Of course, to my insolent and youthful mind, Math was the pinnacle of those that I did not think I really needed to live my life beyond learning how to count my change after paying the cashier. The subject was and always will be an allergy.
There was this one teacher in college, though, who while she really did not make me like Math any better at least succeeded in making me feel that it was at the very least tolerable. Her name was Dr. Torres; and she was my professor in Basic Statistics.
There are many teachers who are formally trained and who undertake years upon years of advanced studies but who, nevertheless, will still never be any good at teaching because they just do not have the knack.
On the other hand, there are those who are just born to teach; and take to the profession as fish would to water. Dr. Torres was one of those.
Like my friend and former colleague at DLSL Cora Abansi, she had a knack for simplifying the complicated and could make the abstract comprehensible for those – like me – who preferred so much more to deal with the tangible.
She brought so much of the old school sense of dignity into the classroom; spoke in an even tone that, nonetheless, commanded attention; and treated each student equally and with respect.
I passed Statistics at the first take. Forget about the grade, which was no reason to have the course card framed and hung on the wall. That I passed a Math subject at the first take was as significant to me as the first landing on the moon and due in no small measure to Dr. Torres’ abilities as a teacher.
I saw little of Dr. Torres after the Statistics course particularly as I had a Social Science major and saw so much more of my program’s professors.
More than a decade after graduation – and I was already a high school administrator – I returned to DLSU-Manila with fellow administrators from other La Salle schools so we could receive feedback about how to better prepare our students for life at the university.
Dr. Torres, I was happy to see, was one among those who were meeting with us. After the meeting, I rushed to the snacks table to reintroduce myself to her. “Dr. Torres,” I said, “I work now at De La Salle Lipa. I was in your Statistics class.”
Her eyes lit up brightly as she told me, “Oh yes, I remember you!” That was nice of her to say; albeit, I doubted that she did. I mean, I was a varsity football player, yes; but in her Statistics class, my greatest achievement was not calling attention to myself so I wouldn’t be called to the board to solve a problem.
It was not until more than another decade had elapsed before I started to get to know more about my former professor. I had moved up into top administration and, because I was in charge of External Affairs, among my functions was to build up and sustain linkages with other educational institutions.
She had become Executive Vice-President of DLSU-Dasmariñas and was very supportive of NOCEI – a network of colleges and universities that I and my colleagues worked hard to get started. It was during the network meetings that I got to know Dr. Torres so much more than when she was my Statistics professor.
First of all, I learned that her name is Herminia and that those close to hear call her ‘Hermie.’ I also discovered that she was – like me – born and raised in Batangas. I never would have guessed because her accent was always neutral. Albeit, she was from the Western side of the province, a small municipality called Balayan.
This in itself was another topic for further conversation. Although I was born and raised in Lipa, I was no stranger to Balayan because we passed by the town ever so often when we used to go to my Mom’s hometown of Nasugbu.
It was also through Dr. Torres that I got back in touch with a first cousin who I had not heard from for a quarter of a century. Bing – my cousin’s name – was in fact teaching at DLSU-Dasmariñas and worked very closely with Dr. Torres. Imagine that!
There was this one morning when I and some fellow administrators were driving over to FAITH in Tanauan City for a NOCEI meeting when Dr. Torres sent me a text message saying that she had a surprise for me. I knew instinctively that she brought my cousin Bing with her; and we were to meet for the first time since we were teenagers!
I continued to work loosely with Dr. Torres after that, less so when she was due to retire from service and had to return back to the Taft campus of what was then the DLSU System.
To this day, my regret is that I had made no effort to get to know her better when I was still her student; and to a large extent, this was due to my aversion to Math, the subject. Had I done so, I would have gotten to know the things that I discovered more than two decades later and, perhaps, become her friend so much earlier.
When I come to think about it, I cannot remember my other Math professors in college; but I never forgot Dr. Torres. And never will.
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Ms. Alice Rivera, With Respect