Slippers as a symbol for one’s journey to success—this is a crusade started by Joe-Bren Lee Consuelo, the Senior Education Program Specialist of the Department of Education- Schools Division Office in Ligao City, Albay and a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) alumnus.
Together with friends, he founded the Slippers Project which aims to enhance the potential of gradeschool and out-of-school children so that they could achieve their dreams. Guided by the Multiple Intelligence Principle, he gives inspirational talks and lectures to parents and conducts workshops with children to hone their innate talents. A test-run of the project was done last December with 30 children in one of the local communities in Ligao City.
As to the connection between this endeavor and slippers, Joe-Bren explains “…we give our beneficiaries pairs of slippers to remind them that they need to step up to reach their dreams.”
On Being an FLTA
As a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant (FLTA) alumnus, Joe-Bren received his grant in 2014, which he took up at Stanford University. Since the inception of the FLTA Program in the Philippines, Joe-Bren is the eighth scholar to be admitted into Stanford University. He shares that he dealt with the demands of his stint by being focused and goal-oriented. “I always have clear goals and plans about the things I want to do. I schedule it and finish it step by step. When dealing with challenges I remain calm and rational. Above all these, I am a jolly and enthusiastic person,” he said.
Being immersed in an international classroom and being an FLTA provided Joe-Bren the opportunity to grow professionally and personally. “It provided me a wide array of experiences from having diverse students and classmates up to the promotion of creative and critical thinking. More so, being an FLTA enabled me to teach our language to the students of the United States and I realized that doing so is synonymous to promoting our culture,” he added.
Now home for two years, Joe-Bren looks back: “My experience as an FLTA in Stanford University is not about ‘building resume’ but it is more on building bridges. Bridges between cultures, history, values and especially the languages for these are the key elements that connect peoples from the different parts of the globe.”
Joe-Bren considers the Midyear Conference for FLTAs in Washington DC as one of his greatest breakthroughs during his ten-month program. At the conference, he presented the teaching strategy which he executed at Stanford entitled “Task
-based Approach in Teaching Tagalog”. His other accomplishments included spearheading a cultural presentation as part of the culminating activity of his Tagalog Class, which involved showcasing Filipino folk dances, a cooking demonstration on pancit and a show of the different national costumes from the Bahag of the Igorots to the elaborate Maria Clara dress. He performed in one of the cultural events sponsored by the Pilipino-American Student Union (PASU) called the Pilipino Cultural Night in one of the largest auditoriums in Stanford.
Joe-Bren is now proactive in sharing the lessons he learned from his U.S. stint. He is presently mentoring teachers on making classrooms more globally competitive by using pedagogical approaches that center children in the learning process.
This summer, the Slippers Project will be reaching out to 50 school children in one of the coastal communities in Ligao City. The event will involve giving out school supplies to be used for the next school year. Joe-Bren and his co-organizers are also planning to contextualize the workshops they will be hosting and expand the network of individuals and organizations that can support the program.