Four Inspiring STU Members Honoured
Story by Shukry Rashid
Photos by the Speak Good English Movement
They perform one of the toughest yet most noble jobs around – that of shaping and building the next generation of Singaporeans into persons of character.
We step into the classroom with four Singapore Teachers’ Union (STU) members who were among the nine who received this year’s Inspiring Teacher of English award recently.
About the Award
The Inspiring Teacher of English Award was presented by the Speak Good English Movement and The Straits Times, with support from the Ministry of Education. To date, more than 80 teachers have been recognised for igniting a love for the English language in their students and inspiring them to think and communicate in English more effectively. Each winner received a trophy, certificate and cash award of $2,000.
Mumtaj-Menon Ibrahim, 40, English Language Teacher, Huamin Primary School
With 17 years of teaching experience under her belt, Mumtaj hopes to develop students who understand and appreciate the beauty of the English language. She believes that the classroom environment should nurture confident and articulate speakers and writers, and often adopts a “Philosophy for Children” approach in her classroom to generate deeper student discussions while inculcating the importance of having mutual respect.
She said: “I believe that educating the heart is as important as educating the mind. I enjoy teaching the English language as it gives me an opportunity to develop confident learners who seek to learn beyond the classroom environment and who will eventually be able to contribute to the community in return.”
Shalini Thanakodi, 31 English Language Teacher, Boon Lay Secondary School
After teaching for seven years, Shalini believes that language lessons should prepare students for the real world so that they can be effective users of the language. She always seeks to encourage creativity and self-expression, and often uses journal writing to help students improve their writing skills and relate better to them.
She said: “I also make it a point to create real-world tasks for teaching English, especially for my low-progress learners, so that they see the importance of the English language. For example, I task my Normal Technical students to fill in booking forms for tours and write letters to share their travel experiences. To prepare them for this task, I show them a documentary about a tourist spot. This allows them to simultaneously visualise, build vocabulary as well as develop their listening skills.”
Sharon Chan Wei-Lynn, 43, English Language Teacher, Raffles Institution (Year 5–6)
Sharon believes in creating a lively and unthreatening learning environment for her students. She will challenge them to consider and suggest alternative ways of expressing a similar observation or argument to help them understand the symbiotic relationship between language and the environment in which it is used. She hopes to explore innovative ways to enhance language teaching for General Paper in the classroom.
She said: “I am privileged to be in this position of influence and that drives me to hone my craft, and give my best effort to every lesson and opportunity to impact my students. Despite having taught for 19 years, I am still discovering insights and new ways of teaching my subject. These opportunities to grow as a teacher and individual are precious to me because they drive me to be better at what I do.”
Kogilavani Veerappan, 43, Head of Department for English Language and Literature, Bartley Secondary School
After amassing 18 years of teaching experience, Kogilavani believes that a school can and should provide a nurturing environment for students from all backgrounds to participate in exciting and enriching learning experiences. She also takes great interest in fellow teachers’ personal development, and hopes to engage and share visible thinking and information and communications technology-driven lesson designs with teachers from the English language fraternity.
She said: “Through English language teaching, I bring into the classroom lessons that not only teach an appreciation for the language, but also provide experiences that allow students to grow as persons of character. The English language classroom should be a place where success engenders confidence, and setbacks spur greater effort and hope. My lessons always end with students cheering ‘English for Life’. I share with my students the belief that achieving proficiency in the language will lead to meaningful relationships and ultimately, personal and professional fulfilment in life.”