Early childhood and intervention professionals lauded at annual award ceremony

Ms Pearlyn Tan, executive principal of My First Skool at 997 Buangkok Crescent, received the Outstanding Early Childhood Leader Award. PHOTO: NTUC FIRST CAMPUS

SINGAPORE - Ms A. Susila hesitated for a second when she saw a six-year-old do nothing but lie on the ground on his first day at the childcare centre where she was teaching.

Instead of asking him to get up, Ms Susila got down and lay next to him in silence.

After a while, the child, who has autism spectrum disorder, felt comfortable enough to give her one of his favourite toys, something he had never done before according to his mother.

Ms Susila was one of the 23 early childhood and early intervention professionals and centres that were recognised on Saturday (Nov 27) at the ninth Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) Awards.

She received the Outstanding Early Intervention Professional Award, a new award created this year to recognise the important role early intervention professionals play in supporting children with developmental needs.

Ms Susila started her career in the early childhood sector more than 30 years ago in the late 1980s, and was part of the team at pre-school education provider Presbyterian Community Services that pioneered intervention services in 2003.

She said she was thrilled when a child who initially refused to interact with anyone finally opened up to her after she spent one month coaxing him out of his shell in 2003, her first year working in intervention.

"It felt great to make an actual difference in a child's life. At that moment, I felt this was the right career path for me and I was so grateful to be a part of such a nurturing sector," the 55-year-old said.

Minister for Social and Family Development Masagos Zulkifli attended the virtual award ceremony on Saturday and expressed his appreciation for the people in the sector.

"I thank all early childhood educators and early intervention professionals for your commitment in nurturing our children, regardless of their background and ability. Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, you have worked hard to enable our children to continue learning in a safe environment and to give every child a good start," he said.

Ms Pearlyn Tan, executive principal of NTUC First Campus' My First Skool at 997 Buangkok Crescent, received the Outstanding Early Childhood Leader Award this year.

She has 10 years of experience as a principal, after teaching for just two years.

The 33-year-old said: "Being a young leader, I naturally faced some anxiety when I was transiting from a teaching position to a leadership one.

"Besides working directly with children and parents, I needed to acquire new skills such as strategic planning and staff management and lead teachers who have more years of teaching experience than me."

She added: "I believe that leadership is an ongoing journey of learning and discovery, and I must remain open and humble to learn and practise every day."

It was also announced at the event that ECDA will open the Early Childhood Innovation Award to all pre-schools starting from next year.

Previously, only pre-schools that have projects under the ECDA-funded Innovation Grant and Practitioner Inquiry programmes were eligible for this award.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.