Math 12 with Miss Debbie
On the last day of my Math 12 class, my teacher Miss Debbie Verzosa posed the final question for us to ponder: “Why are Filipinos poor?” How a semester’s worth of math lessons, stemming from box plots to annuities, culminated to a question as thought-provoking, still baffles me. But then that is the thing with Miss Debbie’s classes: the probabilities are endless.
I can never really consider myself as a “numbers” person. In fact, just the opposite. It’s no secret that the big fat F that blemished my transcript belonged to a previous math course -- and it continues to haunt me to this day. Try as they might to sugarcoat it, past teachers and whiz friends have never shaken my understanding that mathematics was no more than a field of formulas for which my brain was no match. Yet, this notion would ultimately run a different path when I made it to the final math course of my life, and it was taught by no less than Miss Debbie.
Looking back to it, what really drew me to Miss Debbie’s classes was the fact that she took the subject from its realm of equations and operations and found it a niche in fields that the class would most appreciate: forensics, art, social issues, current events, et cetera. She never missed our attempts of finding the solutions to her questions, never refused to challenge us in an exam, never failed to take the equations from the textbook, and through it all, she never ceased to amaze us.
In class, she was a doting mother, never allowing any of us to submit an unfinished work. Such works would be returned to us before we could leave the room. And there, she would help us come up with a mathematical reflection to finish the task. Every day, we would take home something from her class - like a mere topic example fashioned into a game in order to relate to our own reality - only for us to return an output that is far better than what we’d initially thought we could accomplish.
That semester, I found Math 12 with Miss Debbie an important hour and half of my Tuesday and Thursday schedules; it wasn’t a subject that I just wanted to miss. How many times did I find myself in front of Sec A 321, biding my time for a consultation with Miss Debbie? My desperate attempts have found me slumped at the brown wooden table, clacking away at my calculator, making scratch papers out of my own test papers, while other students who also went in to consult with Miss Debbie came and went. And yet, Miss Debbie would still find time to assess my progress and patiently wait until I’ve learned the lesson by heart. She would do just that every day, with every other student, without so much as a sigh - even when she had something more important to do, such as, grading graduate papers, or facilitating another class’s test, or even taking her lunch break.
I guess that was the reason why despite my alarmingly troubled skills in math, I grew altogether interested in the subject, and eventually, kept at it. I knew that even if I couldn’t understand it but wanted to learn it, there would always be someone in the form of Miss Debbie who would extend a hand, urge me to deliver, and without her knowledge, egg me to do more.
To the next batch of math students after me, Miss Debbie’s name might just be another name in their textbooks or at the faculty lounge. But I had the privilege of enlisting in her class. She’s the person who proudly wore white in class last November to openly support the coco levy farmers, who went abroad years ago to earn money cleaning houses, who wants to come to the province and live a simple life someday, who I simply cannot justify within the text of this write-up. She had been my teacher – and a great one at that.
Katrina Bonillo/BFA Creative Writing