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Teaching to unleash potential

Growing up in a family of teachers was not exactly easy for Ms Jo-Anne Seet.

She remembers –– fondly –– having her grammar corrected at the dinner table, getting frowned upon for speaking in Singlish and being quizzed on mental sums during a family road trip to Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

“I guess I didn’t really realise what it meant to have teachers for family members. I thought all of it was quite bothersome,” says Ms Seet, recounting how she had wanted to take a different career path.

But she changed her mind in 2010, when her paternal grandmother, who was an English, maths and music teacher for 40 years, died. Ms Seet was moved to see hundreds of people –– most of them her grandmother’s ex-students –– pay their respects at the funeral.

“People came in droves, old and young, and some were even famous,” says the 23-year-old. “They talked about the impact my grandmother had on their lives. It was a momentous day for me.

“I was inspired and saw the impact I could make as a teacher. Like my late grandmother, I want to help students realise their potential.”

Opening doors

Ms Seet applied for a Ministry of Education (MOE) scholarship after her A levels and was granted an MOE Teaching Award in 2015 for her studies at Nanyang Technological University-National Institute of Education (NTU-NIE). She earned her Bachelor of Arts (Education) in English Literature and English Language (Honours, Highest Distinction) in 2019.

“When I was first introduced to the programme, I was excited about all the doors it would open,” she says. “Other than getting to experience hall life at NTU, I also got the chance to do a non-teaching internship. These experiences have shaped my outlook on life and teaching philosophy.”

Ms Seet also enjoyed the benefits of the NIE Teaching Scholars Programme, under which she completed an internship at Singapore Press Holdings and taught in Finland for five weeks.

She now teaches literature and English at St Gabriel’s Secondary School. “I think this subject is one that requires a certain amount of maturity and depth of thought. It’s enjoyable when my students draw from their own life experiences and come up with insightful responses to my questions.”

Ms Seet believes secondary school is a vital period for students because that’s when they start to discover themselves. She sees her role as a teacher essential in honing their knowledge and character.

“I believe education is important because just like my own experience, it gives us the time and space to make mistakes and learn more about ourselves before we meet the expectations of the working world. It helps us grow our awareness of others, the society and the world.”