Patient, unassuming, friendly and down-to-earth are some words that easily come to mind when describing Mr Chua. As a teacher for Information Communication Technology at the Assumption Pathway School and a firm believer of a holistic education, Mr Chua is well known as a dedicated teacher who goes all out to provide care for students who may not even be in his class.
Mr Chua seeks to engage and transform the students beyond the classroom. He has found that photography is an ideal way to spark interest and create a sense of wonder in students. It is also through this hobby that he tries to share some valuable lessons in life with his students.
One of his students, Zhang Ze Han, says: “Mr Chua cares and understands us very well. He would never yell at us even if we made mistakes. Once, during the Asian Museum Youth Photo Race, we made a big mistake but he told us to embrace it, learn from it and to try our best the next time.”
This dedicated teacher has made numerous home visits to students in distress, even till late at night, rain or shine. He has also led home visits and showed the ropes to new teachers.
One appreciative student, Mohd Daniyal says: “Mr Chua cares a lot about our future. He is also concerned about our lives outside school. If we were absent from school, he would make a home-visit, even when he was recovering from a bad fall, to find out why we did not turn up. This is the first time I have come across such a nice teacher. My family is very proud of him as he has turned me around with his constant encouragement.”
CTA 2014 winner Ms Ong Fang Hui Stephanie has been teaching at Teck Whye Secondary School for four years. An initial challenge she faced was earning the respect of her students. “I struggled to gain the students’ respect since I was not much older than my graduating students. I also had self-belief issues. When I started believing in my abilities, my students started respecting me and appreciating the things I tried to do for them. Commanding their respect can still be challenging at times. But when I chide my students, I make it a point to explain to them my reasons for doing so.”
Two respective quotes from Blessed Mother Teresa and Saint Therese of Lisieux fuel Ms Ong’s philosophy
towards work and life: “We can do small things with great love”, and “Without love, deeds even the most brilliant,
count as nothing”.
Ms Ong shared, “I try to show this same love to every student I meet by knowing them, understanding what troubles them, and prevents them from doing well in school. I do these small acts of showing love by paying attention to the small things like their facial expressions and body language. Such things spur me to approach my students and find out more. To me, teaching is about being authentically human. More than just executing a perfect lesson plan, it involves being available for my students, being transparent, being real, and being myself. One of my students wrote in a Teachers’ Day card that my simple act of asking how he was every time I saw him made him feel valued as a person and showed him that I cared.”
Nick Tan, a student from Secondary 4B, 2014 wrote: “Ms Ong makes lessons easy to understand. She is very caring. Whenever a student seems troubled, she never fails to offer her help. She also assures us that she is available whenever we need her.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.”