TEACHERS in several schools were caught unaware when their boss, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, suddenly popped for a visit to check the condition of public schools in the area.

Luistro visited Padre Valerio Malabanan Memorial School (PVMMS) in Lipa City in Batangas province, among others.

"This trip was so memorable for me because Padre Valerio Malabanan Memorial School was my first teaching experience in public school. My experience there inspired me to teach, it was then I first thought of becoming a teacher," Luistro recalled.

The school's principal, Ines Andal, was astounded to see the Department of Education (DepEd) chief as he entered the school premises. Andal said she was in the middle of printing Luistro's photos for posting in each of their classrooms as a way of introducing him to the students.

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"Nagulat po ako nung dumating po siya, muntik ko na po itanong kung ano po ang kailangan nila kasi akala ko po magulang. Tapos hawak ko pa 'yung maraming litrato n'ya na hinanap namin sa internet. Tapos biglang pumasok si Sir, sila daw ay makikipanood lang ng klase. Sabi ko, naku ito na yata 'yung hawak nating picture," narrated Andal.

Andal confessed she could not find the right words to describe how honored the school was for having Luistro over as he was the first DepEd Secretary to pay them a visit.

"Hindi ko po maipaliwanag yung nararamdaman ko dahil unang beses pa lang pong nabisita ng kalihim ng DepEd ang aming paaralan. Tapos kung makipag-usap po s'ya, para s'yang pangkaraniwang magulang na lagi kong kausap," she added.

During his visit, Luistro was also reunited with Venus Mendoza, a former student who now teaches grade 5 students in PVMMS. Luistro sat down in her class and observed her teaching skills.

"Masayang masaya ako at ipinagmamalaki ko pong naging guro ko sya, at ngayon kalihim na siya ng DepEd. Nung malaman ko nga na s'ya ang bagong DepEd secretary, pinagsabi ko sa amin, kahit sa mga pinsan ko, na naging guro ko yan," Mendoza shared.

Luistro has already visited a total of 12 schools since he assumed his post. Aside from Lipa, he has also conducted random visits in some schools in Metro Manila and Nueva Ecija.

He also called on DepEd regional and division officials not to make a big fuss about his visits saying he does not want "showy" welcoming event for him.

"Ayoko ng mga ganun gusto ko simple lang at saka ang bibisitahin ko naman ay hindi ang kanilang mga opisina kundi ang ating mga paaralan para malaman ko talaga ang tunay na nangyayari."

The DepEd chief said he is very happy with what he's seen so far and is very impressed with the teachers who manage to find ways to make their classes very engaging despite the challenges faced by the country's basic education system.

"The most common thread that I've seen are very dedicated teachers. I remember one school I visited where the teacher was teaching about 65 pupils. The room was packed, with insufficient lights and only two electric fans. But the teacher was very engaged in her lesson and students were very interactive," he noted.

Luistro said his surprise visits have allowed him to see the real challenges in terms of basic input in Education - addressing the basic needs of teachers being the most important one.

"Although the department takes this as a big challenge, this is part of our reform efforts to address backlogs in education resources within two years. With the support of education stakeholders both in government and outside, we will be able to achieve this," assured Luistro.

He said he will be requesting for a P380 billion budget for 2011 to address the estimated 200,000 shortage in classrooms (single-shift) and the recruitment of about 120, 000 teachers.

He also called for the prompt release of the adjusted salary of teachers as part of the department's thrust to upgrade the quality of education in public schools.

The education chief said he will present to President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III a set of urgent concerns foremost among which is the salary adjustment of teachers.

"To deliver quality education, we should always prioritize the professional advancement and personal welfare of our hardworking teachers." (AH/Sunnex)