A UP Open University (UPOU) student of Doctor of Philosophy in Education, Ms. Janeth Morata-Fuentes, was awarded the Philippine Federation of Chemistry Societies (PFCS) Achievement Award for Chemistry Education (Secondary Level) at the 32nd Philippine Chemistry Congress held at Puerto Princesa, Palawan in May 2017.

Ms. Morata-Fuentes has a bachelor’s degree in Education (Chemistry) from UP Diliman and a Master’s Degree in Education (Teaching and Curriculum Studies) from the University of Sydney. Ms. Morata-Fuentes has a long list of awards in her name – 2010 Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award, 2010 Natatanging Guro Award (Natural Science Cluster) by the Philippine Science High School Foundation’s Dr. Cleofe Bacungan Endowment Fund, 2011 Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award and 2012 Outstanding Educator in Residence by the Academy of Singapore Teachers (Ministry of Education).

Despite her many achievements and awards, the PFCS Achievement Award for Chemistry Education this year came as a wonderful surprise. In an email interview with her, she mentioned being happy that the award affirmed the significance of her contribution to advancing the chemistry profession. She also acknowledged the responsibility that came with the award. “It would mean better performance as a teacher and as a teacher-leader. It means sharing in the responsibility of improving the quality of education in the rest of the region and across the country where and when it is needed.”

Since she is based in Palo, Leyte as a Special Science Teacher III at the Philippine Science High School – Eastern Visayas (PSHS-EV), she wanted to earn her doctorate without needing to relocate because her children are still young. “UPOU offered an option where one could complete a degree despite a busy workload.

Her experience at UPOU was a challenge especially that her master’s degree was not in Chemistry. She juggles her full work load with the demands of the courses, often needing to “double study” and read up on prerequisite knowledge “before I could go down to comprehending the materials required by the subject.” She mentioned that the skill set needed for distance education (DE) differs from the regular program. While doing her PhD with UPOU, she learned to make use of online lectures and libraries to better understand some of the topics, and is still learning to discipline herself in the efficient use of her time. Her experience at UPOU taught her to be more persevering, patient and resourceful. “I believe that my teaching practice and all the other tasks given to me at work have benefited from the knowledge and skills I picked from studying under this program.

Despite the general assumption that DE is easy, Ms. Morata-Fuentes says “It is as demanding as the course load of regular postgraduate programs.” Both DE and residential programs will include learning how to study independently, conduct proper research work and generate and make use of knowledge. She encouraged fellow UPOU students to “always take heart, enjoy the ride, and learn as much as we can. Isang araw, sasablay din tayo,” referring to the Sablay worn by UP graduates.

PFCS is a non-profit, non-stock corporation organized in 1988 to serve as an umbrella organization for chemistry societies of the Philippines, namely, Kapisanang Kimika ng Pilipinas (KKP), Integrated Chemists of the Philippines (ICP), Philippine Association of Chemistry Teachers (PACT) and Philippine Association of Chemistry Students (PACS). PFCS Awards recognize outstanding contributions to Chemistry which aim to inspire the youth to take up chemistry, recognize outstanding contribution of chemists to development of discipline, recognize outstanding and exemplary contributions to society through chemistry.

Other PFCS Awardees include former UP Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Gisela Concepcion for Chemistry Research (2013), Dr. Lucio Tan for Service to the Chemistry Profession (2008), Former DOST Secretary Dr. William Padolina for Chemical Research (2000), and Former UPOU Chancellor, Dr. Ma. Cristina D. Padolina for Chemical Education (1997). (Anna Cañas-Llamas)