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Inyangudo… When a teacher got his rewards on earth

By Eno-Abasi Sunday, Deputy Editor
04 September 2022   |   2:33 am
In a clime where teachers largely live in squalor, discountenanced by the high and the mighty, including the political class, the bulk of them resign their fate to the well-worn African saying that teachers...

Ephraim Jacob Inyangudo

In a clime where teachers largely live in squalor, discountenanced by the high and the mighty, including the political class, the bulk of them resign their fate to the well-worn African saying that teachers’ reward is in heaven.

Ephraim Jacob Inyangudo may not have acquired beautiful mansions, posh cars, or exquisite garbs that would make him waltz around like a vacationing billionaire or a business mogul, but the awards and recognitions he has so far received as a reward for his daily sacrifice, toil and immense hard work in shaping the minds and lives of his pupils, he insists, “has truly proved that the age-long saying that the teacher’s reward is in heaven wrong.”

Without word mincing, Inyangudo’s early life could be likened to a tortuous ride on a tiger’s tail. But today, through a combination of hard work, the grace of God, and a cocktail of public-spirited organisations, including the Inoyo Toro Foundation, he is not only a reference point in endurance, perseverance, and sheer commitment to excellence, but he is also an educator par excellence.

In a profession, which has been so badly scorned by society, his labour of love and dedication to duty has catapulted him from being just a teacher to a global teacher, as well as a certified 21st Century educator with at least 10 world-class awards/recognitions for teaching excellence.

Only recently, he was conferred with the 2022 Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement (FTEA) award by the United States (US) government.

The Fulbright Teacher Exchanges are sponsored by the United States Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by IREX, a global development, and education organisation.

As a Fulbright Fellow and as one of the Fulbright Alumni worldwide, Inyangudo in a way represents the US-Nigeria interest in education, and the State Department has mandated him and other Fulbright Fellows to send in proposals of projects that they might want to carry out that will benefit the students, teachers and even their communities for sponsorship by the US government from time-to-time as they (the US government) will deem necessary.

Inyangudo a teacher at Comprehensive Secondary School, Ediene, Abak Local Council, hails from Ika Local Council of Akwa Ibom State. He holds a BSc in Physics, Postgraduate Diploma in Education (PGDE), Postgraduate Diploma in Petroleum and Gas Engineering (PGDPE), Master’s degree in Petroleum and Gas Engineering (M.ENG), Master’s degree in Education (M.ED), Teacher’s Grade 2 (TC 11), and a Diploma in Data Processing & Information Technology.

By the recommendation of Inoyo Toro Foundation, (an outfit that is out to improve the standard of education in Akwa Ibom State, using teachers as the focal point and to complement the government’s effort in enhancing the quality of education), he applied for Fulbright TEA award and went through a series of writings, presentations, oral interviews, and examination, before being selected as the best teacher in Nigeria/Africa to receive the global award in which 90 teachers were selected from 55 countries of the world.

Having been certified by the US Government as a 21st Century educator, he was registered as an alumnus of Fulbright International and thereafter placed on Fulbright worldwide network/platform where he can share ideas, and opinions, and interact with the best brains around the world.

Unprecedented as the achievement is in the history of the state, the Akwa Ibom-born educator has joined 39, 000 best brains around the world who have received the award/grant since its inception 75 years ago (in 1946). Some of them include 60 Nobel Laureates, 86 Pulitzer prize winners, 75 MacArthur Fellows, and thousands of leaders across the private, public and non-profit sectors.

By this award too, Inyangudo has joined the ranks of many distinguished Fulbright alumni globally, some of whom have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists, and teachers.

The science teacher, who lost his father while still in secondary school spent at least 10 years doing domestic duties to his then school principal, the late Rev Fr. P.P Essien. He thereafter also served Rev Father Christopher Umoh, as well as Rev. Sister Bernadette Ezeyi, who was then at Mercy Hospital, Abak.

“Even though Sister Ezeyi had no money, she picked so much interest in me and vowed that I must go back to school, which I had earlier dropped out of. My case was so hopeless that tears became like food to me. One day, a group of young people from Germany sent a letter to her that they wanted to help the poor in Africa. It was part of the money that they sent in that she used to fund my education. For me, that was a miracle as the people stopped sending money as soon as I finished my first degree.

“Today, I have many degrees, and I am not just a teacher, but a global teacher and a certified 21st Century Educator. Today I have up to 10 world-class awards/recognitions for teaching excellence. I am a Fulbright TEA Fellow and a man with many names. The US government calls me Fulbright Teaching Excellence and Achievement Fellow (FTEA fellow); WASHOE County School District (WCSD), Nevada, US calls me 21st Century Educator; the University of Nevada, Reno, US calls me Global Teacher; Reed High School, Reno calls me International Teacher; Inoyo Toro Foundation calls me Double Grand Mentor (Physics); the Nigerian Breweries Plc., calls me the Maltina Teacher of the Year; Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited calls me Best Physics Teacher of the Year, and the Akwa Ibom State government calls me Dakkada Ambassador.”

With his hat already festooned with immense feathers, the teacher urged his colleagues to break barriers and be ready to also make an impact internationally.

Said he: “To every teacher, the sky is not your limit, with hard work, diligence, and focus, you can make a global impact no matter your background, or the way that society sees you. Whenever and wherever you see an opportunity, go for it; never underrate or limit yourself. En route to becoming an FTEA fellow, I got the information from Inoyo Toro Foundation like every other teacher in the state, and I went on to apply and was eventually successful. If I did not apply I would not have been selected. So, I am urging my colleagues to go all out for any good opportunity because you could end up being the person that the world is looking for. So, be passionate, encourage yourself, and remain optimistic.”

On how fulfilled he is that through dint of hard work and perseverance his efforts have been rewarded within the country, while he also earned recognition abroad for services to the education sector, Inyangudo said: “With this award, I feel so fulfilled as a teacher. I am so proud to be a teacher. Imagine the kind of honour I had over there. This award has truly proved the age-long saying that the teacher’s reward is in heaven wrong. Teachers’ rewards are right here on Earth. My orientation as a teacher has changed forever. I am so proud to be called a teacher. Real teachers are change agents. I am so glad to be part of change agents.

The Fulbright fellow, who said that Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria would benefit from his attainment, listed the immediate and remote areas that he is focusing on to create an impact including “skills acquisition, creativity and innovation, youth development, provision of basic infrastructure, and women development etc. Again, the project to be carried out will depend on the grant available, and the area of interest of the U.S government. Every Fulbright fellow is granted this honour as long as he/she lives. I want to thank the U.S government so much for this uncommon kindness to humanity. I thank the U.S. Embassy, Lagos, too for anchoring Fulbright programmes in Nigeria.”

Inoyo Toro Foundation, which Inyangudo credited with “being that light through which I see the world,” and “the mirror through which I see, and reposition my destiny in life” was one of the first organisations to spot his endowments.

He spoke of the outfit thus: “I came in contact with Inoyo Toro Foundation through my friend, Dr. Friday Sandy Akpan, in 2013, during award screening test/interview. Having passed the examination and the oral test, I was given an award for teaching excellence in physics, in 2013. In 2014, the foundation organised a workshop for 2013 award winners, where we were trained on how to mentor teachers/ students. During that workshop, I was asked to mentor seven teachers in my subject area for one year, which I did. In July 20215, a team of education experts and officials from the foundation came to my school to monitor how I trained and mentored my mentees. My mentees went through a micro-teaching session while the foundation officials did an all-around and thorough assessment. We went for a screening test/oral interview in August of the same year and two of my mentees and I were successful. So, I received a Grand Mentor Award in Physics in 2015, having produced two award winners from the teachers that I mentored.

“In 2016, Inoyo Toro foundation sent all the 2015 award winners to American International School, Lagos for a world conference/training. It was a very beneficial experience. Also, in 2020, the foundation trained us again on how to mentor both teachers and students. I mentored another seven physics teachers out of which two came out successful in 2021, and I got my second Grand Mentor Award in physics, in 2021. I became the first person in Akwa Ibom State to receive the Grand Mentor’s Award in physics twice since the inception of the foundation.

He thanked the foundation for the “ massive investment in me, which has changed my life forever. I am a better teacher today not because I went to the US, but because someone laid the foundation for my international flight. I am eternally grateful to Mr. Udom Inoyo for this uncommon vision of repositioning education in our state.” While thanking the foundation for striving to reposition education in the state, he charged other organisations to follow suit adding that, “Inoyo Toro Foundation has also taught our teachers to cultivate the habit of giving back to the society, and this has truly reshaped my life. Today, I invest part of my salary in my students.”

Ephraim has published two books, including Inyangudo Equations For Petroleum & Gas Engineering, as well as published several works in engineering journals. He is also a computer programmer and a software developer.

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