Transforms students into ‘first-class learners’
INDIAN TRAIL – Sun Valley Elementary teacher Richard Ramos almost gave up on Union County.
That was four years ago, when the Visiting International Faculty program brought Ramos from the Philippines to Indian Trail to teach third grade. The adjustment was grueling, what with high expectations from the county, disinterested students and pressure from parents. It had Ramos very near his breaking point.
“The first six months were the hardest,” he said. “I was about to go home. I told my principal, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
Patrice Parker, the school’s principal at the time, pushed Ramos to stay. And he’s glad he did. By December of his first year everything had turned around. Ramos adjusted to his new life and soon saw his efforts pay off by guiding his students to some of the highest end-of-grade scores in the school.
Principal Tracy Cooper came in after Parker near the end of the 2010-11 school year and immediately saw something special in Ramos, who had shown his leadership skills in helping ensure a smooth transition between the two principals. Cooper was so impressed she made Ramos chairman of the third grade department for the 2011-12 school year.
“I saw that Mr. Ramos was willing to step up to the plate and do things that I hadn’t necessarily asked him to do, and I just saw that leadership potential in him in that short period of time,” Cooper said. “He said, ‘I will do it and put forth my best effort’ and he has done that.”
Ramos is getting used to the differences between the classes he taught back home and the ones in Sun Valley, though he still believes schools here focus too much on motivating students instead of teaching them self-discipline. It’s the opposite back home.
“You will study not because there is a reward, but because it’s a goal,” Ramos said of students in the Philippines. “It’s your responsibility as a student to excel.”
He was caught a bit off guard by just how much time he has to spend with the students now. The school day starts at 7 a.m. and ends around 4 p.m. in the Philippines, where students are trusted to go to lunch and recess by themselves.
“The fact that I am with them the whole time, that’s really (different),” Ramos said. “In the Philippines, you have more time for planning. Here, you just really have to work during the time that you have.”
But he’s not complaining. The visiting faculty program has given Ramos an enormous amount of opportunities. His wife is here with him, and their son was born here. He’s been able to share his cultural knowledge by giving presentations on global education to high school students.
But possibly the biggest thing has been watching his students make the transformation from disinterested kids at the beginning of the school year to first-class learners by summer break. “To see my kids take up the challenge, that’s where the satisfaction comes in, and that’s where my achievements are,” Ramos said.
Ramos will teach one more year at Sun Valley before returning to the Philippines, where he plans to work on a higher degree and continue teaching near his family. “Family is important in Filipino culture,” he said. “You stay near your family.”