“The Alternative Learning System (ALS) is an educational arena for the youth and adults where their dreams of becoming knowledgeable individuals is never impossible.”

This is what Windel Alvarez believes in as he fulfills his sworn duty as an ALS mobile teacher and Master Teacher I in Caramoan, Camarines Sur.

Teacher Windel shared that he always had great admiration to the teaching profession ever since he was a child, and he knows how teachers’ methods influence and shape the future of learners.

“I took secondary education course in college to materialize my greatest dream of becoming a teacher. It really inspires me when I am in the field seeing those kids wanting to be educated,” Teacher Windel said.

Serving learners in farthest barangays
In 2009, Teacher Windel became the first mobile teacher in Caramoan tasked to bring quality education to its farthest and secluded barangays.

“Caramoan stands out because of its unique beauty endowed by nature, but behind this majestic beauty are a number of underserved out-of-school youths and adults (OSYA),” he stated.

Determined to bring a difference to the community, Teacher Windel shook off all his worries and reservations in crossing mountainous paths, rivers, and areas where reported armed conflicts occur, just to reach out to and teach the learners of Caramoan. More so, he found it hard at first to gain the trust of the community, but he persevered, and did not lose hope: “I worked hard to let the community realize that my presence brings good to them through learning. This eventually paid off when even the barangay captain became one of my students.”

Bangkarunungan Project
Teacher Windel decided to widen his horizon and focus on serving learners in coastal barangays who face hardships in going to and from school because of scarce and expensive transportation services.

At present, he is teaching in Sitio Lipata, one of the remotest coastal communities in Caramoan, located at the tail-end of Lahuy Island facing the Pacific Ocean. It takes an hour of motor boat ride to reach this place, where the only means of livelihood is fishing — the seclusion reflects a picture of poverty.

“Absence of electricity and potable water, and battles in transportation were never a hindrance to serve and provide alternative education to the island folks. These dismal circumstances are the major factors why many OSYAs are not in school,” Teacher Windel mentioned.

He then knew what to do to further motivate and inspire them to attend school and learn.

“I have come up with a project because I saw the situation in the island and coastal areas. The distance and high-cost boat rental prevented the children from achieving their dreams. It is hard to see them being left behind, so I exerted much effort to reach the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation,” Teacher Windel recalled.

Through the help of the foundation and after outsourcing funds from generous stakeholders – Teacher Windel used a popular social media site to spread awareness on the hardships of the locals – the ALS Bangkarunungan Project came to fruition.

Bangkarunungan aims to bring education at the doorsteps of those who wish to have a better life by opening doors of opportunity with knowledge, skills, and values as weapons against poverty.

This project produced three boats, which are now being used by learners to go from island to island. This also aids other literacy volunteers who work alongside Teacher Windel to reach every island and coastal areas where they teach the OSYAs.

“Recently, my most awaited project has finally started. It is the construction of The Yellow School of Hope in Sitio Lipata, a two-classroom typhoon-resilient building which will serve as a community learning center, training center, evacuation center, and temporary classroom for in-school children from Kindergarten to Grade 2 while waiting for the classroom from DepEd,” Teacher Windel shared.

Inspiring hope, igniting the imagination
Because of Alvarez’s unwavering commitment to creating a supportive learning environment despite the many challenges in gaining access to education, he became one of the awardees of this year’s Civil Service Commission’s (CSC) Outstanding Public Officials and Employees (Dangal ng Bayan).

“A good teacher can inspire hope, ignite the imagination, and instill love for learning among the children. We, teachers, are the “living instructional material” in the classroom,” he said.

“As a teacher, let us keep their hope burning and inspire them by keeping our love for our profession. Let us also be hopeful with our job because positivity begets positivity – we can’t give what we don’t have,” Teacher Windel reminded his fellow educators.