I-Witness features Filipino mentor named ESOL Teacher of the Year by the New York Times


"This Monday, while most Filipino school teachers are busy welcoming their students to the first day of classes, award-winning journalist Sandra Aguinaldo visits a group of Filipino teachers who gives a new meaning to education and learning in the United States.

"Produced by GMA Network's multi-awarded documentary program I-Witness together with the U.S. State Department, I-Witness' "A IS FOR (BIG) APPLE" documents the life of Filipino mentors in New York who are teaching English not to school children but to immigrants of different nationalities.

"One of the teachers is Chito Atienza who has been living in the U.S. for more than two decades. In a small training center in Brooklyn, he meets a group of students from China, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Pakistan, Palestine, Ecuador, and other nations daily to teach and learn from.

He patiently coaxes them to speak even though most of the students arrived in his classroom initially not knowing the difference between "yes" and "no". To help his students, Atienza, for 28 years, walks the streets of New York picking up lottery tickets and restaurant menus to bring back to his class as reading materials.

"For the students, learning the English language is a necessary life skill—it ensures their integration into society, and prepares them for a life in America. But what makes this classroom special from other learning centers is that there are no right or wrong answers. The students learn to tell their personal stories, no matter how difficult it is for them to express themselves.

"For his efforts, in 2008, Atienza was awarded the ESOL Teacher of the Year by the New York Times. In his speech he said, "I would like to believe that I have given my students enough words and numbers to live by...in the ESOL classroom, the teachers and students keep hope alive because without hope, dreams die."

"Indeed, Atienza's classroom is brimming with hope... the students' smiles, like a ray of sunshine on a cold winter day.

"Join Sandra Aguinaldo as she learns the poignant and inspiring stories inside a New York class room in I-Witness' "A is for (big) apple" this Monday, June 3, after Saksi on GMA Network."

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