Rebecca Llera is among five teachers who will return to the Philippines because of the expiration of her visa. Ms. Llera taught third-graders at Southwest all three years. This past year, 100 percent of her students passed reading and 90 percent passed math, according to results from the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR™) tests. The following is a Q&A about her experiences at Varnett and in Houston.
Q: How would you describe your three years at Varnett?
A: My three years at Varnett were a truly extraordinary experience. To have such an opportunity to grow professionally and the chance to be immersed in the life, language and custom of another culture and embracing it is truly a remarkable one. It is worth a lifetime of personal and professional memories that no amount of money can afford to buy. The experience also has definitely increased the knowledge and skills that I will be able to impart and implement when I go back to my country. Lastly, it was an enormous undertaking from the beginning but the challenge was so rewarding in the end. It was well worth it and that's the reason going home is very painful even if it's just temporary for I will definitely come back!
Q: What is the most important thing you learned while being in Houston?
A: I learned that Houston provides a great experience to learn about so many different cultures and social levels. Because of the great diversity, I learned to expand my knowledge of how to make the most of living in a great city like Houston. I also learned how to enjoy all the cultural events like visiting museums, free plays, concerts, ball games and to a chance to experience and enjoy the Houston Opera, to enjoying the diversity of food that I would never have experienced had I not lived in Houston.
Q: What is your most memorable moment at Varnett?
A: During my stay at Varnett, I have gained tons and tons of memorable experiences but one that sticks out the most is the love, kindness, generosity and all-out support of Dr. M. Annette Cluff, who was always there for me in my professional and personal journey, the administrators that were very helpful in assisting me to be able to teach effectively and the rest of the staff that supported me all the way through to make my stay at Varnett a truly wonderful learning experience.
Q: What lasting impression would you like to leave on your students?
A: The impression I would like to leave my students is that as their teacher I deeply cared for them regardless where they came from. They were accepted and respected as an individual person and at the same time they were part of the "WHOLE.” I want them to know that whatever they think, say and do matters to me. Furthermore, I would like to leave to my students the impression that "NO RACE OR COLOR" is better than the other. Another important thing that I want them to remember is when they dream, "DREAM BIG," because your background is not the one that will shape your future but the dedication, effort and energy you put to achieve your dream will take you there.
Q: What are your plans after you return to the Philippines?
A: When I go back to my country, I would do what I know best: TEACH! I would be mentoring teachers and sharing with them the knowledge and skills that I have learned during my three wonderful and productive years of teaching at Varnett. I would also be in a classroom environment where I know I would be most effective. I would be busy teaching Filipino students, implementing everything that I have learned, sharing the cultural experience that I've had and bringing to them awesome real-life stories of the rare opportunity that was given to me in teaching American students. I have so much to impart, so much to share, because one of the best gifts that Varnett gave me during my three years of stay is to become the best teacher and person that I could ever be. Because of these experiences, I know that I will be a very effective mentor and teacher when I go back to my country.
Bottom Photo: The five teachers who will be returning to the Philippines after working at Varnett for three years are, from left, Nenita Santoyo, Rebecca Llera, Arturo DeLuna, Maria Advincula and Laarni Ancheta.