Real-life hero­ine in­spires movie

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Education Guide -

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 ad­mis­sions@tay­, call 03-5629 5000 or log on to www.tay­ 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.

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