Her mother was a kindergarten teacher, and Mrs Janice Bay knew from a young age that she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher too, having watched and accompanied her through the years.
So when she was 17, she joined the same kindergarten, where her mother worked and she had studied, as an assistant teacher.
Now 31, she received the Early Childhood Educarer Award (Outstanding) at the Early Childhood Conference yesterday.
She was among 22 educators and centres that received Early Childhood Development Agency Awards for Excellence in Early Childhood Development from Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee.
"They are role models who can inspire the early childhood fraternity. This is how we can give every child a good start," Mr Lee said at the event at Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre.
For Mrs Bay, the award was 15 years coming. As a child, The Ascension Kindergarten - which she attended as a pupil and where she now teaches - was like a second home.
"I would stay for both sessions every day, join (my mother's) staff meetings and lesson preparations, and got to know the environment and staff very well," said Mrs Bay, 31, who is expecting her first child.
She is now the lead teacher at the kindergarten, and teaches the Nursery 1 class for two-to three-year-old children.
"I am excited to receive the award. In Singapore, it seems like the less qualified teach the younger children. But these awards recognise the importance of the early years," said Mrs Bay, whose mother still works at the kindergarten.
She recounted an incident that became a learning moment for her pupils. A child who brought a leaf into class kept it in the classroom for a week, and it became a "prized item that all the kids would check on every day", she said. "They realised it got more and more brown each day, and I used this situation to teach them about the life cycle of the leaf."
Ms Mohamed Elias Ilaheenisa, 32, switched careers six years ago, after having spent some years as a paediatrics nurse. She is now a senior infant educarer at PAP Community Foundation's Sparkletots pre-school at Pioneer Block 694.
She was given the Promising award in the educarer category like Mrs Bay. Educarers deliver early childhood care and education for infants, toddlers and children below three years of age.
"I thought nursing was my passion but when I entered the wards, I saw children in pain and parents panicking around me. I realised it was not what I wanted," said Ms Ilaheenisa.
"I was always interested in working with children, so I found infant care," she said. "The award makes me feel like what I have done is worth it. I hope it will motivate new educarers, and I want to be a role model to them."