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This English Language and Literature teacher has learnt that it is the little things that matter most
By Aster Tan
Ms Devaser says her job has been “life-giving” – both to her students as well as to herself. PHOTO: FRENCHESCAR LIM

Miss Hannah Devasar makes an extra effort to show care and concern for her students during home-based learning

There is a handwritten note tucked away in English Language and Literature teacher Hannah Devaser’s smartphone cover.

Written by a student whom she had counselled in 2020, it was an expression of thanks for her help in navigating the challenging months doing home-based learning (HBL) as well as for motivating her to run for student council president.

Over the years, Ms Devaser has accumulated a number of such heartfelt notes from grateful ex-students whose lives she has touched. She rereads them every time the going gets tough.

“(The notes) bring me great assurance to go with my gut and keep giving in whatever way I can,” says the 32-year-old teacher from Tampines Secondary School.

SPREADING THE LOVE

Having been on the job for 10 years, Ms Devaser is keenly aware of how even the littlest actions can have the biggest impact. In the past two years of the pandemic especially, she has made it a point to pay even more attention to how her students were coping.

“HBL has not been easy for them,” she notes. “Not being with friends at school made many feel very isolated and alone.”

During HBL, she used digital platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet to connect with students, where they were able to share openly about issues such as parental and personal expectations as well as other non-academic challenges.

A lover of English language and literature, Ms Devaser, a Ministry of Education (MOE) Teaching Scholarship recipient, pursued the subject at the bachelor as well as postgraduate diploma levels at King’s College London in the United Kingdom and Nanyang Technological University respectively.

Now, as the subject head of the English Language and Literature department at her school, nothing in her students’ learning journey is left to chance. She not only selects literary texts in consultation with fellow teachers, but she also designs academic tests and assessments herself. She also aims to create interesting lessons which spark joy in learning while shaping the character of students.

“I spend lots of time thinking about how to make my lessons meaningful and relevant – not just to my students now, but also to the future adults they will become. I only feel like I’ve done a good job when they grasp a concept or see someone else or even themselves in a different, more positive light.”

TEACHING IS LIFE

To provide learning opportunities beyond the classroom, she arranged for participation in the National Schools Literature Festival, learning journeys to the Institute of Mental Health and panel discussions with external visitors.

Prior to Covid-19, they also had theatre visits and attended film festivals. In-house, the department organised poetry and art displays related to the texts the students studied. Last year, they held two poetry slam performances and invited speakers to run in person workshops on poetry and illustration.

Even as she enters the next decade of her teaching career, she aspires to keep growing as an educator who never loses sight of her passion.

“I want to be an influential educator who leads by example and forges genuine, long lasting connections with everyone I meet,” she says.

Visit moe.gov.sg/tss for more information.

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