Depositing into every student’s Emotional Bank Account – Mdm Yeo Chay Yee

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How do we spark the joy of learning in our students?  To do that, Mdm Yeo Chay Yee, who believes that her Primary 2 students are innately curious and hungry to learn, constantly explores and tries a variety of ways to make her lessons fun and interesting. For example, for Mathematics, she uses the See, Think, Wonder thinking routine to identify her students’ prior knowledge and get them curious and excited.

Her pride in her students is evident.

“The students are passionate about acquiring knowledge. They show enthusiasm in sharing their ideas with their classmates. They are able to make connections from what they have learnt in class to real-life examples,” she says.

Her student, Shu Yu, says, “I like Mdm Yeo because she is very kind. She is very patient when she guides us in our work. When I have problems, I can talk to Mdm Yeo.”

Besides making learning enjoyable, Mdm Yeo instils strong values in her students. To her, a good teacher is one who imparts values. She recognises teachable moments to help her students build character, provides a listening ear to her students and gives them advice on their problems. To build rapport and connect with her students, she takes time to write personalised notes to them and deposits them into their Emotional Bank Account in the classroom. Through this, she creates a positive class culture and gets to know her students better.

Mdm Yeo also encourages her students to build good relationships with one another. Students are encouraged to write positive messages to their classmates. Shu Yu shares, “I use the mailbox to say ‘good job’ and ‘don’t give up’ to my friends.”

Another student, Shahan, says, “I like the mailbox. I wrote a letter to my friend to thank him for helping me with my work. I was very happy when another classmate wrote a letter to me to ask if we could be friends.”

Through the Emotional Bank Account, Mdm Yeo and her students create many positive school experiences and fond memories together.

A firm believer that it takes a village to raise a child, Mdm Yeo works hard to create strong school-home partnerships. She builds trust with parents and works closely with them to help her students grow and maximise their potential. She provides regular feedback to parents on their child’s work and behavior in school. One way that she does so is by sharing her students’ achievements with their parents so that they can celebrate and recognise the efforts of the child together.

Parents appreciate her support and efforts to engage them. A grateful parent said, “Thank you for the photo of my child in class and for being such a loving and caring teacher.”

Another parent wrote, “Thank you for your encouragement, support and advice. It will motivate my child to work hard the next time.”

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A teacher mentor on and off the football pitch – Mr Chua Kah Hern

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Mr Chua Kah Hern is a teacher who is passionate about what he teaches and faithful in what he stewards.

As the Football CCA teacher-in-charge, Mr Chua is often seen playing football with the boys and participating in drills while facilitating the CCA sessions. He coaches the school team together with the football coach. Besides imparting football skills and knowledge, Mr Chua instils values in the students and purposes to build character. He says, “I think it is important for the boys to understand that the teacher is as involved in the CCA as they are and hopefully it will allow me to influence them positively.”

A firm believer of developing self-discipline, Mr Chua begins every year by setting the football boys on the right footing. The boys commit to a full value contract where they agree to be on their best behaviour on and off the field and diligently complete all school assignments. Mr Chua works closely with the subject teachers to ensure that the boys walk out what they commit to in the full value contract. If any student does not commit to the full value contract, Mr Chua will work with the teachers to correct the misbehaviour, counsel and coach the student to learn from the incident and improve.

He tells the boys, “In whatever we do, we give nothing less than one hundred percent so that we properly steward the talent that has been given to us and do not short change our teammates who are already putting in their one hundred percent.”

Mr Chua sees himself as a mentor to the football boys. He takes time to listen to them during and after CCA. Be it during recess, along the walkway or during lessons, Mr Chua will check in on them. As a teacher-mentor, Mr Chua is concerned about developing his students holistically. He believes that when his students know that he sincerely cares for their well-being, they will respond positively. To help students achieve their true potential, Mr Chua is intentional in cheerleading, counselling and coaching his students to give of their best – on and off the field. In recognition of his impact on the students, Mr Chua was given the 2019 Inspiring CCA Teacher Award in BRLC.

Mr Chua is clear of his mission and purpose. “Students need to understand that good values and work ethics will help them in their development in football and for life.”

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Inspiring Teacher of Teaching and Learning – Mrs Grace Lee

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Possessing a passion for teaching English, Mrs Grace Lee’s classes are fun-filled and exciting. Inspired by her Secondary Four Teacher, who lit up her passion with class discussions on current affairs, Mrs Lee aspires to develop a thirst for knowledge in her own students as well. Every week, Mrs Lee’s students look forward to her class discussions on current affairs. Taking the news articles from the Little Red Dot, a publication from The Straits Times for primary school students, Mrs Lee engages her students in discussions about the world at large.

By engaging her students in deep discussions, Mrs Lee encourages her students to use the English Language to communicate effectively with one another. “Knowing what is evolving around the world is important. My students love the current affairs and inspiring stories from Little Red Dot, which provide a context and platform for enthusiastic discussions,” says Mrs Lee.

Mrs Lee uses thinking routines to extend her students’ learning. An example is the ‘Circle of Viewpoints’. This thinking routine helps students see and explore multiple perspectives. It helps them understand that different people can have different kinds of connections to the same thing, and that these different connections influence what people see and think. Using an old photograph of St James Power Station, Mrs Lee asked her students to take on the perspectives of the people in the photograph, thinking about their actions, thoughts and feelings from analysing the photograph. This activity allowed the students to stretch their thinking, extend their vocabulary and learn to empathise with one another.

Besides using current affairs to frame her teaching of the English Language, Mrs Lee is an experienced teacher who readily shares her strategies with her peers. Her generosity in sharing has encouraged her peers to seek her advice often in matters pertaining to the teaching of English. As a STELLAR Mentor for Upper Primary teachers, Mrs Lee helps to maintain the rigour of the English Language curriculum by guiding and observing teachers who are new to teaching. She also conducts workshops on STELLAR teaching strategies for these teachers as well. Miss Phang Seow Ling, a new teacher who is being mentored by Mrs Lee, is grateful that Mrs Lee provides her with sound advice that helps her to improve the way she teaches. “She checks in often with me to make sure that I am prepared for my lessons. She is understanding and has shown me examples of how to teach English, sometimes with her students’ work to illustrate the strategies.”

Even while she mentors others, Mrs Lee is committed to her own continued professional growth and is open to feedback and new ways of teaching and learning. A few years ago, she even gamely decided to take on the role of a Learning Support Coordinator for Primary 1 and 2 students who are weak in language and literacy. That allowed her to increase her repertoire of skills and strategies to teach a wider range of students from different levels and of varying abilities.

Mrs Lee has been a part of Professional Learning Teams (PLT) that look into how to improve literacy among students. Since the start of 2020, Mrs Lee has been working with her PLT in collaboration with a Master Teacher, Mr William Grosse, on how to enhance reading comprehension in Primary 6 students. Besides reading comprehension, Mrs Lee is also working on improving the school’s Oral Booster package to help our students develop their oral communication skills and share their personal thoughts and anecdotes.

Indeed, Mrs Lee is a role model to all teachers in BRPS. In recognition of her efforts, she was awarded the 2019 BRPS Inspiring Teacher of Teaching and Learning. Her firm belief in her students, coupled with her passion in the teaching of the English Language, has led her to continuously think of different and interesting ways to inculcate a love for the language in her students. “When students drive their own learning, they will learn so much more,” says Mrs Lee.

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Nurturing Happy Kids in the Classroom – Ms Maddie Wong

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In Ms Maddie Wong’s Primary 2 class, the Seven Habits of Happy Kids are not only talked about in a theoretical way during the Form Teacher Guidance Period. She helps the students’ practise them in their daily routines, such as giving them opportunities to think win-win in completing group tasks and encouraging them to seek first to understand, then to be understood when resolving issues.

Ms Wong also finds opportunities to reinforce the Habits during her English and Mathematics lessons. The classroom learning environment is filled with reminders and messages for the students to practise the Habits in all aspects of school life.

“I believe that the Seven Habits lay the foundation for my students’ character development,” explains Ms Wong. “I encourage my students to see mistakes and imperfection as part of the learning process. This way, they are not afraid to fail and try again. It builds confidence and resilience in them. And that brings out the best in them.”

As evidence of how the Seven Habits have impacted her students, some of her students have received the GOTCHA! Award for displaying the Seven Habits outside the classroom. Her students showed proactiveness and the virtue of responsibility by picking up posters which had fallen off the level noticeboard and putting them back without being told. Her students also displayed honesty by returning money that was found in the canteen.

Ms Wong believes in building strong partnerships with parents. One parent said, “She has been helping my son to be become more disciplined. I thank her for her love and patience to my son.”

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Another grateful parent said, “I like the way Ms Wong keeps us updated about everything with respect to our child’s learning achievements and gaps. She motivates my child to move out of his comfort zone and develop himself.”

Ms Wong is also the school’s coordinator for Education in Career Guidance (ECG). As the coordinator, she manages students’ accounts for the Myskillsfuture portal and conducts sharing sessions for teachers and students in using the portal. She also works with the School Counsellor on follow-up ECG activities for some Senior Primary students.

In 2019, together with the Mr Mohan, Head of Department for Character and Citizenship Education (CCE), she revamped the school’s approach to ECG by starting a Career Awareness Month in May. The aim was to help students to be aware of different career options and, more importantly, to develop self-awareness of their strengths and interests. Ms Wong and Mr Mohan approached the Parent Support Group, alumni members and other organisations to put up career talks, booths and exhibitions for the students. The event was well-received by the students as they had a chance to try out various hands-on activities and at the same time learn about the different occupations and the skillsets that were required.

For her efforts and contributions, Ms Wong received the Inspiring CCE Teacher Award in 2019. She sums it up this way, “Teaching is rewarding for me because I get to witness the sparkle in the children’s eyes when they experience success, no matter how small it may be.”

Making STEM come alive – Mrs Jenny Quek

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In Mrs Jenny Quek’s class, it is common to see students raising questions, seeking explanations to phenomena which they have observed and sharing ideas. She engages students in the process of thinking, questioning and problem solving, allowing them to build their experience through hands-on investigations which help to lay the foundation for understanding basic STEM concepts and making connections to current events and everyday phenomena.

Mrs Quek won the 2019 Outstanding STEM Teacher Award, which is co-organised by Science Teachers Association of Singapore (STAS) and Singapore Association for the Advancement of Science (SAAS) to recognise teachers who ignite a passion for STEM in their students and use innovative methods to engage students in the learning of STEM. “I strongly believe that all students have the natural curiosity to explore things around them,” says Mrs Quek.

As the Head of Department for Science, she is passionate about helping her students apply what they are learning in Mathematics and Science to real-world contexts. For example, in Mathematics, students learn about length, time and speed while in Science, they learn about magnets, electrical systems, heat and temperature, and diversity of materials. The STEM-related activities enable the students to apply what they have learnt in these topics to help them to innovate and solve problems.

Mrs Quek constantly thinks of new and interesting ways to engage her students and differentiates her instruction to meet the needs of every child. A few years back, she collaborated with a Senior Teacher from another school to conduct a workshop on “Using Toys to Engage Students in Learning Science”.

Since 2018, Mrs Quek, together with Ms Eileen Puah, Head of Department for Mathematics, has led a team of teachers in the school’s Applied Learning Programme (ALP), known as Aspiring Confident Engineers (ACE) @ BRPS, introducing STEM activities to the primary school and MOE Kindergarten children. They advise the school’s STEM Club, where students with a greater interest and aptitude in STEM are involved in specialised training on STEM-related activities and robotics. They participate in external competitions such as the Singapore Amazing Flying Machine Competition and National Robotics Competition. STEM Club students have also taught Primary 2 students to use recyclable materials to create balloon-powered cars.

Mrs Quek extends the learning of STEM to the external community. In The Green Snapshots (TGS) Trail around Telok Blangah Hill Park and Mount Faber, which is organised for members of the public and led by student docents, one of the highlights involves getting participants to compete in constructing a 40-cm bridge which can hold a 500-g mass. They are given a variety of recyclable materials to create their bridges. This activity, which intentionally takes place at the Henderson Waves, provides participants with an insight into the thinking and considerations of an engineer.

Each year, Mrs Quek and her team of Science teachers organise Science Buskers where Primary 6 students demonstrate their knowledge of Science concepts to Primary 1 to 5 students through hands-on activities. For example, students create their own parachutes such that they are able to allow loads (such as a raw egg) to land on the ground without breaking.

Besides being passionate about STEM, Mrs Quek has also been co-leading a team of teachers in the school's Learning for Life Programme (LLP) since 2019. The LLP anchors on Environmental Education and provides an authentic platform for community service and student leadership. Some of the LLP activities include Project Gaia and Going Green@BRPS.

Mrs Quek explains, “I want to leverage on ALP and LLP to create fun and non-threatening learning opportunities to motivate students to come to school. The spirit of trying and improving replaces the fear of failure in the learning process and students can see themselves as successful. I have observed how some students have gained more self-confidence and are able to stay focused in what they are doing.“

Mrs Quek does not see her work as an educator to be only about developing her students’ cognitive abilities. More importantly, she wants to develop her students’ life skills and socio-emotional competencies. “I strongly believe that every child wants to learn and excel. No one sets himself up for failure intentionally. Each has his strengths and it is my responsibility to create opportunities for each child to identify and develop his strengths. Therefore, in my role as an educator, counsellor and mentor, I want to get to know every of my students well.”

Mrs Quek’s students have become more confident and resilient as learners, developing the passion and drive to excel in their endeavours. One of her students had said this to her, “‘At the beginning of the year, I disliked Math, but two months before the PSLE, I started to like your Math class! And because you added more humour, I enjoyed your lesson.”

Another student said, “Even though Science has not been my strongest suit, I think it is safe to say that I still enjoyed Science lessons tremendously, and I feel that it is because of kind, caring, talented and cheerful teachers like you.”

Ultimately, for Mrs Quek, the motivation and delight of an educator come from helping her students experience the joy of learning. “When students find purpose in what they are doing, that will fuel them to want to do more and increase their motivation to come to school.”

 

Igniting a love for the Chinese Language – Ms Liu Cuixian

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Step into Ms Liu Cuixian’s classroom, and you would immediately hear children’s laughter and sense their joy of learning. As Ms Liu often uses songs, stories, games and dramatisation to engage the young minds, it is no wonder that even the shyest child will be drawn out and want to participate.

Ms Liu joined MOE Kindergarten @ Blangah Rise in 2016 and has over 18 years of experience teaching Chinese Language to children of different age groups. Her rich teaching experience has allowed her to be able to work well with different children who come from diverse family backgrounds. Ms Liu makes concerted efforts to build strong relationships with parents, so that they understand and play a role in developing the children’s love for the language. Parents have confidence in her teaching as their children have made improvements and developed a love for the Chinese language under her close guidance and engaging lesson activities.  Mr Tan, the parent of 6-year-old Charlotte, shared how his child had benefitted from Ms Liu’s lessons. “My daughter was able to relate to me what she had learnt in school. She had also begun to read Chinese storybooks and learnt to recognise many new vocabulary words.”

Another parent, Mr Mak, shared that he has seen great improvement in his child’s language learning with Ms Liu’s teaching and guidance. “Andrea is now able to converse in Mandarin with her sister and has shown a keener interest in learning Chinese.”

 

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Ms Liu uses tiered approaches in her teaching to cater to the different learning needs of the children. She creates a lively and vibrant learning environment. The children in her class remain attentive and participate actively during her lessons through fun games and activities. She may use puppets to tell a story and is also creative in designing games so that children can learn through play. The children in her class are regularly exposed to different hands-on activities, where vocabulary words are learnt in a fun manner. She also seeks to inculcate good learning dispositions in children through her nurturing and patient approach.

Ms Liu believes in lifelong learning and seeks opportunities to improve her teaching knowledge and pedagogy. She is self-motivated and finds joy in seeing the children under her improve and speak the language fluently. “Seeing the children in class enjoy my lesson and speak Mandarin with their friends helps me to see that I have taught them well. It encourages me to continue to work hard in my role as a Chinese Language teacher. I am also heartened to be able to work with parents who are receptive to feedback and support their children at home.”

Ms Liu attained the Outstanding Preschool Mother Tongue Language Teachers’ Award 2019 (Merit). She was lauded for her fluency in the language and the ability to instill the love of learning the Chinese Language in the children. Her warm and encouraging disposition in class motivates the weaker students to sustain their interest in learning.

Ms Liu also seeks to guide other Chinese Language teachers in their teaching. Her sharing of ideas and feedback encourages others to learn and grow. Newer teachers have found that her constructive comments allow them to understand their own teaching better and they are encouraged to improve in their classroom practices. In addition, her tireless passion and enthusiasm in class sets the model for other teachers to follow.

Championing innovation in education – Mr James Han

Step into Mr James Han’s classroom, and you may see not only students, but also other teachers from Blangah Rise or other schools.

 

Being a champion of “open classrooms”, Mr Han hopes to foster a culture of peer learning among educators to promulgate good classroom practices so that our children learn better and experience the joy of learning. On one particular occasion, Mr Han prepared an English lesson on gerunds using the Student Learning Space (SLS) as an online platform. He invited teachers from other schools to come into his classroom to observe and learn together as fellow educators. Following the lesson, they proceeded to the school library where Mr Han shared his lesson design considerations, addressed queries and received feedback on how he could improve on his lesson.

 

To his students, Mr Han is a dedicated and innovative teacher. To his colleagues, Mr Han plays another important role within the school – that of a School Staff Developer (SSD). He likens the SSD role to that of a pencil sharpener. “We have all used a pencil before and a sharp pencil allows for clear and crisp writing or colouring. We often need to sharpen our pencils regularly after use. If students are like pieces of paper and teachers are the pencils that leave their marks on the paper with knowledge, skills and values, I would be the pencil sharpener that regularly sharpens the pencils, or the competencies of the teachers, so that the knowledge, skills and values that they impart to their students are useful and current.”

 

Mr Han’s firmly believes that all teachers need to have a firm grasp of the disciplinary and pedagogical knowledge as they have a long-lasting impact on their students. He models lifelong learning and has pursued two Masters degrees, one in curriculum and teaching, and the other in assessment and evaluation. He was an Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Scholar, had made presentations at the ASCD Annual Conference and was part of a global Professional Learning Community with educators from all over the world.

 

On Blangah Rise Learning Campus, every staff member – teacher, MOE Kindergarten educator, Allied Educator, Executive and Administrative Officer – is in at least one Professional Learning Team (PLT) that looks into work improvement and innovation. Mr Han provides consultancy to the PLTs on their innovation projects. He introduced the Learning Circles protocol and the Scan-Plan-Act-Observe-Reflect (SPAOR) cycle to facilitate planning and discussions among PLTs. He helped the PLTs refine their problems, conduct literature scans and analyse the data collected. He designed a rubric for PLTs to reflect on and evaluate their projects. To celebrate the learning from the innovation projects, he facilitated a Learning Fest where PLTs shared their ideas with one another. That encouraged the cross-pollination of ideas across departments and levels. In 2020, Mr Han will be bringing in an expert in Action Research to work with the PLTs and collaborating with Master Teachers to further raise the quality of teaching in the classrooms.

 

To regularly affirm staff efforts and encourage the prototyping of ideas, Mr Han started a bi-monthly Staff Bulletin  to showcase innovative practices. For example, the latest issue featured Mdm Liu Cuixian, our MOE Kindergarten Educator, on how she used different pedagogies to motivate preschool children to use the Chinese language in purposeful and authentic contexts. It also highlighted how Mr Leow Qinjin and Mrs Jocelyn Ho used Escape Rooms to create that natural problem-solving environment for students to learn and apply Science concepts.

 

For his efforts, Mr Han received MOE’s Distinguished InnoChamp Award 2019, which recognises InnoChamps who have exceeded expectations in providing innovation consultancy to their school’s project teams, facilitating innovation discussions among project teams, and advising their school on innovation strategies.

 

“I hope that one day, I will attain the pinnacle level described in Maxwell’s levels of leadership, where others will follow because of who I am and what I represent,” says Mr Han. “To achieve that, I stay open and cherish all opportunities to learn and better my knowledge base, which would help me to serve better as a leader.”

 

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A role model for students and teachers alike – Ms Magdalene Ho

When Ms Magdalene Ho was appointed Senior Teacher for Mathematics in 2018, it offered her the opportunity to work with her colleagues to do what she had always been passionate about  ̶  to help her students appreciate the role of Mathematics in their daily life.

“My personal belief is that all students can learn and achieve some form of academic success. Having the right classroom climate and culture is necessary for effective teaching and learning to take place. This includes establishing a respectful, safe and trusting environment to give all learners a feeling of acceptance and a place to grow at their own pace.”

 

Helping students own their learning

To motivate her students to want to learn Mathematics, Ms Ho finds out where her students are in terms of their prior knowledge so that she can pitch her teaching at the appropriate entry point and help them connect big ideas in order to bring them to the next level of learning. At the same time, she maintains high expectations for what her students can achieve.

Formative assessment strategies, which are strategies to monitor students’ learning closely and to give them ongoing feedback on how they can improve, are used in Ms Ho’s daily lessons. At the start of each lesson, she lays out the “success criteria” on the board so that they can track their own learning towards their learning “destination”. She creates her own Mathematics posters to consolidate key concepts. At the end of the lesson, she uses an “exit pass” to check that her students have indeed learnt.

It is no wonder that her students are full of appreciation for her. One of her students said, “Thank you for helping me when I have any doubts and misunderstandings and for helping me to get through my Math Prelims.”

Ms Ho regularly uses the Student Learning Space (SLS), an online platform that empowers students to drive their own learning to help them become responsible future-ready learners. For example, when she was teaching a lesson on ratio, she asked her students to watch a video on ratio, then complete a quiz on SLS. She monitored her students’ “live” responses and provided immediate feedback and clarification. She assigned homework on SLS for students to practise and reinforce what they had learnt. The SLS lesson packages which Ms Ho has created are shared with other teachers in the school.

 

Growing the education fraternity

As a Senior Teacher, Ms Ho mentors and coaches other Mathematics teachers. She provides support to Beginning Teachers to help them quickly pick up and apply the skills of classroom teaching. This year, she also led a Professional Learning Team to look into the use of note-taking to help students remember mathematical concepts.

Beyond the school, Ms Ho contributes to the professional growth of other educators. She shared on the use of SLS during the ICT CrADLe’s 6th Digital Age Learning Conference 2019 and her presentation was very well-received. In July this year, she opened up her classroom to a group of visiting teachers from Hainan. She conducted a Primary 6 lesson on nets of a cube. The Hainan teachers shared that they had gleaned useful ideas from her on how to harness technology to enhance teaching and learning.

 

Building strong relationships with students and parents

Not only is Ms Ho a passionate Mathematics teacher, she is also a caring teacher who makes it a point to get to know her students beyond the classroom so that she can connect with and relate better to them. She maintains close communication with parents as she believes that a close partnership will lead to success for the child.

“I had a student whom many perceived to have challenging behaviours. I tried to show him care and concern, especially when he was ill. It took me some time to really understand him. After some time, I discovered his strengths and his limits. Even when he appeared to be disengaged, he was actually listening. One day, I managed to sit down and talk with him. He opened up to me and shared about his family situation. It was a real breakthrough! He even came back to visit me after he had graduated from primary school.”

Ms Ho’s strong relationship with her students is evident from the many notes she receives from students and parents every Teachers’ Day. One student has this to say to her, “Thank you for teaching us Math. You have worked hard to plan lessons for us. Your effort makes a difference!”

A parent wrote, “I really appreciate your effort and time spent in guiding my child.”

Just as her students are thankful for her, Ms Ho says, “I’m thankful to my students and their parents for motivating me to give of my best as an educator.”

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