Eight receive top award for teachers

Recipients of the President's Award for Teachers 2018: (from left) Ms Ng Sheh Feng, 36, from Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary; Mr Matthew Ong, 38, from St Andrew's Junior School; Ms Goh Wai Leng, 42, from Geylang Methodist (Primary); Mr George Teo, 52, from S
Recipients of the President's Award for Teachers 2018: (from left) Ms Ng Sheh Feng, 36, from Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary; Mr Matthew Ong, 38, from St Andrew's Junior School; Ms Goh Wai Leng, 42, from Geylang Methodist (Primary); Mr George Teo, 52, from Singapore Polytechnic; Ms Tan Lay Khee, 39, from Temasek Polytechnic; Madam S. Nirmala Devi, 54, from Guangyang Primary; Dr Lim Yi-En, 49, from National Junior College; and Mr Edzra Iskandar, 48, from Bedok South Secondary.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

From conducting classes in the style of reality TV show MasterChef and creating elaborate games, to helping students find an emotional link with science, eight educators won recognition - and the President's Award for Teachers - yesterday for commitment to their craft.

The teachers, who were chosen from 2,500 individuals nominated by school leaders, teachers, parents and students, received the award from President Halimah Yacob at the Istana.

The recipients were recognised for their commitment to developing students, their creative ways of teaching and being mentors to their colleagues.

They are: Ms Goh Wai Leng from Geylang Methodist (Primary), Madam S. Nirmala Devi from Guangyang Primary, Mr Matthew Ong from St Andrew's Junior School, Ms Ng Sheh Feng from Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary, Mr Edzra Iskandar from Bedok South Secondary, Dr Lim Yi-En from National Junior College, Mr George Teo from Singapore Polytechnic and Ms Tan Lay Khee from Temasek Polytechnic.

Mr Ong has designed and used more than 10 games in his classes over the years. His latest game, The Revenge Of The LetterPillar, is a world that unfolds over weeks.

In it, his Primary 6 pupils at St Andrew's Junior School are word detectives who must restore order to the English language by catching the villain LetterPillar. Meanwhile, his minions, Dr Verbose and Sentence Sasquatch, are messing up words and sentence structures.

Pupils need to form words and uncover missing letters by earning "letter dollars", which Mr Ong gives as incentives for good work.

They can call on literary heroes such as poets Edwin Thumboo and Li Bai for help by reciting poems, and open up treasure chests for bonus letters.

"I am fascinated by how games are designed and their unique ability to capture interest," said the 38-year-old head of department for English. He has received funding from his school to turn his game into an online format for more teachers to use.

Another teacher, Madam Nirmala, has a creative way of teaching science, with a twist for a subject associated with "hard facts".

The lead teacher for science at Guangyang Primary spends the last five to 10 minutes of lessons linking concepts to values.

For instance, she would ask pupils who keeps them upright, just like how a plumb line is used to find the centre of gravity.

"Talking about feelings helps them remember concepts better. I don't believe in preparing them just for exams," said the 54-year-old.

Two polytechnic educators also received the accolade.

At Temasek Polytechnic, Ms Tan wanted her pharmacy students to communicate better with patients so she got them to role-play dissecting their own performances.

"Things like body language and having eye contact are important. The students could be familiar with content but when they explain it to patients, they may use a lot of jargon," said the 39-year-old.

Mr Teo, 52, the course chair in business innovation and design at Singapore Polytechnic, turns his tutorials into a game show, where students receive envelopes with mystery tasks and race to answer questions.

"I enjoy the laughter and energy in class," said Mr Teo, who quit the corporate world to join Singapore Polytechnic in 2000.

"My friends laughed at me and thought I wouldn't last beyond three months as an educator because I am an impatient person," he added. "But I have changed a lot. I am more patient, I see things from different perspectives, and I also learn from my students."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2018, with the headline 'Eight receive top award for teachers'. Print Edition | Subscribe