Teacher of the Year Award (TOYA) winner Phylis Wangeci from Mahiga Girls High School poses with the l trophy in Nyeri. The Kiswahili teacher was named the winner at the end of the 42nd Kenya Secondary Schools Head Association (KESSHA) annual delegates conference at the Mombasa Wild Waters Theme Park, June 23, 2017. [PHOTO BY KIBATA KIHUSTANDARD].
Phylis Wangeci Muchiri is many things rolled into one. She is the deputy principal of little-known Mahiga Girls Secondary School in Othaya.
Ms Muchiri is also the school’s discipline teacher who specialises in Kiswahili and Geography.
She has also authored three Kiswahili books, Mwongozo wa Tabiria za Kigongo, Kilele cha Ushairi and Stadi za Marudio.
Her Kiswahili class topped the county in last year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) with a mean grade of 10.44. The class had 42 As, 64 A- and 52 B+.
Muchiri is also a music teacher and a table tennis coach. And that is not all; she holds a master’s degree in education and leadership from Kenya Methodist University (KEMU).
And during the recent Kenya Secondary Schools Heads Association (KeSSHA) conference in Mombasa, Ms Muchiri added another feather to her hat when she scooped the Teacher of the Year award crown.
The 43-year-old overcame stiff competition from teachers of more established schools to lift the trophy.
She was recognised for her contribution to improving her school’s performance in Kiswahili, especially after grades dropped in the previous years.
“I have tried to win the trophy twice but only made it to the county level,” said an elated Muchiri.
Last year, Muchiri lost to Lucy Wangari, a Kiswahili teacher from the same region.
The winner was picked from eight regional representatives who had made it through the school, sub-county, county and finally the national level.
“We went through an aptitude test and oral vetting before the winner was named,” Muchiri said.
She added: “While this trophy is a source of inspiration for me, it is also a challenge for me to work even harder to remain at the top.”
And a trophy is not all she got. Muchiri was promoted and also pocketed Sh100,000 for her troubles.
“I am proud of my achievements. I am also happy that I made Mahiga Girls stand out,” she says.
She believes what captured the attention of the panellists to earn her the victory was her students’ high performance, her leadership skills and previous achievements.
She adds: “To say the truth, I didn’t know I would scoop the title. I owe my success to the school for providing a conducive working environment that motivated me.”
A fifth child in a family of ten, Muchiri’s education was not without challenges.
She was forced to drop out of school in Form Two due to lack of fees and only resumed a year later after doing odd jobs to raise fees.
Later, she made it to Kenyatta University and pursued a degree in Education.
Mahiga Girls, currently with a population of 896 students, was her first posting and after 15 years, she is the deputy principal.
She says she was inspired to become a teacher because the most successful people around her as she was growing were teachers.
“Most of my classmates who had the best uniforms and nice packed lunch were teachers’ children.”
Muchiri says one of her biggest challenges is balancing between her duties of a deputy principal and a teacher.
“The deputy principal is the school disciplinarian. I have to establish a friendly atmosphere with students yet still remain a disciplinarian,” she said.
The principal, Mary Wangombe, describes the Kiswahili teacher as persistent and committed.
“We are very proud of her and appreciate her efforts,” Mrs Wangombe said.