the conference last month.
My teammate and co-worker at the Academy for G.O.D. Leafa Vagatai and I were invited to attend and facilitate breakout sessions at the ACSI Convergence Conference in Palo, Leyte with over 400 Filipino school leaders and teachers. The annual leadership summit is held in a different location throughout the Philippines each year, and this year’s conference just happened to be in the same town as our ministry hub. Our week was filled with insight from Filipino educators and leadership from ACSI Global, including Dr. David Wilcox, Vice President of the Asia region.
It was after my experience in 2011, that the Lord impressed upon my heart a need for accessible, alternative Christian education in the Philippines. I was moved by some of my kindergarten students in Sariaya who endured physical hardship, or others who had social-emotional challenges, and several other students who could only attend school on certain days due to familial obligations. The opportunity for quality education is not available to all. A couple of years later when the Academy for G.O.D. began in Old Hickory, TN, I learned what could be possible in children’s education under the direction of our Headmaster, Gregg Garner. Other regional team members were also involved like Leafa with the kindergarten program, Craig Duffy with upper-elementary students, and Michelle Madron with special needs services. The Lord is continuing to connect all of our work at the Academy with what we hope to see in the Philippines.
It was a blessing to be among so many Filipino Christian educators in Palo last month, to hear their stories and connect with their experiences in the classroom and working with parents. Many of the private school teachers in the Philippines receive less pay than public school educators as they do not receive government funding, so they consider their work ministry, a service of teaching God’s children.
Please join us in prayer for these men and women in the Philippines and around the world who give themselves to this work each day. Opportunities like the Convergence Conference are a special time for these individuals to collaborate, learn from one another, and develop friendships with those who are like-minded in terms of philosophy and motivation. God willing, some of the educators we met last month will become wonderful resources and co-laborers for our schools in the Philippines as we look into the coming years in faith!