Teacher's Day special

Queen of their hearts: English teacher's passion stems from struggles as kid

Ms Charmaine Han often livens up her classes at Eunos Primary with interactive games.
Ms Charmaine Han often livens up her classes at Eunos Primary with interactive games.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

English head's passion to help pupils stems from struggles as kid

They call themselves the Han Queendom. Ms Charmaine Han is the "Queen of English" and her pupils her loyal serfs.

The 30-year-old head of department for English at Eunos Primary School leaves in two weeks for postgraduate studies in Britain and her pupils are not looking forward to it.

Rachel Yu, 12, said affectionately: "She would sit here and listen to our stories. If we needed help, she would stay back for us as well. She also used to bring snacks for us. We are really sad that she is leaving."

Ms Han may not return to the school after she has obtained her Master in Effective Learning and Teaching degree from University College London, where she will be for a year on a scholarship from the Ministry of Education.

Always going the extra mile, she uses interactive games as learning tools - for instance, getting pupils to post virtual Post-its with good writing phrases they can share with the rest of the class on an online board.


"Otherwise, it is just books and papers. That is so boring," said Rachel.

Ms Han recalls a former pupil from the Learning Support Programme, which helps those who enter Primary 1 with weak literacy skills.

"Each time she got a question right, I would paste many stickers on her assignment to celebrate the achievement, no matter how small," said Ms Han, who taught the girl from Primary 1 to 3. "Now she is in Secondary 2 and doing very well. It is very gratifying."

Ms Han said: "There will always be pupils who do not have support and have struggled with underachievement for many years, not believing they are able to make good progress. I've always told them not to give up. I have seen pupils fail their English exams and pass their PSLE. It is an amazing achievement and just shows what hard work can bring."

Before leaving her previous school, Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' Primary, Ms Han took Polaroid photos of all the pupils in her Primary 3 class. She kept them till they were in Primary 6 and sent them back with a note of encouragement to each child for the upcoming exams.

Ms Han, who is single and has three siblings, said: "As a child, I struggled to read and write, had abysmal spelling, lacked a functioning memory and was usually overlooked in class.

"Defined and defeated by these external outcomes, I dreaded school and feared my parents and teachers. My passion and purpose as a teacher were forged through the struggles I had as a learner."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 28, 2017, with the headline 'She is the queen of their hearts '. Print Edition | Subscribe