SINGAPORE - Miss Tan Li Ling remembers trying to hold on to one of her pupils - even as he grabbed and pulled her hair - to stop him from hurting himself.
The Primary 1 pupil at Geylang Methodist School (Primary) had anger management issues and acted out in class.
After that incident in 2017, the school spoke to the boy's parents and to other teachers who wished to help.
It was later found that he needed special education.
To help him feel at ease and give him peer support, Miss Tan encouraged her other pupils to make friends and play with him during recess. She also spent time talking to him and trying to forge a bond.
The boy is now in Primary 4 and doing well in school. Miss Tan has a good relationship with him to this day.
On Wednesday (Sept 9), Miss Tan, 47, was one of three recipients of the National Level Award at the Caring Teacher Awards 2020. Seven other teachers received the National Commendation Award.
The 10 winners were selected from more than 5,800 nominations across 225 schools.
The awards "recognise the critical role that teachers play overall, ensuring that learning continues even during a pandemic and that all students are still being cared for," said the organiser of the event, the National Institute of Education (NIE) at Nanyang Technological University.
The Caring Teacher Awards is in its 13th edition and is supported by ExxonMobil Asia Pacific and the Ministry of Education.
Miss Tan, who has been teaching English, mathematics and social studies in the primary school for 20 years, said: "I see that as a teacher, my job does not stop after I take a class for a year. The process should be like a cycle, where we support the child all the way to Primary 6 and further on, if he or she wants to stay in touch with us.
"I believe each child has a gift waiting to be unwrapped. As teachers, we have to help them discover their strengths and tap their potential."
She added that she is very thankful for her fellow teachers and school colleagues.
"It takes more than just one person to help a particular child. Everyone - from the teachers to the canteen vendors and staff in the school - plays a part," she said.
NIE Associate Professor Ivy Tan, who is chairman of this year's awards organising committee and also sits on the panel of judges, said the three national-level winners were "unanimously selected".
"The testimonies related by the principals, colleagues, parents and students who have supported the nominations of the winners... were heart-warming and uplifting," said Prof Tan.
"The award-winners' values of caring and going beyond their call of duty to be the wind beneath the wings for their students are most admirable and especially much needed during this period of the (Covid-19) pandemic," she added.
Besides Miss Tan, the other two winners are Madam Norul Ashiqin Rashid, who teaches at Meridian Secondary School, and Dr Bernard Ricardo from the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science.
Madam Norul, 39, a chemistry teacher, said this is the highest accolade she has received in 15 years of teaching.
"I feel deeply honoured and appreciated. This is an affirmation of the efforts that I have put in to help my students. I love interacting and imparting my knowledge and skills to them. It gives me a sense of fulfilment when I know that they have grown both academically and maturely," she said.
"What's amazing is that I always get to learn something new. There are lots of opportunities for learning and I am also seeing myself growing and developing professionally year by year."
Dr Ricardo, 35, who teaches physics, said: “Being a teacher is not about the title, but about the impact we make. I love teaching as it allows me to impart values beyond knowledge to the students.”