SINGAPORE - When teacher Mrs Sharon Choo-Tan Su Cheng faced problems getting an autistic Primary Three student to pay attention in class, she consulted colleagues and his parents for help.
After discovering that he enjoyed wushu, a martial art, she encouraged him to perform a physical demonstration for his classmates - which proved so successful that he went on to perform it at Teacher's Day.
Mrs Choo was one of the ten teachers to receive a Caring Teacher Award at a presentation ceremony on Thursday (April 5).
"I needed to know what would make him want to learn and pay attention - at first I thought that it would be difficult," said the teacher of 29 years, whose student improved academically and personally. "The help I got from the people around me made it all easier.I want my students to take pride in everything they do, even the smallest things. To do it well, even when no-one is watching."
The biennial award recognises outstanding teachers for their contributions to the holistic development of their students. This year's event at Yu Neng Primary School saw three National Award winners and seven National Commendation Award winners from primary, secondary and junior college levels.
Speaking at the ceremony on April 5, Minister for Education (Schools) and Second Minister for Transport Ng Chee Meng acknowledged the important role teachers play in the community.
"We all know what a difference (a teacher) can make to a student's life," he said. "Their care and concern is a ballast when students students face challenges, whether it is in school exams, difficulty coping with grades...different aspects of school life.
"In all these, our teachers make a difference, with that listening ear, that caring touch."
Mr Ng also took the opportunity to launch the National Institute of Education (NIE)'s new Visitor Learning Centre, which highlights the heritage and history of Singapore's education experience.
Through interactive displays and showcases, the centre aims to serve as a learning platform for both student teachers as well as visitors, both local and international.
Professor Tan Oon Seng, director of the NIE, said: "We often get requests for visits to NIE, especially from overseas institutions."
Award recipient Mr Emmanuel Chng, 31, has been teaching for just four years, but his concern for his students is evident. The science teacher at Compassvale Secondary even spent his weekends at the Sengkang Community Club to help them prepare for their O-Level exams.
One of his students, 16-year-old Dion Soh, said he considered Mr Chng "a senior and a mentor". "He really goes out of the way to help us and to talk to us, even about things that aren't related to academics," he said. "When we're stressed, he gives us advice and supports us. He deserved to win the award. I'm really happy that he did."
Correction note: This story was edited for accuracy.