Anton Siaotong

Finding his true calling at the U of S

Anton Siaotong came halfway around the world to find his calling in Canada.

By James Shewaga

The international student from the Philippines will graduate with his second University of Saskatchewan degree when he is awarded a Bachelor of Education at the Spring Convocation ceremonies at TCU Place next week.

"The Canadian experience made me achieve my dream," said Siaotong. "I would not have fulfilled it if I had stayed in the Philippines."

After travelling from the Far East to study science and engineering in Saskatchewan, Siaotong's academic journey turned in a whole new direction when he went from cultivating new fields of research to cultivating young minds.

A 45-year-old former assistant professor at the University of the Philippines, Siaotong secured a scholarship to the U of S where he earned a master's degree, served as a sessional lecturer and pursued his PhD. But more than halfway through his PhD in bioprocessing engineering, he changed course completely to pursue his passion to teach schoolchildren.

"Teaching math and music is my passion and that's the explanation for leaving my PhD," said Siaotong, a former U of S Dean's Scholarship researcher who will graduate with an impressive 86.08 per cent cumulative average in his education courses. "A lot of people wondered why I had to leave my PhD after four years of doing it … but I just felt that I am more called towards teaching in the younger years in elementary and high school, so that I can affect them more. I am a teacher at heart."

Working as a private music teacher on the side to help pay for tuition, Siaotong knew he had made the right decision during his internship at St. Peter School in Saskatoon last fall and has relished returning to the classroom this spring as a substitute teacher. A devout Catholic who has conducted choirs since arriving in Saskatoon back in 2003, Siaotong has felt right at home working in the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools division.

"My faith is very much a part of my life," said Siaotong, who currently sings with the Saskatoon Men's Chorus and conducts both the St. Thomas More choir and the Saskatoon Filipino choir. "My dad emphasized education and my mom emphasized faith, and the combination of such is my reason for being in the Catholic school division right now."

Like most of the members of his graduating class, Siaotong is now searching for full-time work as a teacher and is unsure of his next step and whether it involves securing his Canadian citizenship or returning home to the Philippines. But one thing he knows for sure is that his future lies in the classroom.

"I think my mission is to be able to teach and that is why I pursued the Bachelor of Education," said Siaotong. "I really want to teach math and music … and I am enjoying being a substitute teacher where I go around to different schools. I don't know if I am called to be in a certain country, but I know that I am called to be a teacher of math and music. And wherever I am most needed, there I will be."