Teaching Articles

The Call of the Teaching Profession


During the hullabaloo of the first quarter, while I was busy running after students for their late projects and whatnot, someone asked me why I chose to be a teacher. I chuckle because I often ask myself that same question. Not to question my sanity, but to remind myself of the bigger picture.

I remember distinctly when I realized I wanted to be one. It was during one of Ma’am Margele Andres’ communication class at NEU.  I remember looking at her and really listening to her. I could feel the wealth of information just flowing out, just waiting for us to digest. Do you know that feeling you get when you read a good book, and you feel like you’re just watching a movie and not really reading? That’s what happened in that class.  She was confident, her words flowing out like silk. I could visualize exactly what she was talking about. She was in her zone and I had my moment of clarity.

I knew I wanted to be like her.

I wanted to ignite someone’s imagination, to help someone realize their potential. I wanted to be an educator and nine years later, here I am: making tests, grading essays, and planning lessons. Everything I’ve done academically from that day: the extra education courses, my M.A., the TESOL certification, the board examination and my PRC registration… I did all that so I could be a teacher. Someone who can make a difference. Idealistic, I know. I learned the hard way that teaching is not always a bed of roses and that it was so much more than just a job.

For one, teachers are often overworked. Time is such a precious commodity when you’re a teacher. While  I personally don’t bring home papers to grade, I do make my lesson plans, exams, handouts, and rubrics at home. We teach six full hours (sometimes eight or more) and still manage to orchestrate elaborate cultural events in school. We evaluate, calculate and tabulate  . We act as guardians inside the classroom, knowing full well the role we play in shaping the perceptions of the young minds charged in our care. We listen, advice, admonish and keep the peace within the four walls of our classroom. Teachers are human beings, juggling too many hats to count.

In addition to the grueling workload, teachers are often under-appreciated. Most of the time we are painted as the villain in some young person’s life. Honestly, nobody really wants to fail a student. However, teachers are not the only ones responsible for a child’s development.  Learning is a two-way street and so it’s not always a “teacher factor”. Learning has to take place both at home and at school. Students need to review, to balance their time, to prioritize activities that will benefit them. I try my best to teach my students this nugget of truth.

But all that pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you see your students bloom into confident young adults. As their teacher, I cherish their triumphs and victories as if they were my own. There are moments I won’t ever forget, like that time a parent approached me to say “You’re my son’s favorite teacher” or when my students graduated from college and sent a thank you note. It made me happy knowing that I made a difference. That’s why I chose to be a teacher.

And so I leave you with this food for thought:

“Your role as a leader is even more important than you might imagine. You have the power to help people become winners.” ― Ken Blanchard.

Teaching is not just a job and a teacher is not just a teacher. To my mentors and co-teachers, Happy World Teacher’s Day!






Gavel Activities, Gavel Winners

IPSR Eagles Gavel Club Holds First Club Level Table Topics Contest

It was a milestone for the club to hold it’s first ever club level table topics contest last September 28, 2016 at International Philippine School in Riyadh. Junior and Senior High School students participated in the said event while veteran mentors served as judges, headed by Distinguished Toastmaster Danilo Tenerife.

The winners are as follows:

Champion: Gav. Rico Villagracia
2nd Place: Gav. Aishah Mauntol
3rd Place: Gav. Cheska Talastas


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Gavel Activities, Gavel Winners

Gaveliers Fly High at the Toastmasters District 79 Division A Contest!

Winners at the District A Contest
L-R: Aishah Mauntol, Charmagne Francheska Talastas, Jannah Corrine Jumamil, Rico William Villagracia and Danilo Tenerife

Table Topics Contest
Gav. Rico William Villagracia – 1st Runner-up

International Speech Contest
Gav. Jannah Corrine Jumamil – 1st Runner-up
Gav. Charmagne Francheska Talastas – 2nd Runner-up


ED Tech, Teaching Articles

Ed Tech Baby Steps #1

Part of a teacher’s job is making sure that you provide updated content and deliver them in an interesting manner. To be interesting, you need to know what sparks your student’s interest and what keeps them motivated. One of way is to use technology in the classroom. While you no longer have to be the sole expert inside the classroom, knowing how tech works and making it work for you is essential to teaching in the 21st century.

Students relate more and dare I say, take you seriously when they know that you are knowledgeable. This includes your online presence and use of social media, gadgets and whatnot.  So what should a teacher do to keep up? Here are a few baby steps I learned along the way.

Learn to use Google Drive and Apps


First things, first~ backup your files. I can’t express this enough. You need to backup your files. Can you imagine losing all that data? You’ll never know when something will go wrong. So make sure that you back up your grade sheets, worksheets, test questions via the cloud.

Then… start exploring Google Apps. The first time I used Google Docs with my MA classmates, I thought it was hilarious. We were working on one document and there were five different cursors blinking and working on different sections of the word document.  I recommend you try Google Apps like Google Calendar, Google Sheets, Google Docs… Google Classroom! All these apps are integrated with collaboration functions that make working online a breeze. You can even make self-correcting quizzes online! The possibilities are literally endless!

Utilize Social Media


I personally use Instagram to curate my student’s best works. I also use it to recognize my student’s achievements in real time. I post short announcements over Twitter and I use Pinterest when I’m tapped out of ideas and in need of inspiration!

Check your online presence


Believe me when I say that your students will check you online. They will look for your social media profiles: Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter… so do yourself a favor, Google yourself and check if there are any posts that you might not want your students to see. If you intend to add students to your Facebook account, set appropriate filters.

Own a blog


I know, it sounds like another task to add to that already long list of things that teachers have to do. Who has the time? But to be honest, maintaining a blog has saved me tons of time! I use my blog to upload presentations, videos, and handouts. I also post announcements, school schedules, and project deadlines so that students don’t need to ask me every time. It’s a win-win solution. They practice and learn personal accountability because the information is just a click away. You may also add it to your teacher portfolio as a visual representation of your teaching experience.  Another tip, make a separate email for school. I maintain a separate email for online submissions and organize them with filters. Students also email me specific questions that they wouldn’t usually ask in front of their peers so It’s a great way to bridge the communication gap with your students.

Use tech to your advantage


Aside from the obvious use of your laptop and projector for audio-visual lectures, you can explore other applications to make your lessons more interactive. You can also use your iPad apps for grade sheets and bubble tests. I personally love Zipgrade and Additio App. These apps have transformed the way I manage my time. I am still on the look out for other applications or software that will make my teaching life easier.  You can read out my Zipgrade experience here.

On a side note, you can even use gadgets to reward good behavior. Give the student a “Reward Coupon” to listen to music while working on a seat work. I’ve noticed that my hyperactive students tend to mellow down when they listen to their choice of music. So that can be a win-win situation right there. Of course, don’t forget to collect the gadget after your class so that they don’t abuse the privilege. Which reminds me, I’ll  have to post another article about using coupons to encourage good behavior in the classroom.

Understand how students cheat with gadgets and plagiarize content online.


Almost every teacher has had this problem: Plagiarism. They like to copy+paste contents (complete with hyperlinks!)! Some of them are lazy but most of them just don’t know that they are committing this mistake, so teach them the basics of plagiarism and citation early on. There are numerous websites that can help you check for plagiarism.

But cheating during exams is another problem altogether. Some students like to use black markers on their calculator’s cover. It’s not very visible but with the right angle and lighting, it’s easy enough to spot.

Some students also cheat with a smart watch and phones. Yep, those smart watches can receive text messages too. Needless to say, you should know what to watch out for. We were kids once too, so you know how creative they can get. 🙂

I hope you enjoyed reading about them and that you think about exploring some of the tips I’ve shared. Welcome to the 21st Century! Carpe Diem!





Teaching Articles

How to take the LET in Saudi Arabia

After I finished my Professional Teaching Certificate at UPOU, I knew that sooner or later I was going to take the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). After a few online searches I found out that there was a Special Professional Licensure Board Examination (SPLBE) here in the Middle East. And so I began preparing for my LET journey.

Reviewing for the LET


When I first saw the Table of Specifications for the LET exam, I was blown away. There was no way I could cram all that information in just a few months. So I set out to look for an online review center and enlisted the help of an old friend and co-teacher to help me refresh my Math skills.

I eventually found MyReviewCoach by Mind Gym. MyReviewCoach is the online branch of Mind Gym, a reputable review center in Metro Manila. They have 90% passing rate from past LETs and have a history of churning out LET Topnotchers. They upload reviewers and plenty of test drills so that their subscribers can practice as much as they want. I also bought an additional test booklet from Mind Gym.

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Truth be told, I wasn’t able to complete all the test drills because of my busy schedule as a full-time teacher. I seriously underestimated my teaching load this year. But I did use the reviewers a lot and I believe that it really helped me prepare for the LET. It certainly narrowed down the topics I needed to learn and save me the hassle of researching and filtering out important details. The reviewers were succinct. I definitely recommend MindGym’s MyReviewCoach.

Applying for the SPLBE LET Exam

I first inquired at the Embassy regarding the SPLBE and was referred to a representative at POLO, Sir Eli. I was informed that I should apply online through the PRC website, fill out the application form and complete the documents required:

  • Photocopy of Transcript of Records (with or without scanned picture and remarks “For Board Examination Purposes Only”)
  • Photocopy of Valid Passport
  • Four (4) passport-size pictures with complete name-tag in white background

I submitted my documents to him around June. The SPLBE is usually scheduled during the Hajj holidays, so that left me with roughly 3 months to review.

Around August, I was contacted by Ms. Mendoza from the Filipino Teachers Association in Saudi Arabia to inform me that my application was approved.


Ms. Mendoza told me that I needed to prepare for the final checking of documents by PRC delegates a few days before the exam. She also informed me of the Exam fee of 45 USD and the incidental fee of 250 SR to pay for the costs that the Filipino Organizations will incur for the actual exam venue, proctors and other materials.

I paid the 40 USD Exam fee and 5 USD bank fee through my husband’s AlRajhi Tahweel Account. Then I went to the Embassy on the assigned day to finalize my application. When I arrived at the Embassy, there were numbered tables and we had to go through each step of payment verification and document checking. After going through all the steps I was given my Exam Permit or Notice of Admission (NOA). After that I paid FTASA the incidental fee. Before I left the hall, I was given a clear plastic envelope and a brown envelope with a pencil, a copy of the exam schedule, table of specification, Examinee’s ID and a Lunch Food stub.

Recap of Total Costs:
150 SAR or 40 USD – Exam Fee to be deposited  to PRC’s bank account in the Philippines
18.75 SAR or 5 USD – Bank fee (Philippines)
18 SAR                         – Al Rajhi remittance fee
15 SAR                         – ID Photo Printing
250 SAR                       – Incidental Fee (Filipino Organizations organizing the SPLBE logistics)
451.75 SAR

Taking the SPLBE LET Exam


There were 20 LET examinees from Riyadh and we took the LET last September 25, 2015. We were instructed to not bring phones and bags but there were plenty of people who did. The proctors just asked us to turn the phones off and place the bags in front of the class.

The exam was three-part for Secondary Level Examinees, so it took us the whole day to finish the exam. There were breaks in between and I got to use my Lunch food stub. I also chewed on the same gum flavor that I used while reviewing.

Overall, I felt I did okay but not well enough to actually top the LET. I was confident enough with General Education and my Specialization but was a little confused by some questions on the Professional Ed part. All those theories can be confusing sometimes. I went home around 5pm.

Advice for would-be LETers

  1. Come prepared. Don’t forget your Notice of Admission (NOA) Slip. You will need it during the exam and later to verify your ratings.

  2. Bring 2 pencils with eraser, 1 black pen, a clear envelope and a brown envelope. They will take the brown envelope and return the clear envelope to you.

  3. I was a little sad to see that some of the examinees didn’t even bring a calculator, while some brought a non-scientific calculator. You can find a list of allowable non-programmable calculators on their website. I  used my Casio ES991 calculator.

  4. Bring your reviewer. We had plenty of time before and in between tests to review. I really regret not bringing my reviewer. I know it says on the PRC memo that reviewers, cellphones and bags are prohibited but, as I said earlier, your proctor will ask everyone to place their bags in front of the room away from you during the test. Just don’t be tempted to sneak in a cheat sheet because that will disqualify you from taking the test. Turn off your phone and reset all alarms. Phones are a big no-no.

  5. Answer the questionnaire first, then transfer your answers one by one to the answer sheet. Use your time wisely.

The Result

Waiting was never my strong point, but what’s the point of agonizing about something that I can’t machinate to move faster? Every once in a while people from school would ask me about the result which added to the anxiety. What if I failed!? Everyone seemed so confident about it.

We were told to expect the results around October 26 but the SPLBE LET results were released on November 5. I breathed a sigh of relief when I was told that I passed. My supervisors at the school were all pleased, and Hubby was so happy for me that he even joked about getting a tarpaulin printed. lol.

I was alarmed though that only 20 elementary teachers out of 65 examinees (30.77%) and 37 secondary teachers out of 109 examinees (33.94%) successfully passed the LET. People seem to think that the LET is easy but the numbers say otherwise. While there are many factors to consider, I think some of the examinees failed because they underestimated the exam and didn’t prepare enough for the LET. Like I said, some didn’t even bring calculators and we needed that to answer math questions quickly.

For now, I am just happy that I passed and my ratings were not bad. I’m a Board Passer! Yay! I am now officially, Teacher III. Alhamdulillah for Allah’s blessings upon me and the people he chose to help me. Special Thanks to Ma’am Joana for helping me with my Math refresher and to my Hubby for the tireless support.


ED Tech

ZipGrade App Review

We just finished our first quarterly exams. It’s the weekend and I’m sitting in front of my computer desk, sipping tea and NOT CHECKING.  I am actually spending the “weekend after” not checking or grading exams. Of course, I still have to grade essays and projects, but I don’t bring those home. I like to spend a productive weekend cleaning my house, doing other chores, planning lessons… but no checking!  I was able to do just that all thanks to this nifty little app called ZipGrade.

First off, I love tech in the classroom and I hate paper clutter. Sure… I love cutting and writing on them but I don’t want them lying around, piling up. It can be a very stressful and constant reminder of unfinished business. So when I started teaching I did my best to implement a paperless classroom. I accepted emailed assignments and I used my iPad to record grades and store my lesson plans.

I also wanted to automate my test grading since I had eight different classes and around 240 students at the time. But my previous school didn’t have a Scantron machine and I couldn’t find a decent grading app that was accessible, cheap, and user-friendly.  I ended up using answer sheets and just checked them manually. It did save me a bit of time flipping through test papers but it was not as efficient as an automated Scantron.

Fast forward to 2015, I came across ZipGrade and GradeCam. They both  function as an automated test checker but there was a big difference in terms of subscription fees. What I liked about GradeCam is that it scans paper quickly. You don’t need to align anything, just flash it in front of your webcam or phone cam and you’re good to go. However, their $15 monthly fee was a tad too expensive for me.

So I tried ZipGrade. At $6.99 per year, I felt that this was the more affordable alternative.  At first, I had a hard time trying to align the guide boxes and I had to make sure the papers lie flat before the app recognized it. But after grading 100 test papers, I eventually got the hang of it. I then came up with a work around using a tripod and phone mount.

I also timed myself and it took me about 15-20 seconds to align, scan and flip to the next answer sheet. It  takes longer to grade because it saves the photos it takes for record purposes. But that’s a good thing. It lets you keep a record of the test papers as graded.


During the preliminary exams, I made the mistake of altering the ZipGrade ID grid: I removed some of the boxes since I only needed 3 digits for my student’s ID numbers. The app couldn’t recognize their ID numbers and so I had to manually assign the graded answer sheets to each student. Lesson learned. So here’s my work around: I reverted to the old format and just pre-shaded some of the ID bubbles. Kids still forget their ZipGrade ID so maybe next quarter I’ll just use their School ID number. There is an option to print individual test sheets per student with the ZipGrade ID pre-assigned but it’s just not economically sound for my school as we only use Deskjet printers and rely heavily on our photocopier.


Back to the App, I experienced a cloud sync issue a few weeks after I used it for the Prelims. It wouldn’t sync the last batch of tests and I couldn’t see them on my iPad or web account. So I contacted ZipGrade and was happy with their response time. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was actually conversing with the app’s founder John Viebach and he was able to narrow down the issues and uploaded a beta update. Within a couple of days, my ZipGrade app was back to normal, synching wirelessly over the cloud.

Overall, works as advertised and at a price that I could afford. I love the item analysis feature and the statistics per quiz. It really helps me visualize how effective my assessments are. I like that the Apple version identifies which student’s papers  I haven’t scanned yet. I wish they could do this with the Android version too.

ZipGrade is such a boon for my teaching practice that I can’t imagine not using it from now on. I look back and I imagine all those hours I lost grading 100-item test! Now if I could only find a affordable app to grade oral reading fluency. Hehehe.

{Please note that I am not paid to talk about this app. This is just my personal experience with ZipGrade and I found it really helpful in managing my time as a teacher and homemaker.}


English 7, English 8, Grade 7, Grade 8, Social Studies 8, Values Education 8

How to Present in Class

So a week ago, I assigned my Social Studies class a topic to present  present in class. I realized then that I need to go over my expectations of how they should actually present their topics. They already knew that they had to present using a slideshow but I think their presentation skills could still use some polishing.

I found some great resources about presenting in class and here’s a great video demonstrating the best way to present in class.

Personally, here’s how I expect my students to work when they’re presenting:

  1. Dress appropriately. Wear smart casual attire: long sleeved polo shirts, slacks and leather shoes for men. Necktie is optional, but if worn the tip should only graze the top of the belt buckle. Ladies can wear a discreet blouse, skirt or slacks and heels. If the school does not permit civilian clothes, then wearing the complete school uniform will be appropriate. Tuck everything that needs to be tucked and make sure that you are neat and presentable.
  2. Make your presentation pop! Summarize your presentation. Keep it simple. Please don’t give us a wall of text per slide, it’s better to use more images. If you must use text, remember to use only six lines per slide. Think about contrasts, is your text font and size easy to read from afar? Have you tried making presentations using
  3. Memorize your presentation. You can use notes but use it only as a guide for your presentation flow. Do not read from the slide or your notes.
  4. Be professional. Present like you’re trying to get a promotion. Be respectful, knowledgeable and organized.
  5. Be prepared. Bring your laptop and make sure that it’s ready to hook up to my projector. Bring your own speaker, presenter and extension cords if you need it. Make sure that you have the necessary permits to bring your equipment with you.
  6. Provide handouts. Make sure that your classmates’ full attention is on you instead of their notebooks.
  7. Delegate tasks. If you’re working with a group, assign tasks so that the presentation runs smoothly. Assign someone to collect the class cards, operate the presentation, distribute handouts, etc.
  8. Use the time appropriately. Please practice your presentation at home and make sure that your presentation will fit the time allotted. This include the setup and wrap up of equipment.

Here’s how I expect my students to behave when they’re participating as an audience:

  1. Be on your best behavior. Please give them the same courtesy you would expect if you were in their shoes. Please do your best to pay attention and understand the report. Do not sleep or chat with your seatmates.
  2. Stay put. Do not walk around, harass your classmates or mess with the computer or their presentation. That’s rude.
  3. Ask questions. But ask to clarify not to humiliate your classmates. We all know they’re not experts and they obviously can’t Google the answer right then and there.
  4. Do not waste our time. Do not distract the presenters with unnecessary banter, antics and disruptions. They are working on a schedule.
  5. Participate and don’t forget to pass your class card so you’ll be graded.

I hope this clarifies my expectations and that it helps you prepare for next quarter’s presentations!