Mdm Rahayu Shukor, a veteran teacher of 25 years, first started teaching lower primary pupils before moving on to teach other levels. She currently teaches Primary Six Foundation English and Primary Five Standard English at Junyuan Primary School.
Her love for children spurred Mdm Rahayu to join the teaching service. “When I see my pupils grow right before my eyes -- from the bright-eyed lower primary pupils to confident young adults, it gives me a great sense of joy and accomplishment to have played a part in their development.”
For Mdm Rahayu, it is important for a teacher to make a difference in the pupils’ life. “It doesn’t matter how small the difference is. It can go a long way,” she shares. “When we care, we must be able to see beyond the surface of the problem the pupils face; what causes the problem and why the pupils react in such a manner. A caring teacher is able to guide the pupils without being judgmental and is not bias in his/her approaches.”
For many of her students, Mdm Rahayu is more than just a teacher. She is also a mentor and someone they can turn to when they have difficulties in school or even at home. One of her students, Rose Aryanie (P6 Resilience, 2013) echoes the sentiments of her peers when she wrote, “You have always been there whenever we need you.”
Ms Toh Zhu Ian, Juanita has been teaching English and Social Studies at Si Ling Secondary School for three years. Ms Toh attributed her career move to her primary school teacher. “I was an introvert back then. With the encouragement of my Primary Four teacher, Mr Neela, I participated in a story telling competition,” she shared. “His belief in me gave me the confidence I needed and I won first place in the competition. That experience changed me and I hope to make a difference in my students’ lives in a similar way.”
As a Form Teacher to two special needs students in Secondary One Normal Academic class, Ms Toh fostered an inclusive environment for her two students. “I created a buddy system and a ‘Most Caring Student Award’ reward system in class to establish a nurturing and caring environment for my students. My efforts were recognised on Teachers’ Day when I received a card from one of the special needs students expressing his gratitude.” Her class was also recognised for its exemplary behaviour and conduct and was awarded the “Top Lower Secondary Normal Academic Care Award” in Term 2 by the school discipline department.
“Earning their trust and respect took time and relentless effort but when I saw changes in them and how they subsequently performed beyond their own expectations for their examinations, it is the greatest reward as a teacher,” she said.
One of her students, Shawn Lemuel Evora Dabi wrote, “Ms Toh is a very patient teacher and presses on despite the indecent amount of stress that our class puts her under. She not only imparts knowledge but goes beyond the classroom to give us moral and emotional support and best of all, she is a true friend.”
In his 25 years as a teacher, Mr Allan Yeong has encountered numerous unforgettable incidents. He recalls a most memorable moment when he was teaching at Bukit View Secondary School. “Straits Time reported my water polo boys walking from a game ‘grinning’ away despite losing 16-3. I thought it was especially cool when the newspaper published what my team captain said, ‘It’s great just being part of the game.’ That statement was itself remarkable as it reflects true sportsmanship...”
His inspiration to teach was attributed to his then-girlfriend who later became his wife. “She was providing free financial and academic help to her nieces, nephews and even the neighbours’ children. I saw the nobility of the teaching profession then,” says Mr Yeong. “She served alongside me as a school volunteer and officer in my Boys Brigade Co-Curricular Activity to mentor my students. She worked tirelessly to raise funds for the Bagpipe band when it was first mooted. Despite her illness, she was always caring for my students and CCA pupils. Her care and commitment for young people continues to inspire me in my work today.”
Mr Yeong is pleased to see many of his students and groups succeed against all odds. “They were recipients of the North West Community Development Council (CDC) Outstanding-All-Round Awards at CDC level for six consecutive years (2006 – 2013). They were also tertiary scholarships recipients and became commissioned officers in their NS,” he proudly shares. ‘Some still remain active alumni serving the school CCA and community even after graduating for more than 10 years.”
There is no place like home, and that is why Mdm Norizah Jamari sets out to create a second home at Assumption Pathway School for her class of students with special needs. Having been a teacher for more than 26 years, she knows that it takes great patience and tender loving care to manage these students, hence the recreation of that “homely feel” for her students.
Her care for the students extends beyond the classroom. She keeps her students engaged in meaningful activities so that they continue to find joy in learning and discovering new things. Knowing that many students have a flair for music, she also initiated a kompang group. She encouraged her students to join the group and give kompang a try as she knew that this involvement would help to raise their confidence.
It is no wonder some students call her “Mommy”. One student, Winston, says: “Mdm Norizah is like our mommy. She is very approachable. We are comfortable with her and feel safe in her class.”
Her warmth and care touched the lives of many of her students and continued even after the students left school. She continually keeps a lookout for her former students and always finds ways to encourage them.
“Although Mdm Norizah is no longer my form teacher, I still love her. She is very supportive. She gives us moral support during the industrial attachment programme by visiting us when we were attached to Hotel Royal & Fairmont Swissotel Singapore. She consoles us when we are depressed, just like a mother,” shares former student Muhd Haikel.
Currently teaching at Xinghua Primary School, Mdm Valerie Chee believes she first fell in love with teaching when she was teaching tuition to support her university expenses. She says, “When I see smiles on my students’ faces after explaining a difficult concept or when their grades improve by leaps and bounds, it gives me great satisfaction. More importantly, I enjoy interacting with my students, humbled that I have played a part in shaping their growing years and inculcating the right values in them.”
A firm believer in the holistic approach, she believes in reaching out to her students and encouraging them to develop their full potential. She tries to be consistent and fair so that her students can pick up the right values and learn to be responsible for their own actions.
One of her former students, Siti Zukirha, (Secondary One) says, “Mdm Chee will stay behind to give extra help to my classmates and I in our Maths. She shares her childhood stories and articles from the newspapers to advise us to work hard and not to give up easily. When we are absent from school, she will contact our parents to ask about us. She is like our mom.”
For Mdm Chee, it is rewarding when she has made a difference in her students’ lives.
Corrine Zhu, a teacher at Anderson Junior College, has gained so much from her teachers and experiences as a student that she wants to contribute in the same way. She said, “Becoming a teacher gives me an opportunity to help students who are not so confident about themselves. It is my hope that they will learn that their greatest accomplishment will be in applying their knowledge and skills to serve others and make the world better.”
In the nearly nine years that she has been in the profession, Ms Zhu is thankful for the opportunity not only to celebrate successes with her students but also to cry with them. “It has always been humbling to be able to counsel students because I find it a privilege that they are willing to share with me. Each interaction is really memorable.”
For Ms Zhu, a key in building good rapport with her students is putting herself in their shoes. “It is about having empathy. Self-reflection about how I might react if I were in their shoes helps me. One quote that is a personal favourite summarises this idea well: “We are all wounded healers, seeking to teach that which we need to learn” (Don M Frick, in “Robert K. Greenleaf: A Life of Servant Leadership)”.
She said, “When students know there are significant adults in their lives who care about them as individuals and place their well-being first, they are naturally more motivated to excel and be the best that they can. Appreciating the individuality and potential of our students also means we are open to different definitions of success. This again serves to inspire students to achieve.”
The Caring Teacher Awards aims to pay tribute to teachers who show care and concern for the holistic development of their students, and go the extra mile to ensure their charges grow up to be confident and independent learners.
Started in 1996, the Caring Teacher Awards is organised by the National Institute of Education, Singapore in partnership with ExxonMobil Asia Pacific Pte Ltd and with support of the Ministry of Education.