Acceptance Speech of Janeth Morata-Fuentes–2017 PFCS Achievement Award for Chemistry Education (Secondary Level)

To our Guest of Honor, the officers of the different Chemistry Societies, participants to the Chemistry Congress, to everyone who are here, a good evening.

The study of chemistry has always fascinated me. There is wonder in transformations. There is beauty in explaining macroscopic phenomena by elucidating the motions of invisible particles. In this lifetime, I first knew about the atomic theory in a high school class. There were no direct evidences of its existence decades ago. Years into my teaching career, I encountered pictures of the surface of an atom. Imagine the excitement I felt then! It was the same excitement I felt when I read a journal article describing how carbon can make not just double and triple chemical bonds but quadruple bonds, too! There is a treasure trove of knowledge nowadays that opportunities for making lives better are within reach. Chemistry is at the center of all this.

I love it when I see the look of amazement on my students’ faces every time they encounter this seemingly magical world. I also love it when I see perplexed looks when they meet thought-provoking problems; or the aha moments they have every time hard concepts become less difficult. Chemistry is not always an easy discipline to tackle.

During my first few months as a university student, I had this recurring dream of chemical equations running after me. I’d be so panicked because I couldn’t balance them. My experience as a chemistry student included spending sleepless nights to understand concepts so as to pass exams. I am more empathetic to my students’ difficulties and failures because I have laboured in the study of this discipline too. It is easier for me to spot confusion, frustration and panic among young faces, because I’ve gone through these emotions myself. In my life as an educator, I have always tried to teach my kids perseverance and resilience. The study of the sciences may not be a walk in the park, but the joy in discovery is always worth the hard work and the uncertainties.

I have been fortunate to work with kids whose natural curiosity and intelligence push me to be curious and intelligent too. Their unending questions, silly and brilliant ideas and zest for life fuel my own journey to lifelong learning.

I am grateful to Philippine Science High School and our mother agency, the Department of Science and Technology, for giving me a good playground to teach and to conduct research; for allowing me to go out and see the world outside of Pisay; for frequently pushing me out of my comfort zone.

This Achievement Award in Chemistry Education is a wonderful gift that I owe to the more than a thousand students I’ve had the fortune to teach. Thank you, Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies, for this privilege and for recognizing the efforts we make at the secondary level. We may not be hard core researchers and scientists but this recognition is an affirmation that our contribution to the field is important too.

Let me thank Dr. Jose Andaya, President of the Philippine Association of Chemistry Teachers, for the surprising nomination and for the confidence in me. My heartfelt thanks also to the group of people who comprises my support system- my parents and family, and this collection of crazy, delightful, brilliant friends God blessed me with.

I dedicate this Achievement Award to my two children who are left motherless during times when I need to heed the call of duty; and to the many children in this country and beyond who are in need of meaningful education.

Thank you and God bless us all.

Janeth Morata-Fuentes is recipient of the 2017 PFCS Achievement Award for Chemistry Education (Secondary Level). She delivered this speech during the awarding ceremony in the 32nd Philippine Chemistry Congress, Asturias Hotel, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

She is a special science teacher at the Philippine Science High School-Eastern Visayas Campus in Palo, Leyte. She teaches Chemistry and handles Science & Technology Research. She graduated from the University of the Philippines—Diliman with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Education (Chemistry). She took her Master of Education (Teaching and Curriculum Studies) at the University of Sydney (New South Wales, Australia) where she graduated with merit. She is currently a PhD (Chemistry Education) student at the UP Open University.