AS I SEE IT: A glimpse of Pinoy educators in the Bay

I  focus on a few Filipino American educators in the Bay Area for this week’s column. They deserve to be recognized and remembered for the efforts they have exerted and still exerting in making a difference in the lives of the students.

While Filipino teachers/educators had a hard time getting into the educational system as teachers here in the US as new immigrants, there were some who were lucky and earned their teaching jobs through merits and experience.

Their experience in the Philippines, which was seldom considered for new immigrant applicants, propelled them into getting US teaching jobs which became a dilemma for new teacher-applicants considering that most school administrators look for local experience from the applicants and a local boy (meaning a graduate of US institutions) in the hiring process.

Hellie Mateo, for instance, taught English Language Development (ELD) and Global Literature here in the US for 26 years with the Fremont Union High School District in Sunnyvale- in all of its five high schools. She said: “I got my Single Subject (Secondary) Teaching Credential through San Jose State University. My experience as an educator was for the most part very productive and satisfactory due to my supportive supervisors and professional colleagues. We have a Teachers’ Union which supported its members in negotiating for pay increases and better working conditions. Our school district is also one of the few in the Bay Area that paid really well due to its geographic location and socioeconomic demographics. We got a raise on top of the salary increases almost every year based on left-over money from district funds, so I never thought about switching to a different district. The students are very diverse which made teaching both challenging as well as fulfilling as an educator. I retired in June 2022 after 26 years with the FUHSD.”

She worked with students with special needs thereby redirecting her career toward special education. She spent a few years helping build the Transition Program at the school district, at the same time helping recent high school graduates and other young adults prepare for employment by teaching work skills. Additionally, she developed and conducted a training program for the district’s job coaches – enabling them to better support their students with disabilities at their jobs.

Former Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) Dean Roman Dannug, PhD, a resident of Northern California said: “Yes, I got a teaching job at the Concord College of Nursing. I went to credentialing, got a very good rate per hour, and class size was 25 pax maximum which was great. I strictly followed a school-approved subject syllabus, high technology/multi media-driven instruction, and observed a criteria-based grading system that allows a very small percentage of teacher’s discretion… practically everything is measurable based on documented class performance, impressive faculty development program for professional growth, and excellent extension program to support increased enrollment.

To my surprise, our white school director who was a Ph.D. holder talked to me privately and advised that students and colleagues should address me inside the campus as Dr. Dannug, since “we all earned a professional title that separate the ordinary from the extraordinary” emphasizing that the title requires some great responsibility in both teacher behavior, delivery and performance inside the program. Over all, my close to 3 years college teaching experience in the US was exceedingly great.”

Dr. Dannug added: “Managing classes that were full of actual diverse racial and cultural backgrounds became more fulfilling with a profound understanding of “unity in diversity “and full dedication to professional responsibilities – two very important traits for Filipino-American educators in order to remain effective agents of change, powerful voices against racism/discrimination and genuine advocates of equal opportunity for all!”

Maria Ibarra, on the other hand, was a public-school teacher in the Philippines before immigrating to the US.

“Teaching in the US is way different compared to the Philippines in many aspects,” she said.  “Credentials need to be evaluated by an accredited agency.  Screening is rigid. You can’t get that job security right away if you haven’t been teaching for more than 5 years in this country. When the budget is cut, you’re the first one to go.”

Ibarra further commented: “Compared in the Philippines, if you pass your 3-month probationary period, you’re good to stay unless you committed something against the set policies or regulations. Parents and students in our country have a high regard for teachers since the administration has your back while in this place (referring to the US) the admin is leaning more towards the parents.

Most of the students here seem not that serious about their studies since they don’t get a lot of support from their parents compared to the Philippine students whose minds were instilled with the idea that education is very important in their lives.  (Considered by parents as the best legacy they can give to their children. )

The only thing in this place that we missed out in our country is the availability of resources for both teachers and students. Teaching and learning materials are easily acquired or provided.”

Jacqueline Curiale was not a teacher in the Philippines, but she found herself teaching in the US. “I was not a teacher in the Philippines. I was a Parole and Probation Officer for several years under the Department of Justice working in my province of Bulacan. It’s my 1st year of teaching here in the Bay Area, CA in a public technical school for young adults called Job Corps. Education in the US is not perfect and has its own issues, but I must say that students here are very fortunate to have the opportunity of obtaining career technical education and other assistance free of charge through this government program.”

Curiale further said: “When I first arrived in the US, I immediately started working for the same establishment/school as a part time employee. Then I worked my way through various departments being promoted until I took the job of a Career Technical Instructor teaching Office Admin class. I had my Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Science from the University of Santo Tomas (UST), Manila and then went to the University of the East (UE) and Arellano Law Foundation for some law units years ago before joining the entire family in the US.  I recently completed the required credentialing classes online through the University of San Diego’s Continued Education Program in CA and is about to clear my credentials with Los Angeles County Office of Education this month. Growing up in the Philippines, both my parents were public high school teachers for 20 years, and I didn’t realize then that I will be crossing similar career path as they did, but I am enjoying it and is truly grateful to this profession.”

For me, on my first year as an immigrant, I started teaching at De Anza College that considered my experience in the Philippines. I was an Assistant Professor IV at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP) then teaching journalism and mass communication subjects at the College of Languages and Mass Communications (CLMC) and a special lecturer in three other colleges and universities (Institute of Mass Communications, UP-Diliman; PR Department, Arellano University as department chair where I started the Bachelor of Science in Public Relations (BSPR) course; and the Graduate School of Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.)

I taught Reading, ESL and English Writing in De Anza College for 10 years until my retirement.  For five years, I taught at Axia College, University of Phoenix, as a regular online faculty teaching communication subject and business writing. I also had a brief stint with the San Jose State University (SJSU) where I taught essay writing.

I have a Master’s Degree in Mass Communications from the PUP Graduate School, in addition to my Bachelor’s Degree from the University of the Philippines (UP-Diliman).

At present, I am still teaching (this is my 22nd year of teaching) at the high school department of San Jose Job Corps Center (SJJC), one of 121 federally-funded programs of the Department of Labor (DOL) in the country for marginalized adult learners ranging from 16 to 24 years old.

I passed the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST), entry credentialing requirement for new teachers; went through getting a US equivalency of my college degrees in the Philippines by an accredited educational institution; and getting a multiple-subject/adult education credential to be able to teach.

For those who want to teach in the US, if you are not a graduate of any course here in the US, you don’t need to go to college and earn a degree… just work for your US equivalency; take the CBEST for California applicants; and get your teaching credentials, whether a single-subject, multiple-subject or adult education credentials… well, a trade credential for trade instructors.

(ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and a multi-awarded journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments, email the author at