Ms. Nenita Santoyo, a special education teacher at the Northeast Campus, is one of five teachers returning to the Philippines following the expiration of their three-year visas. Ms. Santoyo, who also taught at the East Campus when needed, talks about her experiences at Varnett and in Houston in the following Q&A:
Q: How would you describe your three years at Varnett?
A: I would describe my stay at Varnett as extraordinary, challenging, inspiring, and fun!
Q: What is the most important thing you learned while being in Houston?
A: I have learned that life goes on despite all odds. I have to be tough, courageous, determined, and not give up. At first, it was difficult being away from my loved ones. It was a heart-breaking first year. I was always crying. Well, human as I am, I still do. Kidding aside, leaving Varnett would cause me to cry buckets even more. But like what I've said, my realizations about life living in Houston made me become what I am now - strong, brave, well-rounded! With prayers and determination, I was able to survive the test of time.
Q: What is your most memorable moment at Varnett?
A: Personally, I experienced many great moments while teaching at Varnett, such as building friendships and camaraderie with co-employees, hanging around with them, sharing each other's culture, learning their language and the like. But to top it all, the most memorable to me is when Dr. M. Annette Cluff, the school district superintendent, announced that I am going back to my country but I will be coming back as soon as I can. Indeed, it is memorable because it tells me that I am an efficient, effective and a great teacher! All my sacrifices and efforts for three years paid off. That invitation for me to come back is priceless!
Q: What lasting impression would you like to leave on your students?
A: I would like to leave a notion among my students with a quote that says, "The road to success comes through hard work, determination, and personal sacrifice." Dream big and work on it.
Q: What are your plans after you return to the Philippines?
A: I will share all the things that I learned during my Teacher Exchange Program, like the culture of the USA, especially of Texas, the teaching strategies, the strategies in taking standardized tests, the strategies in special education, how to conduct ARD (Admission, Review, and Dismissal. It is the Texas name for the group of people who make educational decisions about the student.) and communicate with parents, etc. If given a chance, conducting trainings from school to school in public and private settings would be great.
Q: Anything you would like to add?
A: From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank Dr. M. Annette Cluff, The Varnett Public School district superintendent, for the great opportunity you have given me. I also give thanks to:
* My immediate boss and mentor, Ms. Twilet Alexander, director of Varnett Southwest and Special Education/ESL head, for all the support, for sending me to seminars to better equip me as a special education teacher, the knowledge you have imparted and above all for believing in my capacity.
* Ms. Dora Morrow, for guiding me and giving me the opportunity to impart my talents and skills.
* Ms. Greta Peacock, curriculum director 3rd-5th.
* My Varnett Northeast family, especially those people whom I was given an opportunity to work with and grow with.
* To all employees of Varnett school district. You are such a blessing! Words are not enough to express my deepest gratitude. Hope to see you all soon!
Bottom Photo: The five teachers who have or will soon return to the Philippines after working at Varnett for three years are, from left, Nenita Santoyo, Rebecca Llera, Arturo DeLuna, Maria Advincula and Laarni Ancheta.