When Romulo Rocena, Ph.D., was in high school, he impressed his math teacher so much that the latter kept insisting he take up civil engineering in college. Unfortunately, his parents could not afford to pay for his college education. Armed with nothing but strong determination, he enrolled at a state university in the neighboring province of Ilocos Norte, and was eventually granted full state university scholarship. He finished with a bachelor of science degree in industrial education, as the school did not offer engineering courses.
This twist of fate proved to be all part of God’s plan for Dr. Rocena. In 1984, he started as a classroom teacher at a public school, and worked his way up to head teacher, and then school principal of various secondary schools. He was the principal at Ramon Magsaysay (Cubao) High School in 2013 when Dr. Rocena was appointed Assistant Schools Division Superintendent of the Division of City School, Manila.
“A principal is likened to the captain of a ship sailing on rough waters,” says Dr. Rocena, named one of The Outstanding Principals (TOP) in 2013, an awards program organized by the Leadership Strategies for School Managers (LESSM). “He is responsible for the course of the voyage that the school will follow. This task calls for a lot of planning and preparation. He needs to prepare a road map and identify the best route to get to the destination. Wherever he goes, the school follows. That’s how critical the principal is,” he adds.
Dr. Rocena realizes the important role that schools play in shaping the minds of our youth. That is why he embarked on projects which promoted educational leadership and youth development, such as the Adopt-a-Scholar and Adopt-a-STAR (Student At-Risk) programs. These were geared towards reducing the number of dropouts, failures, and students who leave the schools.
“I know very well how those less fortunate children feel because I myself came from humble beginnings. I am also inspired when I see the commitment of the teachers to make a difference in the lives of our students,” says Dr. Rocena, who has also been actively involved in the SB Center of Excellence in Student Leadership (CETREX), a pool of student leaders from 46 public schools in Quezon City.
Himself a multi-awarded teacher and principal, Dr. Rocena wanted other outstanding teachers to be recognized as well. He organized the Search for Outstanding Teachers in all the schools where he served as principal: Batasan Hills National High School, Don A. Roces Science-Tech High School, Quezon City Science High School, Ernesto Rondon High School, Culiat High School, and Ramon Magsaysay (Cubao) High School.
Being one of the TOP awardees last year greatly humbled Dr. Rocena, knowing that many other educators deserve the same recognition. “But listening to the cheers of the schools which I serve, I felt convinced that I deserve it. Its impact to me is to become a better servant,” he adds.
The only thing that’s worth more than awards and recognition bestowed on Dr. Rocena? “Seeing the smiles on the faces of graduates as they receive their diploma,” he answers.