MANILA— Ryan Homan is the only Filipino among the 50 finalists for the 2018 Global Teacher Prize, a search for the one teacher who has made an outstanding impact and contribution to the profession.
The award aims to recognize the crucial role of educators in bringing positive changes in the lives of their students and communities.
In March, Homan will meet in Dubai the 49 other finalists from around the world. Top 10 finalists would be chosen, and only one would take home the USD1 million prize.
“I’ve always wanted to become a teacher,” Homan told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.
Growing up in a remote community in Sorsogon, Homan witnessed how difficult it was for someone to finish school and get a college degree. He was a scholar at the Bicol University.
After graduation, he volunteered as a teacher for one year in their community. “I walked for 1 to 2 hours every day. I was not receiving a salary as a volunteer. There were times, however, when some people were giving me food, allowance,” he said.
In 2009, a year after his volunteer work, he got a permanent position as Teacher 1. He currently teaches Grades 4 to 6 students at the San Jose Elementary School in Donsol, Sorsogon.
Balsa-Basa floating school
Financial constraints became the main challenge as he pursued his career. Homan noted how difficult it was, especially because no one was there to help him. This, however, did not stop him from establishing the Balsa-Basa project in 2013 when he noticed that kids in his community were having difficulty going to school for various reasons.
“Because they (kids) don’t go to school, I put up a floating school in the river. I use this to reach my students in the mountains every Saturday,” Homan said.
He said he spent PHP5,000 for the “balsa”, while non-governmental organizations donated books and other supplies for his floating school. One of the challenges in maintaining the project is that he has to change the “balsa” every year since it rots easily, he said.
His efforts did not go unnoticed. In 2017, the Civil Service Commission took note of his initiative and presented him the Dangal ng BayanAward.
Global Teacher Prize nomination
Since his Balsa-Basa project made headlines, Homan said someone from the United Kingdom nominated him for the Global Teacher Prize.
According to him, he received an email last July from someone from the Varkey Foundation, the award organizer.
“The email said I am qualified to join the Global Teacher Prize, and the sender encouraged me to push through (with) it,” he said, adding that he had to submit papers about his project and had to undergo an interview via Skype.
“I had second thoughts when I got the email, because I didn’t know the sender,” he shared. After thinking about it for some time, he realized he would lose nothing if he would try.
Homan said there were 30,000 nominees and it was last December when the top 50 finalists were announced.
If he wins the coveted prize, Homan has several plans. He said he would provide scholarships for the children. “I see myself in them because I was once a scholar. I’ve seen that only a few people in our community reach college,” he said.
He said he would also donate to the victims of the Marawi City siege and those affected by the Mayon Volcano eruption. He would likewise provide livelihood programs for parents in their community and assist his fellow teachers in Sorsogon, possibly in the form of training or a center.
When asked if he plans to keep something for himself, he said: “When you give (something), it would come back in God’s time. My community really needs my help.”