Early childhood teachers who go the extra mile

Although Ms Sulochanah Kanapathy's pupil was already four years old, he could not say a word.

But the 47-year-old teacher from Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten was determined to help the child with special needs speak his first words. She went the extra mile, going to his home, giving him extra learning materials, and training his parents to better manage his education.

The experience from seven years ago also drove her to take a course in special needs education to understand children with such challenges better.

Yesterday, she received the Leading Foundation Teacher Award, in the Early Childhood Educator category, at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Nanyang Technological University.

The other recipient in the same category was Ms A. Neshanthini Neelamohan, 33, from Sparkletots Preschool @ Braddell Heights Block 246.

Ms Wong Jia Min, 34, from Fei Yue Community Services and Mrs Lee E-Lyn, 47, from Methodist Girls' School (Primary) won the Leading Foundation Award in the Special Needs Educator Category.

The Leading Foundation Teacher Award recognises excellence in early childhood, special needs and allied educators who have made significant contributions to the well-being and teaching of their students. It is given by NIE and the Community Foundation of Singapore.

The four were selected from 57 nominations by a judging panel comprising members from NIE, the Ministry of Education and the National Institute of Early Childhood Development.

Ms Neshanthini said she ensures that her lessons appeal to all types of learners, while Ms Wong said parental support is key to a child's development.

Mrs Lee said she uses humour in her classes to encourage her pupils to express themselves and to feel relaxed in a safe environment.

She focuses heavily on celebrating small successes and encouraging them. "I'm not just their teacher, but their cheerleader too."

The awards are sponsored by The Leading Foundation, which was co-founded by Mr Lim Siong Guan, a professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, and a former head of the Singapore Civil Service, with Ms Joanne H. Lim, founder of a communications consultancy.

Mrs Jennifer Lim, Prof Lim's wife and the guest of honour, presented the awards to the winners, who each received a cash award of $2,500 and a certificate.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Early childhood teachers who go the extra mile'. Subscribe