For this year’s Teachers’ Appreciation Week, Bernadine Falsis and Lance Cham interviewed Mr. Len Garces, a Mathematics lecturer. Mr. Garces is known for wearing black everyday, using multi-colored whiteboad markers—not to mention his beautiful handwriting—and his approachable demeanor in and out of class.
Bernadine Falsis (BF): What inspired you to become a professor in the Ateneo?
Len Garces (LG): Ang AMF graduate kasi, ang expectation is to go corporate. Ayaw ko ng corporate. Noong high school naman, mas gusto kong nagtu-tutor, nagtuturo, tinutulungan ko ang mga kaklase ko—so might as well, magturo na lang ako. And then later I realized na mapera rin pala rito, kasi if you do well in research, you get grants – money, essentially. I like to learn, I like to study, and so I’d like to help others study.
(The expectation for an AMF graduate is to go corporate, [but] I did not want to enter the corporate [world]. When I was in high school, I prefered to tutor, to teach, and to help my classmates, so I [thought to myself, I] might as well teach as a profession. It was only later that I realized I was earning well in the job. If you do well in research, you get grants–money, essentially. I like to learn [and] to study, and so I’d like to help others study [and learn as well].)
Lance Cham (LC): What do you like most about teaching?
LG: Hindi siya repetitive. (The job is not repetitive.) Every semester, you have different faces [entering your classroom, and so], you have to make frequent adjustments. [Additionally], I like that you get paid to actually learn new things. There’s the element of being a lifelong learner. [If] you help [others] learn, you [first have to] study the material you [will] have to teach, and at the same time, you help others understand the material that you want to teach.
BF: Through what and how you teach, what do you want students to become, knowing what you have imparted to them?
LG: At the very least, I want my students to never stop learning, [even] after they leave the classroom. Usually, I teach freshmen classes, and [what’s important] for me is for them to know that [they will have to work hard for] whatever they want to achieve during college. I want my students to be as hardworking as they can, to never stop learning, and to love learning as [what] it is.
LC: Syempre ‘pag teacher, sir, maraming nae-encounter na slow learners or beginners, [and] nakaka-frustrate talaga. (Part of being a teacher is having to deal with slow learners or beginners, [and] helping them [learn] is really frustrating.) So what drives you, sir? What drives you to keep on teaching them?
LG: There is [definitely] a struggle to be patient with students who have difficulty understanding the material, but there’s something that feels good about making sure people understand what you teach. Those are the intangibles that help me get through teaching. [There’s a] sense of fulfillment [in the thought that] you’re going to help someone understand this lesson today, which may or may not be important to him in the long run; but at least you helped him achieve something today. If, every day, you can do that, edi tuluy-tuloy na iyon! (If, every day, you can do that, then it becomes a continuous [process]!)
BF: If there is one advice you can give to your students, what would it be?
LG: My advice to students is to work hard for what they want. Hindi lahat nakukuha agad. (Not everything can be acquired instantaneously.) Students have to be willing to be patient to achieve the rewards they want to get in the future. [But] for a more concrete advice, it’s important for students to prioritize their studies first. It’s also important to focus on other aspects like social life [and] student organizations, but those other factors should be the ones to be set aside for studies. For students, it’s important to prioritize their goals; and it’s their first priority to graduate on time and in the happiest possible way.
LC: What is the most important thing you have learned from your students?
LG: Teaching helped me appreciate the individuality of students much more kasi hindi lahat ng tao pare-parehas ang learning style (Teaching helped me appreciate the individuality of students much more because everyone has different learning styles). It’s my responsibility to understand each of my students [and] to get to know them to some extent so [that] I can teach them more effectively. I did not expect to learn that if you dedicate enough effort to teaching, students will reciprocate with similar effort. Students are willing to be your friends after your classes.
LC: Ano na lang yung pinakahinahanap mong traits [sa babae]? (What are the pertinent traits you look for in a girl?)
LG: Sapat na iyong cute, I suppose. Short hair. No particular direction of hair. Tahimik, kasi tahimik din ako. Hindi ako adventurous, kaya ayaw ko ‘yung labas nang labas. Pero ayaw ko din sa bahay kasi magulo ang bahay ko. So siguro restaurants, mga ganun. Either gamer or mahilig sa music. Matalino. Organized.
(Being cute is enough, I suppose. I prefer short hair, but I have no particular preference with regard to hair direction. I like quiet girls since I am also quiet. I am not adventurous, so I do not like going out often. I don’t want to stay at home either [though] because my house is messy. Maybe we can go to restaurants. I like girls who are either gamers or music fans, is smart, and is organized.)
LC: Rank your priorities.
LG: Right now, my priority is to get accepted in a PhD program kasi gusto ko mag-aral ulit. (Right now, my priority is to get accepted in a PhD program because I want to study again). Everything else follows. The friends that I make in that university, what social life comes from that—they [will] all follow. But my real priority right now is to study again.
BF: Who is your celebrity crush and why?
LG: I won’t point to a particular person, but I’ll point to an entire class of people. I like mga biritera na parang sina Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston. Mahilig din kasi akong kumanta sa banyo. (I like female balladeers such as Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston because I enjoy singing in the bathroom.) I try to emulate their examples.
LC: Kung papipiliin ka, ano mas gugustuhin mo? Mahal ko o mahal ako? And why? (If you were to choose between whom you love or the one who loves you, who would you choose and why?)
LG: Mas convenient iyong mahal ako, pero convenience [lang] iyon. Kung gusto ko ng challenge, iyong mahal ko [because] challenges are much more fulfilling. Use transitivity na lang to conclude.
(Choosing the one who loves me is more convenient, but that is only considering convenience. If I want a challenge, then I’d choose the one I love because challenges are more fulfilling. Use transitivity to conclude what my answer is.)
BF: What inspires you to always wear black?
LG: Nakakapayat siya. Any story behind that? Dinelete ko na sila, pero sa mga freshman photos ko sa Facebook, marami akong kulay na sinusuot. But I found na mas madaling pumili kapag black ang base color ng damit. Mas elegant [at malinis] siyang tingnan, kahit mainit. It’s a personal choice.
(I look thinner in [black clothes]. Any story behind that? I already deleted them, but if you see my freshman photos on Facebook, you’ll see that I used to wear many different colors of clothing. But I found that it was easier if black was the base color. It looks more elegant and neater, even if it feels warmer. It’s a personal choice.)
BF: If one day, bawal na magsuot ng black, ano ang susuotin mong kulay? (If one day, wearing black becomes prohibited, what color would you wear?)
LG: Dark blue. Iyong malapit na mag-black pero hindi pa, but it’s dark enough for my satisfaction (The shade that is almost black but not quite—the shade that is dark enough for my satisfaction). Very dark blue.
LC: Ever since bata po ba kayo sir, maganda na ang sulat ninyo? Or may nag-inspire sa iyo? (Ever since you were young, have you always had a beautiful handwriting, or did someone else inspire you to?)
LG: Hindi. Mahilig akong manggaya ng sulat ng teachers ko rati. Iyong ‘G’ ko ay galing sa English teacher ko noong third year high school. Iyong ‘M’ galing sa Math teacher ko noong second year. Ina-assemble ko lang until maging isang font. Nakaka-inspire in particular ang sulat ni Dr. Richard Eden at ni Dr. Timothy Teng. So hindi natural na maganda ang sulat ko.
(No, I used to like copying my teachers’ penmanship. The way I write the letter ‘G’ came from my third year high school English teacher, while the way I write the letter ‘M’ came from my second year Math teacher. I just assembled everything to form my own font. In particular, Dr. Richard Eden and Dr. Timothy Teng’s handwritings are inspiring.)
LC: Math or Economics?
LG: Hindi ba pwede ang both? Interdisciplinary na ang uso ngayon, pero mas natural sa akin ang Math. Ang inaaral ko naman ngayon ay application ng Math sa Econ, so it works both ways for me. (Can’t my answer be both? Interdisciplinary [studies] is trending right now, but Math is more natural to me. What I’m studying right now is the application of Math in Economics, so it works both ways for me.)
LC: Kung mga tao ang Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry at Calculus, sino roon ang mamahalin ninyo? And why? (If Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry and Calculus were people, who would you love and why?)
LG: Mas gusto ko ang Calculus. Masyadong boring ang high school algebra. Mas gusto ko ang Calculus kasi it’s the right balance between computation, mechanics and proof. May sense of wonder. (I prefer Calculus. High school algebra is too boring. I like Calculus becausehere is a sense of wonder: it has the right balance between computation, mechanics and proof.)
LC: How do you find inspiration to study Math?
LG: Through proving problems. Admittedly, a lot of Math can’t be used in real life. Pero may masaya sa fact na may alam ka na hindi alam ng iba. (It’s fun to think that you know something that others don’t.) Joking aside, there’s a sense of wonder kasi when you’re able to prove a theorem—iyong tipong papalakpak ka to yourself after the proof [is presented] (Joking aside, there’s a sense of wonder when you’re able to prove a theorem—the kind that will make you clap to yourself after the proof is presented.)
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