A child’s educational experience impacts the ways in which they grow, develop, and continue to learn as they get older. Our nation’s teachers are not only teaching children the basics of reading, writing, math, science, etc. they’re preparing the next generation for the future and building their social skills. Cristine Legaspi is a teacher from the Philippines currently working in the US. Her work in education has always emphasized the importance of creating an inclusive classroom and making sure every child develops their individuality while understanding the value of community, regardless of their background or abilities.
Our nation’s teachers have one of the most important jobs on the planet when it comes to raising future generations of leaders, parents, and community members. As we grow older, we begin to have a larger appreciation for the work our teachers have done for us and reflect upon the invaluable lessons we have learned in school, beyond just what we studied in textbooks.
Cristine Legaspi is the epitome of what a great teacher is. She initially began her career teaching in the Philippines, where she’s from, as an inclusion teacher for fourth graders and previously for second and third-grade students. Cristine immigrated to the US from the Philippines as an exchange student now working as a part of a teacher cultural exchange program.
Her unique perspective and life experiences have allowed her to create a classroom of conversation, open communication, and collaboration. She’s passionate about creating an inclusive classroom with children of all backgrounds and educational abilities. When a child needs extra help, she’s immediately focused on how to make the educational experience the smoothest for them, while continuing to ensure they’re able to build their social skills.
“Inclusivity in the classroom entails creating an environment where students of all backgrounds and abilities can come together and utilize each other’s strengths to problem solve and learn. This is something that’s really important to me, being able to create the least-restrictive learning environment possible to give everyone the chance to learn and grow their skills in a classroom setting.”
The world of education has always existed in Legaspi’s life. She desired to enter the teaching sector at the tender age of 8-9 years old, due to watching tv shows depicting teachers, as well as having her mom as an inspiration who constantly urged her to pursue her dreams. Her mom is a teacher and was the first person to inspire her to become an educator, instilling the lesson that there’s no greater joy than helping young people learn and watching them progress in their education as they grow.
“It’s a God-given passion.”
Legaspi is part of a teacher cultural exchange program in the US. She’s originally from the Philippines where she taught younger students, in the US she’s been more involved in high school education, which was a major transition for her initially. She’s currently in her fourth year of teaching in America, and next year will potentially be her last depending on her work visa status.
Legaspi excels in her field, so much so that her principal is working to extend her visa so she can continue changing lives as she has in the past four years.
While her mom was an inspiration for her growing up to get into the field of education, once she became a teacher her kids not only inspired her to continue down the path of being an educator but also validated her as a professional.
As a teacher, Legaspi understands the importance of being an ear to listen to and advocating for her students in general. Along those same lines, working as a teacher in the US allows her to make more money and help her family back home with their finances as well. Overall, Legaspi is an inspiring force when it comes to being an advocate for those who need it, in the classroom and beyond.
The teacher cultural exchange program Legaspi is involved in gives her the chance to share knowledge about her culture firsthand throughout certain lessons. This opportunity gives her and her students the chance to speak about and learn from each other’s cultures and backgrounds. It’s a unique means of communication that shows kids learning isn’t all about what’s in the textbooks, although important, it’s instilling the lesson that as you continue to grow older, you’ll find yourself constantly learning about new things, people, places, and perspectives on the world that you should be open to.
“I can use and share my culture with my students, and it affects how they speak with me, interacts with and engages with me, and overall, it’s led to an immense amount of respect being gained from both them and myself as we all learn from each other.”
“Another benefit from this exchange of cultures is once I and other teachers involved in similar programs, go back to our home country – once the 3–5-year Visa is up – we now have a ton of professional development, cultural knowledge, and experiences to share. I’ll be able to go back to the Philippines with a slew of cultural knowledge and philosophies that can be expanded on.”
One of the aspects of teaching that Legaspi is really passionate about is creating an inclusive classroom environment. Her philosophy on teaching emphasizes her belief that teachers help advocate and prepare students not just with the lessons they teach, but for the real world.
“This is something that’s really important to me, being able to create the least-restrictive learning environment possible to give everyone the chance to learn and grow their skills in a classroom setting.
Placing kids in an inclusive classroom will give them help and support, especially in areas such as reading and writing. I have a lot of success stories from that specifically.
I’m an ELA resource teacher, so I’ve worked with a lot of smaller groups of students and helped them build their reading, writing, and math skills. When progress begins, the students can re-engage in the general education classroom environment, which is always the end goal. If a student needs extra help and support, the goal is to maintain staying in a resource class, to provide extra guidance when it comes to building these skills,” Legaspi explained.
“An inclusive education allows students who need extra accommodations to help them progress and learn to get that extra help, while remaining in a general education classroom to also give them the experience of learning from others in the class. Being in a classroom with other kids your age is an integral piece of development that helps students build their social skills, which can in turn help them learn the actual material as well.”
“This all obviously depends on the specific student and the services they need, but overall, as teachers and parents, we just want to see these kids grow and learn.
For example, if a general education student has said ten assignments in a given week, for students who need certain accommodations, they’ll still receive the same assignments but either in a reduced volume or modified way to keep them on track with the rest of the class, in a way that will help them easily learn the material.
You should look at each student individually. You have no idea what some of these kids face in their home environments. Teachers are role models, and we should appreciate their efforts. Roughly 7 million public school students in the U.S. receive special needs/education services annually. The number of kids with disabilities globally is estimated at almost 240 million.
All kids deserve a quality education regardless of socioeconomic background. I want there to be a greater focus on the role of teachers and their impact on students. For most students, teachers are the only positive role model in their lives.
“Special education students have various physical and learning challenges and needs. Inclusive classrooms allow all students to receive services and support. Creating a dynamic, inclusive classroom involves more than mixing special education students with general education peers. Special education teachers can implement many tools and strategies to ensure student engagement across the board.”
“All learners receive additional support, whether from the general education teacher, special education teacher, or specialist who comes into the room to service students. The goal is always to improve their skills.”
Students in inclusive environments will benefit from working with various peers, giving them the ability to bounce ideas and make friends. It can improve skills in specialized areas (like Autism, deaf and hard of hearing, visual impairments etc.) to better meet their needs.
Setting up these kinds of classroom environments also helps students understand what a well-functioning and supportive community is. Teachers tend to hold a role model position in many of their student’s lives, so it’s about more than just giving them material to learn so they can get a good grade on a test, it’s showing them support and instilling confidence within them so they know that grades aren’t the end all be all, it’s about the effort you put in and understanding that there are people who want to help you succeed; which is a lesson we all should learn before entering into the real world.
The goal is to help students transition into Adulthood through education and a positive mindset. Giving extra help to exceptional learners who may have challenges, as there are numerous stigmas related to exceptional kids who experience challenges and triumphs in the classroom.
“This is why teachers have to promote an optimistic attitude to help students build confidence and show them they can accomplish goals.
I see the silver linings in every student I have. I see their potential, their passion, and their confidence grow, and as a teacher, that’s all I can ask for. Kids are the future of this, and every, nation, so to play a role in shaping their future and the people they will become is an honor. I hope that the educational atmosphere throughout this country continues to highlight the importance of asking for help and inclusivity,” Legaspi concluded.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.