On some days, Dr Audrey Cheong Su-Wei, a 37-year-old General Paper teacher, goes to class with an "assertion jar".
Her students fill it with strips of paper containing assertions by others as part of an activity on writing such statements.
The Hwa Chong Institution teacher's aim: to nurture critical thinking that supports dignified discourse, reasoned rebuttals and responsible language use.
Dr Cheong was one of nine winners of this year's Inspiring Teacher of English Award (ITEA). The other winners also believe in cultivating critical thinkers, encouraging students to think of multiple perspectives and to voice their own views.
Said Dr Cheong: "I came up with the idea after seeing how the English language was being used carelessly to sow discord, stratify and stereotype (on the Internet)."
The annual award, which honours outstanding teachers of English Language, English Literature and General Paper, is in its 11th year.
The winners - chosen from a pool of 102 nominations - received their awards from Ms Indranee Rajah, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office, and Second Minister for Finance and Education, at a ceremony last night at The Pod at the National Library Building.
Five of them, including Dr Cheong, received the teaching award for their prowess in the classroom. The others were:
• Ms Hing Mui Hong, 44, from Keming Primary School;
• Mr Casimir Kang Soon Leong, 36, from Naval Base Secondary School;
• Mrs Mishaelle Chua, 42, from St Joseph's Institution;
• and Ms Bernice Yeo, 29, from Eunoia Junior College.
Four heads of department received the leadership award for developing and implementing an effective English programme in their schools. They were:
• Mr Yok Joon Meng, 40, from Yu Neng Primary School ;
• Mr Ratish Balakrishnan, 42, from Evergreen Secondary School;
• Ms Chee Bee Phaik, 62, from Tanjong Katong Girls' School;
• and Ms Erin Elizabeth Woodford, 35, from Temasek Junior College.
Each received a trophy, a certificate and $2,000.
Said Ms Indranee in her speech: "A teacher has to masterfully apply a range of strategies so that all students - regardless of their background and level of development in the language - can enjoy learning the English language daily in the classroom, and out of it.
"It is also critical for an English language teacher to consistently draw connections to the real world contexts to make learning meaningful and come alive. This requires both resourcefulness and flexibility on the part of the teacher in curating appropriate materials, leveraging technology, and providing opportunities for students to apply their learning to authentic situations."
At Yu Neng Primary, Mr Yok, the head of department in English language and information communications technology (ICT), uses tools such as Tricider, a group brainstorming and social voting platform, to encourage even quieter pupils to participate in class discussions.
Since 2008, 95 teachers - including this year's winners - from the primary, secondary and junior college levels have been recognised.
The ITEA is presented by the Speak Good English Movement and The Straits Times, with support from the Ministry of Education.
• Additional reporting by Debra Francisco, David Tay and Zakkiethunnisa Ziawdeen