Dr Venus Alboruto’s dream of becoming a teacher helped her through difficult times as a young person. She overcame a challenging childhood to complete her doctoral studies and qualify as a teacher. This helps her empathise with the students she teaches now. Some of them must work to support their families in the evenings, others are not able to afford basic school supplies and often come to school hungry.
A major challenges she faces as a teacher is how to engage with each of the students in her class. Her school in Surigao City at the northernmost tip of Mindanao island, Philippines, has an average class size of 50. Alboruto has turned this challenge into an opportunity to innovate.
Alboruto identified Strategic Intervention Materials (SIMs) as an effective tool for connecting with large numbers of students. She created a series of SIMs for science teaching. They provide a framework for individual and group learning of specific topics in and outside the classroom. The work she undertook to deploy the SIMs in her classrooms led to an award, the DOST-SEI Search for Innovative Practice in Managing Large Classes.
This has been taken to the next level recently through a partnership with the Department of Science and Technology Education Institute’s SIMATAR project. Five of Alboruto’s SIMs have been transformed into Augmented Reality mobile applications. These enable her students to engage with their learning environment in new ways. More importantly, their excitement about these tools has impacted their enthusiasm and motivation in school. This has led to improvements in attendance and exam grades. Results increased by an average of 20% in four years.
Underlying Alboruto’s innovative teaching methods is a belief that school should provide students with opportunities to understand the positive contribution they can make to the world. She achieves this through environmental project work. The local area is particularly affected by the negative impact of climate change. She works with students to develop programmes to learn more about this and how to tackle it. The programmes include tree and mangrove planting, and seaside and community clean-ups. A project to explore personal electricity and water consumption led to a reduction among all her students in just three months. She works with Government agencies, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, to raise awareness of the impact of mining.
Alboruto’s innovative approach to teaching has been recognised by several regional and national Education Authorities. She has won a number of awards for her work, including Finalist, Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Filipinos (SOT) in 2017 and 2018 and Finalist, Ki Hajar Dewantara Award for Best Science Teacher in Southeast Asia, 2016. Her work is influencing teaching across the region. She has been invited to share her materials and expertise to train other teachers in their use both in the Philippines and further afield. Alboruto also presents at conferences and provides training to equip others in her field to achieve similar success.