‘Teachers must be innovative to induce positive change in students’

Felix Udochukwu Ariguzo

The moment of fame began for 38-year-old Felix Udochukwu Ariguzo, a teacher with Mastercare International School, Asaba, Delta State, as he emerged winner of the Maltina Teacher of the Year for 2017. It is an initiative launched by Nigeria Breweries Plc-Felix Ohiwerei Foundation to motivate exceptional teachers in secondary schools. In this interview, Ariguzo shares his success story with Iyabo Lawal.

What were your expectations when you entered for the competition?
My expectation was to emerge as the state champion and ultimately, the overall winner. Secondly, I wanted to inspire my colleagues to work hard; my expectation was also to inspire my students to do their best, to achieve excellence and be celebrated.

What has happened since you became the Maltina Teacher of the Year 2017? 
I have gained more faith in God who is the architect of my success and I have learnt to trust Him completely. Apart from this, I have suddenly become popular and celebrated in the society as an agent of positive change for my role as a teacher in making great impact on lives.

A great number of people are now appreciating the role and contributions of teachers in the society. For this, I give kudos to Nigerian Breweries-Felix Ohiwerei Education Trust Fund for the initiative. The award has also become an inspiration to other teachers, making them believe that hard work certainly pays. It is driving me to be the best in the society, my school community and my dear students.

What does this mean to you and your school?
It is a positive turnaround. My entire family and community cannot stop celebrating what God has done for us. The entire school community also celebrated this feat. The staff and students gave me a heroic welcome. Some teachers were at the airport to welcome me and they formed a convoy of ‘happy people’ from the airport to the school where I met a larger crowd – all the students, academic and non-academic staff all came out to welcome their “Hero and God’s favourite”.

Students were armed with various placards which bore inscription such as ‘Welcome our celebrity teacher’;  “Man of the year’; ‘our role model’ among others. The school Proprietress, Roli Uduaghan came from Lagos to join the school Parents -Teachers Association (PTA) executives and a host of parents in the celebration. They all expressed appreciation to God and the foundation for its contribution to the growth of the educational sector.

What has been the reaction of the state government to your victory?
As a form of compensation, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has announced plans by his administration to build a centre for the training and retraining of teachers to ensure that only qualitative and competent ones are injected into the school system.

I however thank Nigerian Breweries Plc, organisers of the Maltina Teacher of the Year, for instituting the award and will partner with the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) to adopt a similar approach in encouraging teachers who excelled in their duties.

How has the new found fame affected your family?
It has rubbed positively on my family too. Apart from the initial ecstasy of the grand finale and the reception, Nigerian Breweries gave my family an awesome opportunity to partake in its first biggest Kiddies programme- the Nikelodeon’s NickFest.

What will you do with your prize money?
The prize money will help me acquire more professional skills and trainings, participate in seminars, symposium and workshops in order to be abreast of the current trends in my field and expand my knowledge base.

It will also enable me procure necessary teaching and learning materials, support my colleagues to identify their personal and professional development needs and assist them.

It will also help me to support indigent students and fellow teachers in the areas of teaching and learning materials.

What is the strategy that gave you the Maltina Teacher of the Year crown?
The strategy is the ‘flipped classroom model of instruction.’ This is a relatively new teaching strategy designed to improve students’ engagement and performance by moving the lecture outside the classroom through technology as well as moving homework and exercises with concepts inside the classroom via learning activities.

The core idea of this blended learning strategy is to flip the common instructional approach: class instructions are now accessed at home, via teacher-created videos and interactive lessons, and work that used to occur outside of the classroom is now completed in class in the presence of the teacher.

The strategy gives me ample time to organise laboratory practical sessions to enable my students observe and manipulate real objects or materials, acquire laboratory skills and develop ‘scientific attitudes’, such as open-mindedness and objectivity..

Flipped classroom model has also helped to employ a variety of innovative instructional methods in my teaching such as audio-visual tutorial, individualised instructions, technology integration, team teaching, and collaborated classroom, use of Web 2.0 educational tools, brainstorming, debates, discussion, group work, questioning, simulations and games.

This flip method allows students to learn in a manner heavily integrated with technology, which may be more appealing and relevant to their lifestyles.

For how long have you been teaching and what is the motivating factor?
I have been teaching for 15 years.  I spent four years pre-qualification experience and 11 years post-qualification experience in standard public and private institutions in Nigeria.

Teaching is one of the most rewarding profession with the right environment and necessary infrastructure.

What inspires your attitude to your job?
I am inspired by the love for serving God and humanity. My job helps me to draw people out, to lift them up, and provide opportunities so as to make our world a better place for us all.

What is your message to teachers across the country?
I encourage my colleagues across the country to take teaching profession as a vocation. We should care and love our students and strive for progress, not perfection. We should be helpful and supportive, use a variety of teaching style and innovative approaches to induce positive change in our students and our society.

Above all, we should aim to achieve academic integrity and excellence and to raise a generation of scholars that are God-fearing.

Will you encourage your children to be teachers?
Yes. I will certainly continue to guide them to become what God has destined them to be.

If you were not a teacher, what would you have been?
A medical practitioner, but I love teaching

Who is your role model/mentor?
My role model is my mum for all her mentoring and inspirations. She was an advocate of “holistic” education when she was teaching.

How would you describe the Nigerian teacher?
Everywhere in the world, teachers play a vital role in training, coaching and determining the quality of education and this is critical to sustainable national development.

They are builders of the wealth of nations who deserved to be recognised, encouraged and celebrated. They are moulders of the society even though they rarely get the recognition they deserve.

How best do you think teachers can be motivated?
We should first, respect and publicly praise them. There is the need to use positive and respectful language at all times and also listens to their concerns and observations. This will make them feel valued!

They also need the necessary tools to succeed. These are materials that can appeal to tactile, auditory and visual learners, and time to evaluate and work with each child.

Employers should pay them what they deserve. This will go a long way in encouraging them to put in their best for the good of the younger generation. They should also be encouraged to seek professional development opportunities.



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