Winners of the 2018 Inspiring Teacher of English Award

Speech by Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister, Prime Minister's Office
Second Minister for Finance and Second Minister for Education

Press Release for the Inspiring Teacher of English Award 2018

ITEA 2018 - Teaching Award Category

Primary School Category

Ms Hing Mui Hong

Keming Primary School

“Every child can learn – this is the belief that has driven me to make learning appealing to students so that they will be motivated to learn English. To engage my students actively in learning, I make it a point to design and deliver purposeful lessons that cater to their interests and learning needs. I do this by weaving in meaningful activities such as talking about books, role play, storyboarding and song/movie appreciation, and by leveraging ICT tools for my students to write creatively.

I enjoy teaching English and as a teacher, I find myself growing with my students as I constantly think of ways to address their learning gaps and help them to learn. My motivation comes from my students. I am happy to see them grow as readers, thinkers, writers, communicators and persons of character.”

Secondary School Category

Mr Kang Soon Leong Casimir

Naval Base Secondary School

“I believe that young people are capable of amazing things but it is up to us to challenge our own assumptions and beliefs of what they can and cannot do. As a teacher, I am constantly humbled and blown away by how deeply and critically our young people are able to think. It is important for us to give them a voice, a chance, and the belief to do so. The English Language is alive and I hope that I bring it to life in my classroom, and beyond.

There is a lovely saying attributed to my favourite poet, Maya Angelou, which goes like this: ‘Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.’ My journey as an English Language teacher has been, and continues to be, a breathless one, and for this I am grateful to my students for taking my breath away.”

Mrs Mishaelle Chua

St Joseph's Institution

“My philosophy as a teacher in SJI stems from my belief in the Lasallian Education of CARE for our students and to develop the potential of each student. I see myself as planting the seeds of passion for reading in them so that they will grow to be good readers who love reading literature because it gives us wisdom, humanity and a capacity to empathise with others. With sufficient guidance in reading, these young minds will develop a habit of reflection, thus allowing them to develop empathy, which is a quality we can never have enough of, in this information era.

I enjoy teaching because I can make a difference to the future of Singapore and to the lives of our students. I recall the words of poet William Butler Yeats, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” If we try to fill a pail, the learning stops when the pail is full. But when I try to ignite their passion for learning the English Language, the learning will grow into a flame and continue even after they graduate from SJI. It is this challenge in mind that keeps me going for so many years.

Reading can be a solitary and communal experience. For me, my most interesting experience is when my students and I are engaged in a communal experience of sharing and discussing various perspectives of a story. They would learn to listen to the story, consider the cultural contexts of the characters and respond in a critical manner. I recall a lesson where we discussed the significance of the title, Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. Through the thinking questions I posed them, their initial and final understanding of the significance turned out to be totally different. Such experiences of discussion and analysis are very fulfilling to me.”

Junior College and Centralised Institute Category

Dr Cheong Su-Wei Audrey

Hwa Chong Institution

“My teaching philosophy is underpinned by the simple belief that what we do in the classroom matters because it has a ripple effect on society. Who we all become as individuals, the identities we take on as citizens of a shared community, and what our societies will become, are written within classroom walls. As teachers, every single day that we step into the classroom is another opportunity for us to teach from an authentic sense of self, to advocate knowledge for knowledge sake, and to construct more enlightened societies.

Just as language shapes our thoughts, so too does our worldview alter with the ability to articulate various frames of reference through which we see the world more optimistically and less polemically. This comes primarily from appreciating linguistic nuance. Indeed, the General Paper classroom is just one of the ways in which I see myself charged with the responsibility of nurturing in the next generation, the critical habits of mind that support dignified discourse, reasoned rebuttals, and responsible language use.

As an educator, I am deeply motivated by the idea of building more equal, kinder and socially invested communities. This belief drives me as a volunteer tutor in Prisons for candidates sitting for the GCE A-Level General Paper examinations. I have dual research interests in education and literature – particularly educational policy and curriculum, as with the field of diasporic literature. My doctoral research was centered on youth identities and their implications on citizenship education in Singapore.”

Ms Bernice Yeo

Eunoia Junior College

“As a teacher, my greatest victories come from helping my students achieve a genuine connection with Literature. Those moments when students realise that they are able to talk eloquently about the emotions embedded within a poem, or when they find themselves wiping away a tear while reading, or when they quote a line in response to some moving life event – those are the best moments in my career.

A general principle that I abide by in teaching is that students should be taught to enjoy intellectual challenges, so that they seek learning for the joy of discovery, or for the triumphant feeling of wrestling an argument out of confusion and ambiguity. The classroom has to be a safe space for students to venture ideas of all kinds. At the same time, students have to be taught how to evaluate their ideas and apply high standards to their writing, in their own creative voices.”

ITEA 2018 - Leadership Award Category

Primary School Category

Mr Yok Joon Meng

Yu Neng Primary School

“I believe that educating children is not just about teaching them the skills and strategies, but also giving them the confidence and motivation to learn in life. Teaching, to me, is about giving hope to my students so that they always have the resilience and courage to continue to learn and grow.

Every child has a voice and deserves to be heard. As an English Language teacher, I find joy in enabling each child to express his or her thoughts, ideas and opinions coherently and confidently. It excites me when the teachers and I use technology meaningfully in the language classroom to give each child an opportunity to use his or her voice to engage in discussions with others.

Sharing the belief that all our students want to and can be confident communicators, we are inspired to design authentic and engaging learning experiences for them. In doing so, our collective efforts have brought about positive outcomes.”

Secondary School Category

Mr Ratish Balakrishnan

Evergreen Secondary School

“What drives me as an educator is the belief that every student, given the right direction and opportunities, has the potential to achieve whatever they set their minds to.

All students have unique abilities and strengths, and it is my duty to create a safe environment so that they can grow and fulfil their potential. It is important to create an environment that values respect and integrity, so students have the comfort and confidence to speak their minds and ask questions that will help them learn. It is crucial to use a range of strategies to engage students and bring about greater joy of learning. Setting high expectations, while empowering students with the responsibility of making decisions, will inspire them to be better citizens. This is my teaching philosophy, and this is what drives me as an educator at every moment.”

Ms Chee Bee Phaik

Tanjong Katong Girls' School

“Being a leader in the school curriculum is challenging and rewarding. I value the opportunities I have had in change leadership, influencing others through advocating change to bring about joyful learning.

Teaching allows me to pass my love for the language on to others, especially my students. I enjoy being able to experiment and be creative in the language; I can be precise yet flexible. It moves me to realise that my students may not remember exactly what I taught, but they remember the stories I told them. I believe in providing learning experiences for students that develop a sense of curiosity and the confidence to ask and to probe, “Why?” It is an incentive to me when students are empowered to ask clearer questions, even if they may not have all the answers.”

Junior College and Centralised Institute Category

Ms Erin Elizabeth Woodford

Temasek Junior College

“As a teacher and a leader, my aim is for our students to become readers, writers and speakers who use language to confidently negotiate and respond to the world around them. My teaching philosophy is that students should be empowered to “actively construct meaning” with every text they read; to this end, my department encourages students to “find their voices” through activities that encourage them to engage creatively with texts. Our IP (secondary) students dramatise their adaptations of Shakespeare or write/speak ‘in role’ as characters from literature, while our Junior College students perform their own poetry at Literature Night. Such activities build students’ confidence in their own interpretive “voices” while also providing powerful, authentic opportunities for language use.

I am fortunate to lead a dynamic, dedicated team of teachers who are deeply passionate about language and literature. They inspire students’ love of the subject by helping them to see the ‘literary’ in the ‘everyday’. For example, we conduct learning journeys and activities where students can engage with local writing while exploring the Singaporean landscape, or while eating local food. This makes literature relevant, accessible and exciting to students.”