Winners of the 2020 Inspiring Teacher of English Award

Congratulatory Message by Mr Lawrence Wong,
Minister for Education and Second Minister for Finance

Press Release for the Inspiring Teacher of English Award 2020

ITEA 2020 - Teaching Award Category

Primary School Category

Mr Ignatius Lim Buan Tie

Kheng Cheng School

“It might come as a surprise to many that I am an English Language teacher. I struggled with using the language during my formative years, failed the subject at the Primary School Leaving Examination, and had to repeat a year in school. That valley of failure became the genesis of my learning journey as a user of English. It has also enabled me to understand and empathise with my students’ struggles with the language.

What motivates me is enabling my students, especially the lower progress learners, to gain confidence and become discerning and effective users of English. It gives me impetus to keep up with my professional learning and exploration of a variety of teaching approaches to help my students develop an appreciation of the beauty of English and a love of the language.

I am a firm believer that every child can learn and improve, and I am glad to have the privilege of journeying with my students in learning to be effective users of English.”

Secondary School Category

Ms Rheverie Chen Ying

Unity Secondary School

“I have often been told that I am a ‘strange’ teacher – using the word’s various synonyms – and as unorthodox as it may appear, I am proud to be ‘strange’. It might be unusual that a teacher is thrilled when students disagree with her, or that a teacher is overly-excited to engage in debate. For me, however, it is proof that I am fulfilling the telos of my teaching practice: my students are now thoughtful learners.

I am blessed that relatively early in life, I gleaned the difference between thought and knowledge, and this awareness has shaped my attitude towards literature, education, and teaching ever since. In the short time that students spend in school, what matters to them is not the amount of knowledge that I impart, but the skills and dispositions that I inculcate in them that will serve them well in the future. For Literature, that translates into critical thinking and the empathy to moderate that sharp mind. Literature involves critical thinking and what keeps me going is the realisation that my students will leave school as independent and empowered individuals. Thinking minds will create a thinking nation.”

Junior College and Centralised Institute Category

Mr Karthickeyen Govindaraj

St. Joseph’s Institution

“My teaching philosophy and practice are akin to the roulette patterns I create using a Spirograph. When the stencil ring of lived experience rotates around the circle of time, the traces of observation and learning create an intricate pattern, nudging me and my students to question the symbiotic relationship between teaching and learning. This engagement helps us with our identity construction.

Identity construction guides my teaching of English Language and Literature. While much can be said about identity construction and its influence on the teaching and learning of English in Singapore, the following questions guide, motivate and intrigue my students and I as we construct our identities in the English classroom:

(i) Why invest time in learning the nuances and sensitivities of language when modern communication appears to be functional?
(ii) How can I innovate while conforming to conventions?
(iii) How can the study of English contribute to the betterment of my society?

Be it the ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’, ‘Literary Moot Court’ or a learning journey to study advertisements, I focus on building my students’ identities in the English classroom.”

Ms Ong Xin Yi

Anglo-Chinese Junior College

“It is a huge privilege to be in the classroom with a community of students and I never take that for granted. The diverse profiles and experiences of my students allow me to facilitate meaningful and purposeful conversations in class.

Through these conversations, I enable my students to listen to a variety of perspectives, articulate what they firmly believe in, and develop core values that help them navigate the volatility and complexity of the world we live in. These core values will serve as their ‘anchors’ as they seek their own answers to why they do what they do. It excites me when students leave my class with more questions to ask instead of definitive answers as it demonstrates that they have chosen to deepen their learning.

Above all, it has been and will always be an honour to journey together with students in their learning. This is what motivates me each day.”

ITEA 2020- Leadership Award Category

Primary School Category

Mr Andrew Chong

Opera Estate Primary School

“As a teacher of English Language, I provide interest-driven and authentic opportunities for reading, writing and speaking. To encourage my students to read, I find out about my students’ interests and recommend them the relevant books to read. I plan varied writing tasks for my students to create texts that entertain, describe, inform and respond, such as stories and reflective pieces on current affairs. My students also engage in the collaborative experience of Readers’ Theatre, which allows them to read aloud with expression and participate in dialogue based on the scripts they read. The excitement that I see in my students when they participate in these learning experiences motivates me.

In leading the department, I have built a vibrant culture of learning and the application of learning. This year, my department’s WhatsApp group is abuzz with teachers sharing how they have implemented Quickwrites learned from a workshop. To scale up good practices, I use various platforms for teachers to regularly exchange good practices and guide others in the enactment. I also work with the level representatives to regularly enhance our instructional approaches and materials. By continuously improving what we do, the department is able to create more opportunities for our students to learn more effectively.”

Mdm Renee Yuanna Sulaiman

Punggol Green Primary School

“When I first heard the quote “I am what I am not yet” by Maxine Greene, it immediately resonated with me. I felt that I had found the words through which to express my belief in the value of continuous learning and growth. This idea that a person is always in a state of ‘becoming’ is a philosophy that has guided my practice as an English Language teacher and teacher leader.

I believe we can unleash the potential in any person only when we embrace the notion that they are constantly learning. Therefore, I am constantly motivated to support this process of growth in both my students and colleagues. In doing so, I enable them to find their purpose and voice, and to enjoy their journey as learners, users and teachers of the English Language.”

Secondary School Category

Mdm Sujatha Paramathayalan

St Andrew’s Secondary School

“Teachers of English Language and Literature have a great impact on our students’ lives. Through our teaching, we empower our youths to appreciate the beauty of language and allow them to express and articulate their innermost feelings. We also play a pivotal role in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. We are the catalysts who activate and mediate the learning process by listening to our students, encouraging them to consider alternative perspectives, and guiding their thinking processes so that they can reach their own conclusions on various issues.

The process of facilitating the learning of our students is, I feel, as important as the skills we teach them. Hence, as Head of Department for English Language and Literature, my role is to enable teachers in the department to offer more than mere comprehension and composition exercises, so that our students can be discerning readers, empathetic communicators and creative inquirers.”

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