SINGAPORE - When a few of Ms Peng Xinyu's pupils told her that Chinese words look like nothing more than symbols, the language teacher from Yio Chu Kang Primary knew that she had to devise a plan to solve this.
She decided to break apart Chinese words to their strokes and created simple short stories out of them. Compared to the old method of simply memorising words without understanding them, her pupils found that they were able to recall how to write words much more easily.
And when it came to Chinese idioms which were harder to remember, Ms Peng created actions with sound effects, waving her arms energetically and animatedly.
Said Ms Peng: "I think as a teacher, I need to ignite their interest and make them love Chinese."
Ms Peng, 33, was one of 10 teachers who received the Distinguished Chinese Language Teachers Awards on Thursday (Nov 12).
The award, now in its 23rd year, aims to give recognition to outstanding Chinese language teachers who have been exemplary in the teaching of the language and culture. It was formerly known as the Inspiring Chinese Language Teachers Awards.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, about 170 teachers from 91 schools were nominated, with a total of 650 nominations sent in.
During the award ceremony at the SPH News Centre Auditorium, Education Minister Lawrence Wong, referring to the winners, said: "Your passion towards education and care towards your students have not only created a richer learning experience, but also brought out more of their potential."
He thanked them for their dedication and hard work, and encouraged them to keep it up.
Another award winner was Mr Mu Zhiming, 41. The St. Andrew's Junior School teacher writes complimentary letters to his pupils who have done well in their spelling. The letters seem like an official award, and each includes his signature alongside the encouraging words.
He even snaps pictures of his 'award winners' holding up their letters to show to their parents, wanting both the pupil and parents to feel proud.
Mr Mu believes that his role as a teacher is to bring some hope to the classroom.
In line with MOE's shift to focus on self directed and blended learning, Ms Eileen Chew Qian Ru, 34, who is head of the Mother Tongue department in Mayflower Secondary school, fully embraced technology to engage with her students.
She had learnt a lot during the home-based learning period earlier this year and still practises things like recording her lessons and playing quizzes and games to improve her students' learning experience.
Each winner received a cash prize of $1,500 and a trophy. The annual awards are organised by Lianhe Zaobao, ZBSchools.sg and supported by the Ministry of Education. Ms Lee Huay Leng, the head of SPH's Chinese Media group emphasised the importance of preserving and promoting the Chinese language and its culture. She said: "Everyone can see China's growing power as a nation and it's increasing influence on our country. However, at the same time, the proficiency of younger readers' Mandarin is on the decline."
"Therefore, we pay special attention to the Distinguished Chinese Language Teachers Awards. We are happy to work with the Ministry of Education on the path of supporting Chinese language learning for our students."
In appreciation for receiving the award, Ms Eileen Chew said: "I want to thank my teachers who are very supportive and united. When I rally them, everyone really works towards a common cause. In terms of getting this award, they definitely played a part in it."