At the Arcanys Early Learning Foundation, teachers have witnessed the impact of early learning for children in Cebu's low-income communities, and the importance of keeping parents actively involved in the process. And for one particular teacher who has been with the foundation since 2015, it continues to be quite a rewarding experience.
Meet Teacher Sherlyn Sulapas Balcos, one of the teachers assigned at the AELF Suba Center. We had a chat with her about her motivations to specialize in early childhood education, her experience with the Arcanys Early Learning Foundation, and the many reasons why she thinks early education, with the active support of parents, has the power to change these children's lives. Find out more as you read on.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
One of the reasons why I took up teaching was because I had a teacher who inspired me a lot. She was such a wonderful teacher that I was motivated to become one myself.
What's a typical day like for an AELF teacher?
I usually start my days discussing our lessons with my co-teachers and getting our materials ready for the day. We then start the coaching sessions with the parents and children, from 9 am to 4 pm. We always make sure the parent or guardiam is also present since that's one of the most important things in the ChildUp Method. We take a break for lunch, of course. Then, after the coaching sessions, we, the teachers, discuss the challenges we encountered that day, and bring possible solutions for them to the table.
There are about six other teachers at every center and you have three centers right now. How is it working with them?
At the center, we simply help each other. During coaching, there’s real teamwork among the teachers, and between teachers and parents. It's not only the teachers who teach, but also the parents. Everyone is helping each other when it comes to teaching the children!
You said you wanted to become a teacher because you want to inspire children, how did your work at the AELF help you achieve that dream?
The foundation is a huge help in fulfilling my goals because it gave me the opportunity to practice my profession. And it also helped me discover my passion in life, which is teaching and inspiring the youth. And not only that, but also inspire the parents to teach their kids at an early age.
What important lessons do you think you’ve learned working for the foundation?
Some of the things I learned working at the foundation is how to have more patience. I barely had any before. But now I really learned how to be more patient with parents and very hyperactive children. Aside from that, I learned how to deal with different types of children. As for parents, I was too shy to speak to them before. Eventually, I learned how to deal with them. Now, some parents are like friends to me.
As an AELF teacher, how many families do you handle and what are the challenges you’ve encountered so far?
In every batch, I handle around 20 to 24 beneficiaries. One of the challenges we encounter as teachers is when a child has tantrums. Usually, what we do is we identify what may have caused it. It’s important that the teacher finds out the cause. Then we give them a break to calm down.
For children who don't speak out, we usually give them time. Most often, they’re just shy. We give them time to familiarize the room and the people inside.
For those who are hyperactive, we usually give them activities to channel their energy… such as those that involve a bit of physical effort but at the same time, they’d still be learning.
As for parents we need to follow up, mostly, we refer them to our social worker. She visits their homes so we can follow up and know why they missed the coaching sessions. That way the social worker can suggest solutions to them.
You’re using special cards in your coaching sessions, can you tell us about them?
The ChildUp Cards, for me, is a very good tool because it's like a complete package. With the ChildUp cards, you can use it for reading. Using the picture animals, you can integrate picture-reading for the kids. Aside from reading, you can integrate a lot of areas in math, like “object-counting". And there's also science and English. So you can integrate a lot of learning with the cards.
During your years working at the foundation, do you have some memories that you can say left a mark on you?
One sweet memory during one of my coaching sessions was when I had this one kid, and he couldn't pronounce some words very well because he was only 2 years old.
He was so cute because even though he couldn't pronounce “one” properly, and said “none” instead, I could see he was trying hard to learn. And he really did try to learn all the words I taught him. Later on, when the cycle was about to end, he actually managed to pronounce “one”. I was so happy.
What do you think about the impact you make in the lives of the families you help here?
I believe I play a big role in the lives of these children. And not only to them but to their parents as well. Because we're the ones empowering parents on how to teach their kids at an early age. As a teacher, we have a big role to play in these children's lives. If not for us or the foundation, these children would be left by themselves. Through the foundation and through us, the teachers, the children start learning at an early age, and with the help of the parents, too. So I think the program has a huge impact on the community, and on the lives of these children and their parents.
Teacher Sherlyn has witnessed many of the transitions and personally experienced some of the challenges the Arcanys Early Learning Foundation has gone through over the years. Despite all those, however, she loves seeing the fruits of her labors in the families the AELF has helped—witnessing parents and children bond over math, and the graduates having the hope of a brighter future.
Learn more about our mission and projects at ArcanysFoundation.org.