Left: Daneesh Akbar Bin Mohd Azman teaches Mathematics and Physics at Punggol Secondary School. He is a recipient of the MOE Teaching Award, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from NTU-NIE.
Right: Ong Shi Ching, Melissa, enhances music education in Singapore in her role as Academy Officer at Singapore Teachers' Academy for the aRts. She is an MOE Teaching scholar, and she is currently pursuing a doctorate in education from Boston University and the UCL Institute of Education.
Teaching as a profession hardly needs further introduction. Most of us would have gone through the education system in Singapore and have seen first-hand how teachers impart key concepts and knowledge. However, beyond the mathematical equations and grammar rules, teachers also equip students with essential life skills, good values and mould the future of the nation. These are just some of the things that make teaching a worthwhile and fulfilling career.
Daneesh Akbar Bin Mohd Azman and Ong Shi Ching, Melissa have been inspiring lives since they joined the teaching profession.
Daneesh is a recipient of the MOE Teaching Award and he has been in the profession for close to two years. Currently, he is a teacher at Punggol Secondary, taking on a variety of roles in addition to teaching Mathematics and Physics.
Melissa is an Academy Officer at the Singapore Teachers’ Academy for the aRts (STAR). She specialises in music and works with Master Teachers to enhance the music education in Singapore.
We caught Daneesh and Melissa outside the classroom and got them to share about the things that motivate them every day in their teaching profession.
Firstly, what motivated both of you to get into teaching?
Daneesh: It was from my Dad, who has 35 years of teaching behind him. Over the years, he would share the profiles of his students and how he has impacted many of them. Even years after graduating, many of his former students would thank my Dad for making a difference in their lives. Such instances made me remember my own teachers who have also made a difference in my life back in secondary school and junior college. Through these, I felt that I wanted to contribute back to the society by nurturing the next generation into individuals with good character and sound values.
Melissa: Teaching had always seemed like a natural career possibility to me, as my mother is a music educator. She had a stained-glass ornament hanging on the door to her music room. As a child, I used to stare at it daily, trying to figure out what the words on it meant, “To teach is to touch a life forever.”
Growing up in the various orchestras and ensembles allowed me my first foray into peer teaching as the cello section leader for these groups. When my peers’ musical abilities improved, they grew in confidence and were better able to enjoy the music they were making. It was through these experiences that I better understood what the words on my mother’s ornament meant.
Daneesh, you received the MOE Teaching Award and Melissa, the MOE Teaching Scholarship. What are some of the benefits for the recipients of these awards?
Daneesh: The two most enriching experiences I had, supported financially by MOE, were the International Practicum (IP) and Semester Exchange (SE) in Year 2 and 3 at NIE respectively. I did my IP in New Zealand and was posted to Fairfield College, where I had the opportunity to work and interact with teachers, teach classes from different levels and immerse myself in their Haka culture. My SE in Stockholm University, Sweden, gave me the opportunity to study mathematics and take modules such as “Early Chinese History” and “Gender and Sexuality”.
Also, at the end of Year 1, we could take up a five to eight-week internship called Building University Interns for Leadership Development (BUILD) during our semester break. This allowed us to work with companies and organisations that are relevant to MOE and gain some experience to develop us in our roles as education leaders.
Melissa: The MOE scholarship sponsored my bachelor’s from the Royal College of Music (RCM) and the Post-Graduate Diploma in Education (PDGE) from NIE. MOE further supported me by allowing me to pursue my master’s degree before returning to Singapore to do my PGDE.
There are many options in music as well as music education. Why did you choose to embark on a career with MOE?
Melissa: I believed that as an MOE teacher, I would have the opportunity to offer music education to a larger body of students, and to help them develop holistically. I also appreciated the opportunity to be part of a nationwide fraternity of music teachers who share the common goal of placing students at the heart of everything we do.
Daneesh, you joined the profession not too long ago. How has your experience been so far?
In recent times, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many reports and articles on teachers’ mental well-being being affected and the many hats (roles) we put on as a teacher. I must say it has been a challenging 2 years, especially since I was posted to a school as a teacher in the midst of home-based learning during the circuit breaker.
The learning curve was very steep. However, despite that, I definitely found joy in what I did; what these 2 years have taught me is that teaching is my true calling.
Melissa, tell us about your role and responsibilities as an Academy Officer.
Melissa: Essentially, I teach teachers. I organise and facilitate professional development for Primary, Secondary and Junior College music teachers. I also work with local and overseas partners for professional development and research opportunities. At STAR, we contribute articles on music, perform and take part in audio and video projects and publications.
What is the most gratifying aspect of being an educator?
Daneesh: It is seeing that spark on the students’ faces when they understood something during my lessons. Different students have different goals, be it to get a distinction or just to pass the subject. When I work with different students to achieve their respective goals and the outcome is positive, the spark and happiness on their faces affirm my efforts.
Melissa: I am always heartened to witness my students’ growth, particularly when they contact me years after they have graduated to update me on how they continue to make me proud.
I appreciate being able to share my love for music with others and use music to engage students in important interactions and conversations that would aid them in their journey of discovering their purpose and identity. While the impact of our work may not always be direct or immediately visible, a teacher can make a huge difference in a child’s life.
What would you say to someone to convince them to consider a career in teaching?
Daneesh: There is never a dull day in a life of a teacher as there will always be different challenges, different encounters, and different excitement to look forward to every day. I had students who randomly came up to me or dropped me a message to say “thank you”. These little things remind me that I have made a difference in their lives, and this is what drives me at work.
Melissa: Teaching is challenging due to the hectic schedule and the amount of work we put in to engage all students and make a difference in their lives, but I believe that to teach is to touch a life forever. It is truly a meaningful career which provides a high level of fulfilment and satisfaction.