Sunday, 31 August 2014

President's Award for Teachers 2014

Inspiring teachers win awards
Five honoured for their innovative teaching methods to engage students
By Kash Cheong, The Straits Times, 30 Aug 2014

PUPILS in Ms Sim Lucy's Chinese class at Guangyang Primary are sometimes seen raising their arms or even throwing a punch.

They are not asking questions - or being naughty - but obediently learning Chinese using a set of hand actions developed by Ms Sim to help her charges remember how to write Chinese characters.

A punch represents a dot, while a raised arm stands for "shu" or a vertical line in Chinese script.

Ms Sim, 49, has also written songs using phrases lower primary children have to learn. They learn while singing in class.

"I didn't like Chinese when I first started, but lessons are now fun and I am more attentive in Chinese class," said eight-year- old Alegria Lim.

Said Ms Sim: "Students these days are not like before, they don't just sit down and listen to you, you really have to engage them."

For her efforts, she received the President's Award for Teachers yesterday.

Four others - Madam Linda Lim from Chongzheng Primary, Ms Rezia Rahumathullah from Da Qiao Primary, Ms Wendy Wong from Geylang Methodist Secondary and Dr Muhammad Nazir Amir from Greenview Secondary - also won the award this year.

They received the award from President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the Istana yesterday.

Madam Lim, 38, received the honour for her innovative teaching methods in science class.

Pupils get to understand the concept of absorbency by testing which diaper soaks up the most liquid.

They even get to shake fizzy drinks and find out which one is the fizziest of them all. This is measured by the amount of liquid that overflows from each can with a given number of shakes.

"In science, seeing is believing," said Madam Lim. "I want students to know that science is all around them."

Da Qiao Primary scored a hat- trick as Ms Rezia, 36, is the third teacher from the Ang Mo Kio school to win the award.

Said her pupil Marcus Leong, 11: "I was a shy boy who even found it difficult to speak up.

"But Ms Rezia saw the bright spark in me and believed in my ability to lead even though I doubted myself," said the vice- head prefect of Da Qiao Primary. "I am grateful to her," he added.

Hands-on approach the way to go, say President's Award recipients
By Loke Kok Fai, Channel NewsAsia, 29 Aug 2014

Two of the five teachers who received the President's Award on Friday (Aug 29) have taken a more hands-on approach in the teaching of Science.

Leaving textbooks aside, the Greenview Secondary School teacher of 11 years, Dr Muhammad Nazir Amir, prefers the use of scientific toys as teaching aids. He said they not only engage kinesthetic learners better, but allows them to understand deeper scientific principles as they create and play.

He said: "Traditional teaching matters, especially didactic ones, do not necessarily motivate the students intrinsically, which is very important in getting students to learn. The lack of play elements in some of these experiments may be an issue. So getting them to play with toys, or design and make toys, actually offers them a chance to be inquisitive into the scientific principles behind the toys, and that really works for them."


This approach seems to have paid off. Dr Muhammad Nazir's Normal (Technical) students have gone on to win national science competitions, including the Raffles Junior College Toy Inventor's Challenge and the Amazing Science-X Challenge, traditionally dominated by academically-stronger students.

Some even gained the confidence to cross into the Normal Academic stream. Dr Muhammad Nazir said: "This really gives them the self-esteem, the heightened self-worth that they can actually be good in their academic abilities. With the heightened attitudes towards science, this is when we guide them through their 'N' Levels, or even their 'O' Levels."

Part of this is also due to Dr Muhammad Nazir's humble nature, and the mutual respect shared between him and his students. As his students inspired him to pursue his doctorate in education, he too encourages them to pursue their dreams.

A former student, Dylan Tang, said: "I chose to go to Normal (Academic) course because I want to become a pilot when I grow up. After school when he is free, I will drop by his physics lab and talk to him, and tell him my dreams. He will tell me to fight for it, which I did."


Madam Linda Lim of Chongzheng Primary is also a firm believer in students' self-discovery. The Head of Science at the school runs a well-received 'show-and-tell' programme, in which students are encouraged to think up and carry out experiments with real world applications, including finding out the strength of sunblock.

She said: "The kids are supposed to think about experiments that they would like to carry out. After carrying it out, they present it to their fellow schoolmates. The entire process not only inculcates individual thinkers but it also boosts the student's level of confidence. If we give the children the opportunity to experiment, to see the results for themselves, I think they can understand the concept better."

Madam Lim added that what lies at the heart of learning science is the nature of discovery, and that as a teacher, she is but a facilitator learning alongside her students.

While the methods of both teachers have been recognised by parents and adopted by colleagues, perhaps the best acknowledgement comes from the smiles, and success, of their students.

Students’ well-being comes first for President’s Award recipient
Da Qiao Primary teacher believes in positive education instead of reactive punishment
By Kelly Ng, TODAY, 30 Aug 2014

When her student at Da Qiao Primary School misbehaved by trampling on spiders, Ms Rezia Rahumathullah pulled him aside and made him do a PowerPoint presentation on animal welfare for the class.

It is an example of how the school has been handling disobedient students for the past three years — by getting them to discuss with their teachers ways to rectify their misbehaviour. This approach was initiated by Ms Rezia, 36, when she was the school’s discipline mistress.

“Punishment doesn’t work because it is a reactive approach and not aligned with what they have done. Instead, (we) want students to ask, ‘How can I make myself better?’,” said Ms Rezia, who currently heads the school’s Character and Citizenship Education Department.

She described the approach as positive education — focusing on building relationships with students. “We need to go to their level, understand their background, what made them the way they are ... Children are not naturally violent or vulgar,” she said.

Ms Rezia, who has taught for 12 years at Da Qiao, was one of five to receive this year’s President’s Award for Teachers at the Istana yesterday.

The award is presented annually to teachers who are dedicated to the holistic development of their students.

The five recipients this year were chosen from a pool of almost 2,800 nominees by a panel chaired by Member of Parliament Lim Biow Chuan, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee (Education).

The other four recipients were Madam Linda Lim Yen Peng from Chongzheng Primary School, Ms Wendy Wong Yoke Chan from Geylang Methodist School (Secondary), Ms Lucy Sim from Guangyang Primary School and Dr Muhammad Nazir Amir from Greenview Secondary School.

Ms Rezia, who was a Normal (Academic) stream student in secondary school, once struggled with an inferiority complex as she had trouble coping with her studies, at one point failing all her subjects. “I felt absolutely helpless … I had no money to seek help from tuition, so the only people I relied on were my teachers,” she said.

What helped was a teacher who not only assisted her in getting financial aid through bursary awards, but also helped her find value in herself. “I am very thankful that she was concerned about my growth … she didn’t think we were hopeless just because we were in the Normal (Academic) stream,” Ms Rezia recalled fondly.

Her experience spurred her belief in positive education, a concept that puts students’ well-being at the heart of education with the use of psychology, which she chanced upon while doing research in her own time.

Student Marcus Leong said he used to be shy, but Ms Rezia constantly challenged him to step out of his comfort zone. “Ms Rezia believed in my ability to lead even though I doubted myself. Because of her, I took the challenge to be the vice-head prefect,” said the 11-year-old.

The positive education concept has been well-received by her colleagues and principal — the school has even invited experts to help staff get acquainted with it. Among the initiatives Ms Rezia has helped spearhead is the colourful Gratitude Wall at the first level of the school, where students and staff — including non-teaching staff such as canteen vendors and cleaners — pen thank-you notes to one another.

In the staff room, teachers buddy up so they can help look out for one another. Building camaraderie is key, so that when teachers face difficulties, “they know they are not in it alone”, said Ms Rezia.

Ms Rezia added that seeing students “turn around (from their problems) because they feel valued” keeps her going.

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