Inspiring teacher of English once failed the subject at PSLE

Mr Ignatius Lim, who teaches English at Kheng Cheng School, struggled with English and Mathematics as a primary school pupil and had to repeat Primary 6. He says that his childhood experience has taught him the importance of building confidence in st
Mr Ignatius Lim, who teaches English at Kheng Cheng School, struggled with English and Mathematics as a primary school pupil and had to repeat Primary 6. He says that his childhood experience has taught him the importance of building confidence in struggling learners.PHOTO: THE SPEAK GOOD ENGLISH MOVEMENT

When Mr Ignatius Lim Buan Tie was in Tanglin Primary School, he struggled with English and Mathematics and eventually failed those two subjects at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE).

He had to repeat Primary 6 before making it to Presbyterian High School. There, he met a good English teacher, Ms Maggie Lim, who sparked his interest in reading by introducing him to books that intrigued him.

"Books didn't interest me back then, but she guided me and suggested books in the adventure genre. From there, I began to love reading," said Mr Lim, 42, who is now an English teacher in Kheng Cheng School.

Yesterday, he was one of seven teachers who received the Inspiring Teacher of English Award.

An educator for 20 years, Mr Lim said: "The kind of struggle I had when I was learning helped me to think about how I can make my students understand what I'm teaching."

He said it is important for his young charges to find meaning in learning and not just blindly memorise things like grammar rules and good vocabulary.

He added that he regularly exposes his pupils - he teaches Primary 5 and 6 levels - to newspaper articles and online clips from The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia.

Mr Lim, who also teaches Foundation English classes, said his childhood experience has taught him the importance of building confidence in struggling learners.

He finds ways to help them learn to enjoy writing, such as by teaching them phrases that are "good while easy to spell, connect and make sense in a story".

Words like "suddenly" could be replaced with "out of the blue". An alternative for "scolding" would be "dressing down".

He paid tribute to a former mentor, Mrs Jessie Ching, who taught him various teaching methods. She was the school staff developer at Mayflower Primary School, where he taught from 2003 to 2009.

Between 2010 and 2016, he furthered his studies and was also posted to the Ministry of Education's headquarters. He has been teaching at Kheng Cheng School since 2016.

Said Mr Lim: "What is important to me as a teacher is that my students see meaning in their learning and they can apply what they learn.

"I am a firm believer that every child can learn and improve, and I am glad to have the privilege of journeying with my students in learning to be effective users of English."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 28, 2020, with the headline 'Inspiring teacher of English once failed the subject at PSLE'. Print Edition | Subscribe