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Head to Head: Alex Brotonel, Billie Lardizabal on their vision for ‘inclusive’ BAGCED

Both hailing from EDGE2019, Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista’s (Tapat) Alex Brotonel and Santugon sa Tawag ng Panahon’s (Santugon) Billie Lardizabal are eyeing to become the next college president for the Br. Andrew Gonzalez FSC College of Education (BAGCED). Both share their plans of making the college more inclusive and future-ready for its students to become future Lasallian educators.

On their background

The LaSallian: What encouraged you to run for college president?

Billie Lardizabal (Santugon): When I lost as Batch President, I thought that it wasn’t the end of the journey for me. I participated in the College Government of Education (CGE). That’s where I was exposed to how CGE and the entire College of Education (CED) worked and it really inspired me to serve once more—this time to empower the students and provide them with the support that they need in CED.

Alex Brotonel (Tapat): I think the reason that inspired me to run is EDGE2019. When I won the presidency last year…We had limited manpower. But that did not stop me from achieving great projects…such as talking about sex education, creating learning materials that are translated in Filipino and Bisaya, creating a game about human rights, something (sic) you don’t see in the…academe.

The LaSallian: How will your previous executive experience, Lardizabal as Batch Vice President and Brotonel as Batch President, contribute to your bid for the position?

Lardizabal: Being appointed as the Batch Vice President…was really a gift because I was surrounded with like-minded people, who are really passionate for education. Something that I pride myself of (sic) is being consultative…If I was able to empower those (students) during my time as the batch vice president, then I can do the same as the college president.

Brotonel: I’d like to say na mahirap to become a batch president given this pandemic…but I think the challenge really fueled me to…actualize the vision, which was to create a collaborative and progressive EDGE2019. It was also very timely—and still very timely—to fight for our rights and not to limit CED…when in fact we could do greater things…If in EDGE2019, my BSG (batch student government), I were (sic) able to do that, what’s gonna stop us in CGE with better manpower, with better leverage with our administration?

The LaSallian: What difficulties have you observed in relation to student services and enlistment that you plan on addressing?

Brotonel: I [will] propose a Student Welfare Committee who would create [a] student census…[and] prioritize regular checkups with the studentry para malaman natin kung [anong mga] problema kinakaharap nila. Another thing, I understand the saturation of Facebook right now. I propose a CGE hub…a consolidated platform para streamlined lahat ng University student services and college services concerns and announcements for the whole CED. Batch units will have their assigned tab, para ma-make sure na on-time and accurate ang…announcements para makita ng student body. 

Lardizabal: For me, one of my thrusts is to…provide inclusive support to the entire CED, and that entails an internal environment and student representation. When we say student representation, [it is] also recognizing their (student) concerns. And one of that (sic) is student services. 

Just like Alex, actually, I propose a long term solution, which is [a] CED network. It’s a website that has everything that the CED students would need…where they can find shifting forms, FAQs, how we can help them much better, how we can contact them much better…We have consulted with the students…with regards to the system of enlistment as well as how they are doing in the online setup.

On the status quo

The LaSallian: BAGCED has been viewed as the “tapunan” of reconsidered applicants, seeing a considerable number of shiftees as soon as the University allows them to. What are your thoughts on this, and how do you plan to improve the college’s image?

Lardizabal: I respect and acknowledge the dreams and aspirations for all the CED students, because this is what they want to achieve…However, I would still like to give them the platform and the avenue to tap their individual skills, to reach their full potential…A vision that I have for CED is that we embrace our purpose before we expand our reach. How can we develop as a college if we don’t recognize our purpose…our Lasallian educator identity? Not only this, but we’d also want to achieve that through holistic development through the programs and the avenues that we will create for the students.

Brotonel: Unang-una, hindi po ako naniniwala na tapunan po ang CED…I believe that us future educators should stand firm with that belief. And yes, I understand that a lot of people shift out [of] CED…but I’d like to also believe that they could learn something in CED, whether they’re staying or not. 

That’s why I’m proposing academic reform…It’s a free elective about comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) and a free elective about Filipino Sign Language (FSL)…[These electives have] been consulted with [the] Associate Dean…[and] the department heads, and we all value the long term process of it…because you just have to be a responsible human being, aware of the fact that there’s a lack of inclusivity here in our country. And as a future educator, we value inclusivity.

On their plans and priorities

The LaSallian: What will be the main focus of your plans and platforms should you win the position? What is your main thrust?

Brotonel: My vision is a CED that transcends the status quo…Given the right opportunities, platform, [and] activities, we (CED) can transcend the status quo. I have four pillars. The first pillar is challenging the academic boundaries. Second is reinforcing a responsive system to support student services. Third is strengthening the capacity of each student and for our national affairs…we will focus on talks that are not talked about…I believe that we can do so much more than what we have done before…This is a good start in transcending the status quo.

Lardizabal: For my vision, it’s embracing empowering opportunities as one CED. This means honing our individual skills to embody the Lasallian educator identity…I have three thrusts. It is to mold progressive Lasallian educators, to provide inclusive support, and lastly to create a collaborative community. 

Progressive Lasallian educators is the recognition of our Lasallian educator identity…We give importance to inclusivity as future educators…We hope to provide the students an avenue and projects that would support them and give them the proper representation. And lastly…creating a collaborative community which focuses on externally unifying and growth (sic) within the DLSU community…seeing that we lay the foundation of knowledge, then we support our students, expand their knowledge. 

For the future

The LaSallian: How do you plan on helping future educators adapt and teach effectively in online learning?

Lardizabal: We actually have a project under our molding progressive Lasallian educators which…seeks to tap on nationalism in the context of education. We really want to talk about the educational system of the country pre-pandemic and pandemic and how the government is responding. It also helps us be future-ready. It takes into account the situation of the online setting, how teaching is going right now, and what we can do moving forward as future educators for the nation.

Brotonel: A pillar in my vision is strengthening the capacity of each student…First, let’s cater to our EDGE2018 students by providing free mock reviews and examinations para may mapakanibangan sila to prepare them for the teaching world. [For] EDGE2019…my batch slate have (sic) created a webinar partnering with different review centers para ma-introduce na sa EDGE2019 ang Licensure Examination for Teachers and…to prepare us to become the teachers of tomorrow.

The LaSallian: How do you define the ideal College of Education and how do you envision the college to be by the time your term ends?

Brotonel: I envision a CED that transcends the status quo…by challenging the academic boundaries…Second is having a responsive student services, knowing how difficult the situation is right now…We proceed to [form] a CED that shapes socially responsible changemakers for the nation…We propose a resource center…with exclusive content (on sex education).

Another project is Gabay Phase Two. I think it is a need to create socially inclusive or culturally inclusive learning materials kasi, unang-una, naniniwala ako na lahat ng natututunan natin sa linggwaheng Ingles ay natututunan natin sa wikang Filipino.

I have Hala and Unawa. [Ang] Hala ay pag-uusapan kung ano nga ba ang underlying factors ng child labor, child pornography, children who work in illegal mine sites, children who are illegal soldiers. Lastly, we’ll have Unawa…[where] all of our webinars would have a sign language interpreter. It’s a step closer to a more inclusive CED. For the last, I have [a] CED that strengthens the capacity of each student…We value our advocacies and we should practice it and actualize it.

Lardizabal: It’s time for us to really embrace why we really want to be teachers…I came up with five key ideas that serve as a framework to achieve the thrust…the acronym is REACH—Recognize, Empower, Assist, Collaborate, and Hone. “Let us REACH you.” We recognize the struggles experienced by the college and society. We empower the students by providing them with knowledge and the foundation to learn and develop. We assist the students by providing them with an avenue for student services concerns. We collaborate with one another, not just CED, but with the entire university. Lastly, how can we hone our individual skills to embody the lasallian educator identity?

My three flagship projects…focus on the Recognize and Empower aspect. As educators, we are responsible for building mindsets within society…We want to promote inclusivity and awareness…by discussing topics and about terminologies of LGBTQ discrimination, representation, and how we can teach a younger audience about pride, gender, and racism. Beyond words, just like Alex, I also value ASL (American Sign Language).

But, we’re not achieving the lifelong learning aspects. How do we achieve that? Through source materials for the students so that it can guide them for future practice and it’s accessible and downloadable on the CED network. Lastly (sic) is Educated…Before we branch out, we [have] to embrace our identity [and] support our students, we have to develop together…because that’s what CED is known for. That’s what teachers are known for—guiding your students. 

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

By Kim Balasabas

By Dustin Albert Sy

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