Imoh Essien: Maltina Teacher of the Year Turned Me to Instant Celebrity
Imoh Eno Essien, a teacher at the Special Education Center for Exceptional Children in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, cherish forever October 1, 2016. For it was this day his fortunes and status changed for the best. Having qualified at the state level, he was invited to Lagos by Nigeria Breweries to compete in the grande finale of Maltina Teachers of The Year (MTOY) contest. By the end of the contest, Essien beat nine other finalists to clinch the award; taking over the reign from the pioneer winner, Anambra State Roseline Obi. Essien who was a special guest at the flag off of 2017 edition of the contest told Kasie Abone among other things, that winning the MTOY has made him an instant celebrity
How has wining the Maltina Teacher of the Year affected your life?
In just eight months of winning the competition, I have been transformed into an instant celebrity. Now, you can Google my name and you will see everything about me. It has been a fantastic experience and it has granted a lot of opportunities for me to meet people who are ready to listen to my opinion on various issues.
What was the reaction from your school and your community when you won?
Everybody was happy that I won and they never thought it will come to reality. They were happy that l could achieve such a feat. My school threw a party for me to celebrate that l made them and the state proud.
Could you tell us what your job entails as a special education teacher?
It has to do with teaching persons with special needs. Teaching and bringing education to that level requires special passion, considering the fact that there are people with different classes of disability, from physically challenged, mentally challenged and other forms of disabilities. These people are all brought to school and are taught under one umbrella.
What informed your choice of special education?
I have always wanted to be a teacher and my desire was to help people with special needs. So, when the opportunity came and l got to that school, l was excited. Though some universities and colleges of education have asked me to come and teach, I told them that I am interested in people with special needs and am proud to be where I am; I derive satisfaction teaching vulnerable people.
If you have the opportunity to leave, will you?
Some schools have approached me even universities since I won this award but I turned the offer down. I have a Master’s and I am working on my PhD right now. Despite the opportunities I am satisfied being a special education teacher because it gives me job satisfaction. So there is no point going anywhere.
What was your academic background?
I studied special education at my Master’s degree. For my first degree, it was health education.
As a teacher, what are the challenges facing the teaching profession in Nigeria today?
There are so many challenges facing the teaching profession. We have the student factor, the government factor, the teachers’ factor and the school factor. The challenges are enormous, from some students not willing to learn, to government not providing basic facilities in school, to teachers not being motivated. We have to look at all these if we must get the best out of our education system.
How best can we address the decline in quality education in Nigeria?
For me, there is no decline in the quality of education. What are the yardsticks for determining a drop in education quality? It is all about personal opinion. In fact the education sector is attracting the best brains now. You see graduates of Engineering, Social Sciences or the Humanities going into teaching now, because there is no job for them in their areas of study. So, education is getting the best hands to push up the quality and standard. What we need is just the regulation of standards to weed out chaffs.
What would you have been, if you were not a teacher?
Teaching is my calling and I am passionate about it. But if I have to make a second choice, it would have been a musician or a footballer.
What it is your advice to your fellow teachers?
They should believe in themselves; follow their passion and be tenacious. The reward will come.
Their days will surely come. Teachers should stop looking down on themselves. I believe teaching is the best and the most honourable profession in the world. It is the mother of all professions. So, teachers are the best, and they should see themselves as such.