A lit­tle bit of ‘magic’ to liven up English class

Ed­u­ca­tor who en­livened sto­ry­telling among In­spir­ing Teacher of English Award re­cip­i­ents

The Straits Times - - HOME - Nur Syahi­idah Zainal

To get his pupils at Yio Chu Kang Pri­mary School in­ter­ested in the Roald Dahl book Matilda, Mr Ed­win Wan used “mag­i­cal pow­ers” to bend a fork, just like the tit­u­lar char­ac­ter could with her telekine­sis.

The head of de­part­ment of English was try­ing to cre­ate a lively read­ing cul­ture in school – and tapped his per­sonal i nter­est i n magic to en­liven the sto­ry­telling.

He said: “I still have kids (who come back to visit on Teach­ers’ Day) say­ing that they re­mem­ber how I bent the fork... But the fo­cus is not the magic but the process of get­ting stu­dents to find out more.”

Mr Wan was among nine teach­ers who re­ceived the In­spir­ing Teacher of English Award at a cer­e­mony held at the Na­tional Li­brary in Vic­to­ria Street yes­ter­day.

The win­ners were cho­sen from a pool of 80 nom­i­nees.

Mr Wan, 37, as well as Madam Kogila­vani Veer­ap­pan, 43, from Bart­ley Sec­ondary School, were given the Lead­er­ship Award, which recog­nises heads of de­part­ment, sub­ject or level heads, or co­or­di­na­tors who have led their schools in de­vel­op­ing and putting in place ef­fec­tive English lan­guage pro­grammes.

The other seven teach­ers re­ceived the Teach­ing Award, which hon­ours out­stand­ing teach­ers of English lan­guage, English lit­er­a­ture and Gen­eral Pa­per.

They are Mrs Mum­taj-Menon Ibrahim, 40, from Huamin Pri­mary; Ms Sheela Devi Tet Baa­hadur, 44, from Te­masek Pri­mary; Ms Sophia Yap, 43, from Be­dok South Sec­ondary; Ms Shalini Thanakodi, 31, from Boon Lay Sec­ondary; Ms Michelle Tan, 34, from North Vista Sec­ondary; Ms Cara Chew, 41, from Catholic Ju­nior Col­lege; and Ms Sharon Chan, 43, from Raf­fles In­sti­tu­tion.

North Vista’s Ms Tan said she was in­spired by the pop­u­lar photo blog Hu­mans of New York, and got her stu­dents to read an ar­ti­cle about the blog, watch a video on blog founder Bran­don Stan­ton, and come up with a way of rep­re­sent­ing their self-iden­tity through vi­su­als and text.

Through this un­graded ac­tiv­ity, they learnt read­ing and anal­y­sis skills, as well as be­came more con­fi­dent in ex­press­ing their ideas.

The ac­tiv­ity was such a suc­cess that Ms Tan’s stu­dents are ask­ing her to con­tinue her meth­ods of bring­ing English to life through dis­cus­sions on news­pa­per ar­ti­cles and think­ing out loud while read­ing.

On us­ing news ar­ti­cles in class, Ms Tan said: “I want to get stu­dents con­nected with real i ssues out there, be­yond j ust the nar­ra­tive text, be­yond just read­ing fea­ture ar­ti­cles on cer­tain themes and top­ics.

“I think there’s noth­ing like be­ing plugged in to what­ever is hap­pen­ing around you at that point in time.”

Dr Janil Puthuc­heary, Se­nior Min­is­ter of State for Ed­u­ca­tion, and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and In­for­ma­tion, was the guest of hon­our at the awards cer­e­mony.

The awards are jointly pre­sented by The Straits Times and the Speak Good English Move­ment, and sup­ported by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Each win­ner re­ceived a tro­phy, a cer­tifi­cate and $2,000 cash. Their school prin­ci­pals were pre­sented with plaques in recog­ni­tion of the schools’ sup­port of the teach­ers.

As part of the awards’ 10th-year cel­e­bra­tions, The Straits Times also pre­sented each teacher with one year’s com­pli­men­tary sub­scrip­tion to NewsEd, its new dig­i­tal learn­ing por­tal for schools, worth $4,800.


In­spir­ing Teacher of English Award win­ners (clock­wise from cen­tre) Ed­win Wan, Mum­taj-Menon Ibrahim, Shalini Thanakodi, Sophia Yap, Sheela Devi Tet Baa­hadur, Cara Chew, Michelle Tan, Sharon Chan and Kogila­vani Veer­ap­pan. The win­ners, who were cho­sen from a pool of 80 nom­i­nees, re­ceived their awards at a cer­e­mony held at the Na­tional Li­brary in Vic­to­ria Street yes­ter­day.

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