One passionate and knowledgeable teacher with a heart of gold has always been a shining example for Ms Tan Hwee Ling Sharon.
The 22-year-old undergraduate is now in preparation to be a teacher, and she has her chemistry teacher, Mr Harman Johll, to thank. Mr Johll, who taught her at National Junior College, possessed an ability to engage the class and inspired her to major in the subject, as well as follow in his footsteps to be an educator.
Ms Tan shares how he used to come to class with just two to three coloured markers, and held the attention of her classmates as he worked on
problems and give examples on the board.
She says: “He sparked my interest in the subject, and he had excellent subject knowledge which made chemistry exciting and applicable.
“He reminds me of some sort of mad scientist. When I was a student, I was constantly amazed at his grasp of the subject and his ability to answer almost all of our questions on the spot.”
More than teaching
Mr Johll also showed Ms Tan that the role of a teacher does not end in the classroom. He made an effort to go the extra mile to care for his students, counselling them when they encountered problems.
Recalling the time when she was going through a rough patch at home, Ms Tan says: “His care and concern made me understand the larger role that a teacher could play, beyond academics, in the life of a student.”
Currently in her third year of studies, Ms Tan is part of the Nanyang Technological University-National Institute of Education (NTU-NIE) Teaching Scholars Programme.
“I decided to take up the scholarship and enrolled in the NTU-NIE Teaching Scholars Programme because I was firm in my decision to be a teacher by the time I completed my A levels. I also felt that taking up this scholarship will provide me with the best opportunities to develop my skills as a teacher,” she says.
The four-year programme, which offers education-related and overseas opportunities, enabled her to go on trips to gain valuable service-learning and practicum experiences in India and New Zealand respectively.
“During my trip to Namdapha Nalanda Nature School, I was faced with difficulties of teaching with a language barrier. My team and I had to continually create engaging activities to capture the pupils’ attention,” she says of her stint in Arunachal Pradesh, India.
This experience has inspired Ms Tan to think of new approaches to teaching. “I feel that in Singapore, we take for granted that we have English as a common language and we, as teachers, might unknowingly deliver chunk after chunk of information, expecting our students to understand,” she says.
“However, seeing how the students in India enjoyed the interactive activities, and how effective they were in building bonds, I feel that I would put in more effort to include such activities whenever possible to make learning more fun.”