Teacher Tisha Gonzalez – Cruz, wife and mother of 3 started her passion for teaching when she was 13 years old. She had her first classroom in her backyard with 12 neighborhood kids. She carried this passion and dream of teaching all the way to graduate school and eventually working in her own classroom. In 1995, Teacher Tisha moved to New York. In New York she worked with a teacher who loved making teacher-made materials. Together they created a classroom with materials made from everyday objects. In 2002, teacher Tisha moved back to the Philippines and got a teaching position as a pre-school teacher at the International School Manila.
During one of her teachable moments at her preschool classroom at the Internations School, her students learned that they could share their old crayons and schools supplies to needy children. Teacher Tisha and her students decided to conducted a simple crayon project. The children were tasked to collect old crayons, scratch paper and writing materials to donate to a school in Miarayon region, a community of tribal minorities under the province of Bukidnon. Seeing the utter lack of materials in the classroom, this started a dream for Teacher Tisha. A dream to someday fill a public school classroom in the poorest community of the Philippines with materials – teaching tools that will help unlock the world of discovery for Filipino children and to train, assist and empower teachers to teach in an enjoyable, dynamic and productive manner through songs and games.
In 2002, keeping the dream in her heart, she started a publishing house and called it Learning Lion Books. For 8 years she created a whole library of English materials. By 2010, Teacher Tisha with the help of Rio Manotoc, Joan Abong and a team of volunteers who believed in the same mission together improved the materials, raise funds to conduct workshops and to provide all their English reading materials to different communities. They donated to Efren Penaflorida’s Kariton Classroom in Cavite City, AHA Learning Center in Makati – a free nursery for children living in the cemeteries along Kalayaan Avenue, GreenEarth Heritage Foundation in the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountains, an indigenous community in the remote mountains of San Ysiro, Antipolo, Casili Elementary School in Rizal, all the Assumption Transformative Schools, daycare centers in Laguna to name a few.
After donating to these schools and communities, gathering the feedback from teachers and observing the children, Teacher Tisha realized something was missing. She realized that it would be more effective if they were taught first in Filipino.
Thus in 2011, Alpabasa was born. The first Alpabasa material was a 31-page book that transformed into Filipino flashchards focusing on syllabication. With the support of Sa Aklat Sisikat, this first Alpabasa material was shared to more than 100 public school teachers. The teacher’s appreciated the materials but still Teacher Tisha knew that something was still missing.
In 2012, together with her very good friend Aina Zulueta – Valencia they started working on re-creating the Alpabasa punch-out book. It took them about 2 years to create the Alpabasa Syllable cards and the Alpabasa Filipino Flashcards. Each kit has over 40 original songs recorded and arranged by Lester Delgado. It also came with instructions to help children learn different skills in reading through songs and games. Teacher Tisha believed that the best way to learn was through play. By 2014, with the support of Vice Major Joy Belmonte and the Division Office of Quezon City, Teacher Tisha and Ms. Aina were able to raise enough funds to donated the Alpabasa Syllable cards to 100 first grade teachers and the Alpabasa Filipino Flashcards to another 100 kindergarten teachers. Thus in July 21st and 22nd, Teacher Tisha, Ms. Aina and 12 amazing volunteers conducted a teacher training workshop to 200 Public school teachers from Quezon City. All the 96 schools from Quezon City were represented in this workshop. The teachers who attended were very appreciative and all said it was something they needed in their classrooms. Teacher Tisha did some classroom observations after the July workshops and even if she saw that the children were engaged and learning, singing the songs and the feedback was positive, Teacher Tisha still felt in her heart there was still something missing. She knew that the children were learning some skills in reading but not enough to help them learn to read with fluency.
Teacher Tisha realized she needed the help of the experts. Teacher Tisha attended Teacher Sholeh Villoria’s reading workshops. Amongst all the workshops teacher Tisha attended in her teaching career, for Teacher Tisha Teacher Sholeh’s was by far the best. Teacher Sholeh’s way of teaching was like no other. Teacher Tisha asked Teacher Sholeh to help her with her advocacy and without even thinking twice, teacher Sholeh offered her assistance. Teacher Sholeh on her own would also conduct workshops and give away her materials to teachers that needed it most. Teacher Tisha knew in her heart that Teacher Sholeh was her answered prayer. In that same workshop Teacher Tisha met Teacher Noelle Pabition. Teacher Noelle was a Teach for the Philippines Teacher. Teacher Tisha also asked Teacher Noelle to help out in her advocacy. Together Teacher Tisha, Teacher Sholeh and Teacher Noelle worked on re-creating and making Alpabasa a complete reading program.
After working for almost a year, these three teachers and the Alpabasa team created the 8-step Alpabasa reading program. In the summer of 2015, with the generous support of Janice Villanueva’s Mommy Mundo, they conducted a summer pilot reading program with 12 volunteer teachers from Quezon City. These teachers attended a series of reading workshops and conducted summer classes for approximately 20 children. In just 18 days, the results were astounding. 92 out of 106 could read and write letters, about half could read our storybooks and all 106 mastered their sounds and actions.
After the summer program, these 3 teachers joined the Pharmaton Life Changers Challenged to win a 1 Million Peso grant. In July of 2015, Oras Na Para Sa Alpabasa won.
Today with the help of countless other generous individuals, Alpabasa is helping school in Quezon City, San Fernando Pampanga, and Muntinlupa.
Teacher Tisha believes this is GOD’S HAND HAND AT WORK. Therefore, with continuous prayers, lifting up all to God, doing what we do for HIS GREATER GLORY, and with dedication and perseverance, the Alpabasa team dreams that someday we will be able to fulfill our vision that every Filipino child will be given the opportunity to learn to read and develop the love for reading at an early age. We dream of building a nation of readers through empowered teachers. We dream that ever Filipino child will be a fluent, eager, and confident reader.