I am Erinn Oleta, 20 years old, and a graduate from St. Paul College Pasig. It was when I was second year high school when my life took one of its biggest turns. I did not know at that time that because of the things I was going through, I would eventually be diagnosed with a mental illness two years later. With the support I received though from the people around me, it made coping much easier. One of those people was Ms. Katrina Vallejos.
She was not only my homeroom adviser and chemistry teacher in second year but she was also who I considered my second mom and my life coach. I admit that I was weak back then; I had breakdowns after breakdowns because I felt as if I was failing my academics, aside from the personal problems that I was facing. She was there every step of the way though to remind me that I was never alone and that I had her if ever I needed someone to talk to. With every “it’s going to be okay,” she would throw in a hug which gave me a sense of comfort every time, even without her saying anything. I think it’s a super power of hers. She took care of me, understood me, took her time with me, remained patient with me, and never pressured me into doing anything I wasn’t ready to do. Whenever we would bump into each other at the corridor or before leaving the classroom, she would always ask if I was okay or if I had eaten already. The things I couldn’t open up about at home, I found myself opening up about it to her. Although I was afraid I was becoming a burden to her, she never made me feel as if I was one.
With the time I was fortunate enough to spend with her both inside and outside the classroom, she taught me a whole lot of lessons in life. I then take these lessons with me wherever I go with the hope of making her proud wherever she may be. She played a significant role in making me the stronger and the better person that I am. The person who is now more confident that she is capable of doing anything as long as she, herself, believes that she can. Although after graduation, we rarely saw each other anymore or keep in touch, I still consider Mama V as a personal hero to this day not only for the lasting impact she left on me but also the lasting impact she continues to leave on her students each school year. She would go the extra mile to show love and care for her class, treating them as if they were her own kids. She’ll believe in you so much that it’ll make you want to give believing in your own self again a shot. I’ll always be thankful for the faith she showed me and the strength she lent me when I was running out of it. Her profession tells her to teach chemistry, but I see that her heart tells her to teach more than just academics, something that could actually be applied in our everyday lives. Sometimes I wonder though if there’s anything she’s going through herself; not so often does she share her story since she’s always busy reaching out to others. Mama V, you’re probably tired from my repetitive thank you’s but I applaud and just appreciate you so much for that, for being the living proof that not all heroes wear capes.