Real-life heroine inspires movie
THE movie Adiwiraku was adapted from the real-life story of a teacher who led a group of students from a rural high school in Kedah to become a top qualifier at a district-level choral speaking competition.
Cheryl Ann Fernando shares her inspiring journey on what it means to be a teacher and how she managed to capture her best memories during her younger days.
She believes that we should not allow ourselves to fall into a daily routine but instead, explore and try different things to enrich our own lives.
This led the city girl to leave the comforts of her home in Kuala Lumpur and venture to a kampung to be a teacher.
Fernando studied sciences in high school but soon realised that her interest lies in mass communication and writing.
After completing Form 6, she furthers her studies with a degree in mass communication at Taylor’s University and worked as a public relations consultant upon graduating.
Fernando strived in the corporate world for four years when her path took a different turn altogether.
She discovered her love for teaching after volunteering to help teach underprivileged students in Puchong, Selangor.
In 2013, Fernando joined Teach for Malaysia (TFM), a programme that allows volunteers to explore the life of an educator while gaining experience in teaching.
After weeks of training, she was assigned to SMK Pinang Tunggal, a rural and underperforming high school in Sungai Petani, Kedah. Here, she found the school’s English standard sorely lacking and in need of major improvement.
Fernando incorporated simple yet entertaining methods, such as singing along to English songs and playing mini-games, in classes to create a relaxed environment to encourage students to learn English.
After four to five months of tough grind, she succeeded in instilling confidence in her students to speak English.
English choral speaking results excites people’s heart
The most exciting moment for Fernando was witnessing her students’ unwavering effort in competing in the choral speaking competition.
She shared that her students continued to practise without complaint, even during the fasting month.
For six months, they spent three hours a day preparing for the competition. Their efforts paid off as they won fifth place, trouncing 20 other schools in the process.
For SMK Pinang Tunggal, the amazing result marked the best achievement the school had accomplished.
From real to reel
Fernando is grateful that her teaching experience in Kedah was adapted into a movie, providing a platform to share not only her passion for teaching but also the challenges of being a teacher with others.
“This story is important because it tells a positive narrative of the teaching profession, one that is often looked down upon in Malaysia. From this movie, I hope people were able to see what it takes to be a teacher and it would encourage more young people to join the teaching force,” she said.
To become a good teacher, Fernando believes that cultivating a favourable relationship with the students is important as it helps them become interested in attending classes and hence, more willing to learn.
This was a reflection of her own personal experience, gained from her time spent with the professors at Taylor’s University.
“My degree in Mass Communication equipped me with the skills and knowledge I needed not only to succeed when I was working in Public Relations, but also in school. A degree at Taylor’s is very holistic and the lecturers often provide you with ample opportunity to be creative and to ask a lot of questions. Learning from some of the best lecturers at Taylor’s made me realise what makes a good teacher,” she said.
Many times, during her stint at SMK Pinang Tunggal, Fernando tried to emulate her lecturers to help improve on her own teaching skills.
In 2015, she left the school and joined the Global School Leaders Malaysia, playing her part in building strong foundations in weaker schools and nurturing leaders in hopes of enriching student’s learning experiences.
“Children are the country’s future. If we did not educate them properly, we are likely to push our country towards a decline stage – this is why teachers and leaders in schools are very important,” she said.
Fernando is one of the many success stories moulded under the careful guidance of Taylor’s University.
It believes that education is more of a necessity to achieve career goals as there is more to a student’s experience than just enrolling to study in an educational institution.
Taylor’s University provides students connections that enrich the future, from its global network of partners to world-class academic staff. This is testament to its commitment to go the extra mile, ensuring that its student has a solid stepping stone to success.
■ To find out more about Taylor’s University, e-mail email@example.com, call 03-5629 5000 or log on to www.taylors.edu. my for a chat today.
In the movie, Fernando’s teacher character is played by actress Sangeeta Krishnasamy (left).
Fernando with her students from SMK Pinang Tunggal, Kedah.
Fernando’s stories about her students inspired the film Adiwiraku.