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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
Mrs Angie Liu, a teacher at Rivervale Primary School with 15 years of teaching experience, believes that sincerity, fairness and encouragement are sure ways of building good rapport with students.
She recalls one memorable incident. “In 2003, I taught a very weak Primary Six class. They were generally good-natured children but not motivated to study. I tried very hard but was not very successful. I was so disappointed one day that I broke down and cried in front of the class. I continued to teach them as much as I could, hoping and praying that they would do well for their PSLE. I was overjoyed when all of them cleared the PSLE! The following year when they came back to visit me, the class monitor revealed that the students were very touched when I cried in class. She said, “Ms Thong, we will always remember what you said that day: “Even if you give up on yourselves, I will not give up on you.” I did not expect my words on that fateful day to have such a great impact on them.”
In 2010, one of the boys in her class fainted during the lesson and was later diagnosed with a brain-related condition. Mrs Liu visited him in hospital with a small gift to motivate the student and worked hand in hand with his parents until he recovered fully in 2011. On 2013 Teachers’ Day, she received one of the best gifts ever, a text from the student saying, “I am very blessed to have such a teacher in my life, and I still have that toy you gave me during my hospital stay.”
Mr Ng Hong Peng, who teaches General Paper, Literature in English at Anderson Junior College, recalls having amazing teachers who went beyond their duties in the classrooms. “My teachers taught me a lot about life and inspired me to want to teach too,” says the soft-spoken teacher who joined his alma mater six years ago.
“Increasingly, students face diverse problems that can affect their well-being and learning. Some students also come from more complex family backgrounds. To be a better teacher and mentor, I try to learn as much as I can to better help students in their development. A good start would be to see each student as a unique individual with amazing potential.”
One of his students Azrina Imran Tan (Class PDG21/12) wrote, “Mr Ng is an extremely caring teacher. As students, we see that he works even harder than we do. His teaching extends beyond the classroom as he becomes a counsellor and respected friend to my peers and me.”
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.