“Show me your As.” These four words were destined to change Ms Francesca Wah’s life trajectory for good.
Coming from an underprivileged background and not too keen on academics, Ms Wah was motivated to change by the persistent encouragement and concern of her geography teacher, Mrs Shernice Chia.
Ms Wah went on to earn a Master’s degree and is now a primary school teacher at Xingnan Primary School in Jurong West. She has also founded a non-profit organisation, Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (BLESS).
“It was my teacher, Mrs Chia, who gave me the courage to believe in myself and pursue my dreams. Now, as a teacher, I strive to give my pupils a renewed sense of purpose, creating in them a desire for knowledge and empowering them to take ownership of their learning, just like how Mrs Chia inspired me,” says Ms Wah.
Turning her life around
Ms Wah’s academic career began less than promisingly. Scraping through her Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), she flunked all her subjects in her first secondary school class test and had to stay back for extra classes until 6pm every day.
When she asked Mrs Chia what she would have to do to regain her freedom, the teacher replied simply: “Show me your As.” These four words sparked a determination in Ms Wah to indeed do better and work harder.
Her first taste of success came when she emerged third in her class for her Secondary 1 SA1 examinations. This spurred her to redouble her efforts, and she succeeded in topping her entire cohort in Secondary 2.
Around that time, Ms Wah’s mother had to go for surgery. Mrs Chia made extra effort to keep Ms Wah's mother informed of her daughter’s academic achievements.
“Mrs Chia was adamant about telling my parents about my good progress. She did a surprise home visit just to tell my parents about my results. I was extremely touched by that simple gesture, and felt that there was a person out there who genuinely cares for me,” says Ms Wah.
Passing on the BLESSings
Ms Wah eventually went on to found BLESS, an organisation that serves families who live in rental flats. Among other things, it organises reading programmes to help children with their English, and hosts an online platform that lets members of the public purchase gifts like stationery, schoolbags and walking frames for those in need.
As a primary school teacher, Ms Wah also strives to support her pupils the way Mrs Chia supported her.
“I share with them my definition of success — the faithful stewardship of the talents and capacity they have been entrusted with, inspiring them to live out the spirit of excellence,” she says.
"Knowing that I have faith in them gives them the confidence to believe in themselves.”