Mr. Kristoff Guerrero Patterson, an achiever at the age of 40, has been teaching at University of Saint Antonio de Padua for almost ten years now. He had been a scholar since he was in college when he graduated at the top of his class with a degree in Education, major in English, and pursued his master’s and doctoral degrees in Chicago, where his family lives and where he worked as a teacher. He returned to the Philippines, initially to take care of his Lola Amparo, but decided to remain in the country when she was diagnosed with colon cancer. Being the eldest grandchild, he was taken to task by his entire clan to look after her. Instead of moping and just relying on his grandmother, Kristoff decided to apply at the university since it was near his grandmother’s house in Gagalangin, Tondo.
Kristoff, though known as brilliant, was known for being very strict, exacting, and pushy when it came to his students’ performance. As a result, not a few students would be shivering whenever they would pass by the stocky, tall young man with a patrician countenance, football player built, and a stentorian baritone. The long-time college teacher would also require his students to immerse themselves into many readings as part of his courses on professional education, discourse analysis, speech, and research.
One time, as Kristoff as about to enter his classroom, he saw his student Connie hurrying towards the entrance, her hair dishevelled and her face bereft of makeup. She reeked of cigarette smoke and her backpack, which she held by its strap instead of carrying it on her back, was caked with dirt and mud.
Connie was known as the perennial late and “uninspired” student because she would come to class looking unkempt and disoriented. Despite her shortcomings, she never gave up on her class, being a full-time call center agent at night after her classes.
“Ms. Fernandez,” Kristoff spoke, sounding like Zeus. “I want to talk to you.”
Feeling a rush of anxiety, Connie dropped her almost-open backpack inadvertently but went to pick it up. Little did she notice that Kristoff noticed that she had a lighter and a pack of cigarettes inside her backpack.
“Yes, Dr. Patterson,” the 22-year-old working student quivered.
“I’m glad you’re early,” Kristoff said, “because I have noticed that you were sleeping in my class about twice already.”
“Since we’re alone, let’s talk by the hallway. Come on, tell me what’s bothering you. Cut to the chase, Ms. Fernandez.”
“Frankly, Dr. Patterson, I don’t mean to offend you, but you come across as scary. Sometimes, I feel afraid whenever I would be in your class. But I keep on trying, sir.”
“I am worried about you, Connie. Your best friend Adrienne told me that you are working at a call center full time. Aren’t you worried about your performance?”
“In fact, Dr. Patterson, I am consistently in the dean’s list. I just had to start working since last year because both my parents died in a car crash. I have to support my little brothers and sisters because they are still in school.”
“Connie, just do your best always. I commend you for being very resilient. But please, take care of your health. I suggest that you stop smoking and you resign from your job since you’ll be graduating next semester.”
Since then, Connie began taking care of herself once again. She quit smoking, went to the gym, and was able to convince her team leader to let her have her days off on Mondays and Tuesdays, the days of her classes, instead of resigning. She also served as an inspiration to all her classmates, who offered to help her ever since they learned about her situation. Even those who were formerly antagonistic towards her have become her friends.
One day, word spread that Kristoff caused several students to file a complaint against him because he has been giving them much work. These students were known to be mediocre and were contented with just passing their courses. They were also known to be antagonistic towards Kristoff due to his strict and forthright ways.
As Kristoff and the College of Education dean, Dr. Maritess Garchitorena, were talking about the issue against him, Connie and her best friend Adrienne happened to eavesdrop their conversation by accident. The two women went to the students who complained to the dean about Kristoff and confronted them without any warning. The students happened to be sophomores.
“What’s this I hear about your complaining about Dr. Patterson,” Adrienne exclaimed. “Aren’t you feeling guilty after what you’ve done to him?”
“We want him out of this school,” one of the students snapped back. “He thinks he’s high and mighty. He makes us feel stupid.”
“I agree with Mark,” another of the students interrupted. “We try our best but he’s too much. Dr. Patterson’s getting into our nerves. One time, he reprimanded all of us because we did poorly in his class and called us a bunch of ne’er-do-wells.”
“I think Sir Kristoff has a point,” said Connie to the students. “I, for one, was reprimanded by him. I was amiss in my responsibilities as a student because I was juggling work, but I am now back on track. Mark, Charles, John, Kenneth, think about what we’ve said. If I were you, retract what you’ve said, do better, and reform.”
“Yes, Ate Connie, Ate Adrienne,” said Kenneth woefully. “We’re so sorry for what we’ve done to Dr. Patterson.”
Together with the two young women, Mark and his friends went to Dr. Garchitorena and withdrew their complaint against him. The dean was happy that the four young men admitted their mistake and that they decided to apologize to Kristoff.
Meanwhile, that night, Kristoff was so crestfallen over the complaint brought against him. Lola Amparo noticed that he was not touching his food.
“What’s the matter, Kristoff,” the 88-year-old asked. “I noticed that you did not eat.”
“I cannot take this, Lola,” Kristoff spoke out, with gloom and some rancor in his eyes. “Some students complained about my strictness and even wanted me out of the university. All I wanted was for them to be the best. Even Dean Garchitorena almost wanted me out. I do not know what to do.”
“Just keep on doing the right thing, Kristoff,” Lola Amparo advised him, trying to bolster his self-confidence. “You’ll see, those kids are going to fall on their knees and beg for your mercy. I believe in you, my grandson.”
The next day, as Kristoff got off his Toyota Corolla, Mark and his friends approached him and then apologized to their teacher.
“We’re sorry,” said Charles. “From now on, we’ll listen to you and we’ll do our best.”
“Yes, Dr. Patterson,” said John. “We talked to Dr. Garchitorena and withdrew our complaint.”
“What made you do it,” Kristoff asked the four young men.
“Ate Connie and Ate Adrienne convinced us to do so,” replied Mark.
Kristoff forgave the four young men and even inspired them to study harder. Mark and his friends eventually became part of the dean’s list and focused their energies on their studies instead of on mobile games. They also learned how to be more respectful towards their teachers and to do research, since they were also education majors.
As for Connie and Adrienne, the two got the highest grades in Kristoff’s class because their term papers were adjudged the best.
Connie and Adrienne graduated magna cum laude. Kristoff was one very proud mentor, especially when he learned that Adrienne had just been accepted as an instructor at University of the Philippines before she graduated. He was also proud of Connie because she was eventually hired by a major university in Chicago, upon Kristoff’s and her other teachers’ recommendation.
Years later, Kristoff resigned from University of San Antonio de Padua when he decided to return to Chicago after his Lola Amparo died from natural causes. He returned to Chicago and taught at DePaul University, where Connie was also teaching and was reaping awards left and right for her exemplary research works and her teaching. Meanwhile, Kristoff was promoted to dean of the College of Education. He married Dr. Garchitorena, who turned out to be his girlfriend back in the Philippines, and they had two children, whom they raised in Chicago.
As for Mark and his friends, they graduated with honors and decided to start a school of their own, which became very successful especially when it had several campuses. They became friends with Kristoff, whom they considered their second father and their mentor.
“I am so proud of you, Connie,” said Kristoff as he invited her to have pizza at Lou Malnati’s, one of the famous pizza spots in the Windy City. “This is my reward for you. And I have believed that you will be better than me.”
“Because I have a great mentor in you,” Connie, now married to an American banker, quipped. “Thank you for believing in me and the others, sir.”#