Motivated by a love for teaching kids, Ms Tan Bee Geok went back to school at the age of 45 with the aim of getting the necessary qualifications.
Despite failing an examination, she kept going until she became a qualified pre-school teacher.
Yesterday, she was named one of six winners of the Outstanding Early Childhood Teacher Award, which goes to exceptional teachers of children aged four to six.
As a cook at a childcare centre 11 years ago, Ms Tan, now 51, said she would often mingle with the children there after she had finished cooking.
"My supervisor saw the potential in me and encouraged me to go for some basic courses," said Ms Tan.
The mother of four sat the O-level English examination as a private candidate in 2006, retook the examination a year later after failing it, and went on to attain a diploma in early childhood education last year.
Now a teacher at a PAP Community Foundation (PCF) Little Wings childcare centre, where she has been working for two years, she tries to make her lessons interesting for the children. For example, instead of simply reading stories to them, she incorporates music and drama into her lessons.
Awards in three other categories were given to outstanding pre-schools, leaders of these schools and staff who care for children aged two months to three years.
Ms N. Pushpavalli, 59, of Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten, won the Outstanding Early Childhood Leader Award. Recognising the importance of continuous learning, she gives her staff opportunities to attend professional development courses.
The awards, organised by the Early Childhood Development Agency, were presented by Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing at the Early Childhood Conference yesterday.