SINGAPORE - As a biology and science teacher at Yuhua Secondary School for 10 years, Ms Germain Kang Yin Ga was always just a WhatsApp or Instagram message away if a student needed help.
Even those with questions at 2am who had insomnia.
The 34-year-old's use of information and communication technology (ICT) in class through digital tools such as online quizzes came in handy when the circuit breaker to stem Covid-19 infections was imposed in April last year and home-based learning was being done.
Said Ms Kang, who was posted to the Ministry of Education's headquarters this year: "It wasn't easy to manage (home-based learning) throughout the Covid-19 pandemic because many students face issues back at home."
Some had to take lessons in a small flat with as many as six siblings who were also on home-based learning, while others were unfamiliar with using IT equipment for school, she added.
Ms Kang, who was also the school's head of department for ICT, led a team that created guides using infographics and videos, and a one-stop website to aid both students and teachers manage e-learning resources. She also worked with management to ensure that teachers' mental health did not suffer by ensuring that there were breaks between lessons.
For her efforts, Ms Kang was one of 13 teachers given the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan's Leap Award, which is in its 10th year.
Unexpectedly, the pandemic also showed her new possibilities for learning through technology.
"Before the circuit breaker, I used to meet one of my Secondary 3 students, who is from China, in the library for sessions to explain and translate biology concepts in Chinese," she said.
But with video recordings with parts translated into Mandarin, she noted that the girl could catch up without slowing the class down and rewatch portions that she did not understand. Such a method could be added to the toolbox for teaching.
The annual Listening Educator for Advancement and Progress (Leap) award recognises exceptional educators who have made a positive impact on their students. A total of six primary school teachers, five secondary school teachers and two special education teachers received the award at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Cultural Academy.
At the ceremony on Monday (Aug 30) ahead of Teachers' Day, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing commended educators for helping Singapore's education system function seamlessly over the past 20 months amid the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Acknowledging the difficulty of being a teacher, Mr Chan said: "The impact that a teacher has in a day can indeed shape a person for life."
In his speech, he highlighted two award winners who went the extra mile, including cancer survivor Lim Ing Yew, 72, who teaches Chinese at Tanah Merah Prison School.
Despite being diagnosed with three kinds of cancer between 2014 and 2020, Mr Lim has continued to teach student-inmates since 2019.
The retired mechanical engineer even used his experience to inspire a 50-year-old inmate with stomach cancer, who eventually scored an A1 in Chinese at the O-level examination.
Said Mr Lim: "I noticed the positive and hard-working attitude of students (in the Men's Prison Chinese Reading Club that I volunteered in), which made me want to become their volunteer Chinese teacher."
Mr Chan also paid tribute to APSN Tanglin School senior teacher Aznita Amin, 35, one of the two special education teachers who bagged the award.
Ms Aznita has taught numeracy and physical education at the school for students between 13 and 16 with mild intellectual disability for the past eight years.
"Sometimes all the students need are opportunities or the right platform for them to showcase their abilities and strengths," she said.