Chinese teacher mentors pupils in and out of the classroom

Inspired by her own teacher, Ms Desiree Ang applied for the MOE Teaching Award and hopes to make a difference in her pupils’ lives

By Rachel Ng

When Singapore moved into the circuit breaker period in April last year, pivoting to a hybrid model of teaching became the new reality for teachers and students.

And Ms Desiree Ang was no exception. With schools closed, the Chinese language teacher at Jurong Primary School had to come up with innovative ways to create meaningful lessons for home-based learning (HBL).

She recorded videos of herself teaching, added pictures and animations to her PowerPoint slides and also leveraged the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) online platform Student Learning Space to pose questions to pupils so she could assess if they understood her videos.

In spite of lessons going online and the disruptions to everyone’s lives, what does not change is a teacher’s love and passion for her pupils and the profession. For Ms Ang, HBL also allowed her to put into practice her philosophy of “teaching with empathy”, a belief shaped by her experience during a teaching attachment in Sweden in her undergraduate years, as part of the NTU-NIE Teaching Scholars Programme.

“Many students at the school I was attached to were immigrants who came from complex backgrounds. The teachers in the school were able to empathise with them and were constantly finding ways to help them overcome their difficulties,” she says.

Likewise, during HBL, Ms Ang tried to support her pupils remotely by creating an online space that allowed her to check in on their well-being. When schools reopened, she continued to keep tabs on their progress.

“Initially, they were reluctant to share about their struggles,” she says. “But after some effort and perseverance, they opened up, and I was able to provide them with the support they needed.”

An unwavering passion

Ms Ang joined the education service following her own positive experience as a student.

Despite being an introvert, she was given the opportunity by her teacher to emcee at school events and join the student council.

Her teacher supported her through this journey of self-discovery as she gradually broke out of her shy personality. Inspired by her teacher’s belief in her, she realised that she, too, wanted to make a difference in children’s lives.

Her love for the Chinese language stems from her family, who exposed her to Chinese culture from a young age. During a relief teaching stint, she noticed that many students felt the language “was difficult and that they were uninterested in learning it”.  

This made Ms Ang all the more determined to master the language and teach it, which led her to pursue a degree in Chinese 
Language and Literature at Nanyang Technological University under an MOE Teaching Award.

“I chose to become a Chinese language teacher because of my unwavering passion for the language, and I want to pass this on to future generations,” she says.

To those considering teaching, Ms Ang says: “You hold a key that can make a difference in someone else’s life. Go for it!”