SINGAPORE - When Mr Brian Lim was still a student several years ago, he was on a plane to Indonesia and seated next to a woman who was struggling to read and fill in her immigration form.
He helped her and the incident made him realise that he was privileged to grow up in a society where English is the language of instruction, and a tool that gives people access to better opportunities, he said.
Mr Lim, 31, who teaches English at Bukit Panjang Government High School, said he tells his students the story about the woman on the plane to remind them that English is not just a subject in school or another exam to pass but something that will impact their lives.
He was one of this year's seven recipients of the Inspiring Teacher of English Award, announced on Thursday (Oct 7). The award has two categories - teaching and leadership.
Besides Mr Lim, Ms Juliana Natalia Lee Osman, Mr Desmond Chia Han Chin and Ms Charissa Chern Shihui were the winners of the teaching award - which recognises outstanding teachers of the English language, literature or general paper.
Ms Chern, 33, from CHIJ Our Lady of the Nativity, uses dramatisation in her lessons as a tool to bring the quieter students out of their shells, while portraying antagonists in English and literature stories in a different light.
She wants her students to understand different perspectives and develop empathy.
She said: "I assigned my class to read The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and focused on the character, Edmund. I wanted the girls to take a step back and put themselves in his shoes and understand his motives, back story and perspective.
"They were then involved in a hot seating activity, where each student had to take on a different role from the story."
Ms Lee Osman, 35, from Edgefield Primary School, said she believes in the importance of characterisation in her classes, as "it allows the students to walk in someone else's shoes, empathise and relate to them".
Three award recipients - Ms Andrea Yap Ying Hui, Mr Lester Ian Lim Choong Siang and Ms Vikneswari Sukumaran - were lauded under the leadership category.
This category recognises heads of department, subject heads and level heads who have created and implemented relevant and innovative programmes, among other things.
Ms Yap, 32, head of department for English language and literature at Temasek Secondary School, for instance, uses "verbal sparring" - where students say a particular word in various tones or attitudes. The word thus takes on a different intent or meaning this way, she said.
Said Ms Yap: "It helps students to appreciate the importance of a word and punctuation and helps them see the purpose in what they are learning and saying."
The Inspiring Teacher of English Award, presented by the Speak Good English Movement and The Straits Times, and supported by the Ministry of Education, has recognised a total of 118 awardees since being launched in 2008.
Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman, who was the guest of honour at this year's closed-door virtual awards presentation ceremony, said of the recipients: "Not only do they role-model the effective use of English every day, they create environments that are conducive for the practice and usage of standard English in real-world contexts.
"They employ innovative pedagogies to help our students develop the skills to read with discernment, communicate with empathy, articulate with clarity and deliver with confidence. Through their own passion for English, they inspire a similar love for the language in the next generation."
The seven award recipients each received a trophy, a certificate and a cash award of $2,000.
This year's Inspiring Teacher of English Award recipients
Teaching Award category
- Ms Charissa Chern Shihui, 33, CHIJ Our Lady of the Nativity
- Ms Juliana Natalia Lee Osman, 35, Edgefield Primary School
- Mr Brian Lim, 31, Bukit Panjang Government High School
- Mr Desmond Chia Han Chin, 36, National Junior College
Leadership Award category
- Ms Vikneswari Sukumaran, 32, Yuhua Primary School
- Ms Andrea Yap Ying Hui, 32, Temasek Secondary School
- Mr Lester Ian Lim Choong Siang, 42, Dunman High School