From interactive discussions to practical demonstrations, there is never a dull moment in Ms Suhanah Sumali's classes. Known for her infectious enthusiasm and energy, Ms Suhanah always injects an element of fun into her lessons.
For example, students get to role-play as teachers and take turns to teach sections of a chapter to their peers.
"I believe that students learn best when they are active and involved. Good lectures are fun, entertaining and dramatic. During lectures, I ask a lot of questions and encourage students to think, discuss and defend their ideas," said Ms Suhanah, a former operating theatre nurse who has six years of teaching experience.
Ms Suhanah records students’ practical sessions on video and shows the clips to them to highlight areas of improvement and where they have done well.
Through the stimulating learning environment she creates, Ms Suhanah hopes the students will leave her lessons with a sense of accomplishment and confidence. “A wise teacher makes learning a joyful experience. I want to encourage creativity and challenge students to think analytically,” she shared.
For her commitment to shaping lives, Ms Suhanah received the Academic Award (Teaching) in 2009. Beyond her teaching duties, Ms Suhanah is also actively involved in conducting outreach to secondary schools.
“I am passionate about nurturing the next generation of nurses. I feel a sense of satisfaction when they put into practice what is being taught.”
Award-winning documentary director and senior lecturer at the School of Film & Media Studies, Craig McTurk, believes in the power of stories, and tells them in the most captivating way he knows how.
His works include films such as Street Songs, Highway Courtesans and Tokyo Blues: Jazz & Blues in Japan, which have been shown at international festivals and on the Public Broadcasting Service network in the US. He also has a passion for photography and recently published a coffee table book, Parting Glances: Singapore’s Evolving Spaces, which captures images of changing Singapore. The book was supported in part by a grant from the National Heritage Board of Singapore.
Besides teaching the fundamentals of video production, the industry veteran draws from his filmmaking experience to provide a real-world perspective to his students.
“Students face all kinds of scenarios in their projects, such as talent backing out, unpredictable weather and conflicts among crew members. I have been through all these myself and can share with them how to deal with each situation. Such knowledge can’t be taught from a textbook,” said Mr McTurk.
To sharpen the skills of his students, Mr McTurk organises a ‘pitch panel’ every semester where external industry guests are invited to hear student groups pitch their projects.
He added: “Working in the industry requires tremendous tenacity and you need soft skills such as pitching, negotiating and problem solving. I see my mission as cultivating in them a sense of patience and discipline that they can take with them into the future.”
But more than just equipping students with professional skill-sets, Mr McTurk wants to nurture a lifelong passion in his students.
“A good teacher should encourage lifelong learning and immersing oneself in a subject. This is something that lasts beyond just the one semester that I spend with students.”
Outside of her lecturing hours, Ms Regina Ng can be seen working hard in the technology lab developing a user-friendly ambulation system for patients undergoing rehabilitation or designing an efficient medication trolley for hospitals.
These are but two research projects the engineer-turned-lecturer is concurrently working on to hone her expertise in the areas of mechatronics. Incidentally, these two projects have been awarded the Tote Board’s Social Innovation Research (SIR) Fund.
Besides being passionate about innovation, Ms Ng takes on these projects as she believes her experience will help to make engineering come alive in class.
“The projects enable me to continue practising in the field. More importantly, I can plough back the knowledge that I have gained into my teaching and bring a practical perspective of engineering concepts to my students,” noted Ms Ng.
Nothing beats learning by doing – it is this simple belief that has guided much of Ms Ng’s teaching for the past 22 years. She spares no effort in making her lessons interesting and uses real examples to teach engineering principles. She will get her students to develop solutions using simulation software and implement them in an actual laboratory setting.
Putting what they have learnt into practice, said Ms Ng, makes for a richer academic experience and ignites a passion for learning.
“These assignments mirror real-life situations and will instil in students the confidence to apply the skills in their future workplace,” added Ms Ng, whose satisfaction in teaching comes from watching her students mature and become well-rounded individuals.
When Mr Terence Choo saw some students trying hard to grasp math concepts, he decided to develop a bridging programme to strengthen their foundation in the subject.
“I am always glad to see students with a desire to learn and improve themselves, so when I saw how their weaknesses stumbled their efforts, I decided to design these courses and build their confidence in learning,” said Mr Choo, who teaches mathematics and programming modules in NP.
The former engineer, who has 13 years of teaching experience, never hesitates to do his best for his students.
For example, when one of his students failed an overseas internship interview, the concerned Mr Choo took the time to encourage him and called the company to grant the student a second interview. He then went the extra mile to guide the student in developing a mobile application prototype to showcase his skills during the second interview.
“I realised that the student did not perform well during the first interview because he was worried about the cost of the overseas internship. As this was a valuable opportunity, I encouraged him to take it up and allay his concern by applying for financial support for his trip. He eventually completed his internship and did us proud by receiving good feedback about his performance,” recounted Mr Choo.
Asked about what motivates him to go above and beyond the call of duty, the PS21 STAR Service Award and NP’s Go The Extra Mile (GEMS) winner said: “It gives me tremendous satisfaction to be able to provide exciting opportunities to help my students realise their full potential.”
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. But if you go one step further and ‘enlighten the man’, he may own a chain of seafood restaurants.”
That was a wise quote that struck a chord with Ms Elaine Lim who teaches at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. To her, enlightening is all about bringing across the relevance of the knowledge and helping students to see new possibilities where they previously couldn’t.
Besides lecturing, Ms Lim is also involved in designing innovation modules to equip students with critical and creative thinking skills, as well as a sense of empathy by focusing on the needs of their target audience.
“I always try to show them the relevance of a particular skill or knowledge to their lives, as well as the impact and value of every action they take,” said Ms Lim.
The lecturer, who has an interest in linguistics, uses role-play and case studies to help students better understand the needs of others and consider different perspectives when generating solutions.
Ms Lim sees her role as a lecturer beyond just imparting knowledge and skills to her charges; she hopes to inspire values in them too.
“I hope to influence my students positively by shaping their values,” said Ms Lim, who joined NP in 2008.
Becoming a teacher was a practical step after finishing Bachelor and Masters’ degree in English – but realising she could play a role in helping her students find their potential soon sparked a passion for the profession. Ms Nora – as she is known to students – went on to win a School Teaching Award in 2011, and a Staff Excellence Award in 2012 for “creating an innovative experiential and service-learning model to drive social impact amongst youths.
ENGAGING THE MIND, HEART AND SOUL Ms Nora believes that the learning process should engage the learner at a personal level and beyond the classroom. Because of this belief, she does not confine her interaction with students to just curriculum hours. She takes them to field trips and overseas study trips, for both academic and personal development. “The way a student learns is just as important as what he learns as the mind, heart and soul should grow with every encounter,” said Ms Nora.
TRIGGERING THE 'AH-HA' MOMENTS “I enjoy working with youths, and helping them achieve more than they thought possible. Seeing the look on my students’ faces when they encounter the ‘ah-ha’ moments also keeps me inspired. I cannot imagine doing anything else!”
HELPING BUDDING SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS As a lecturer and course manager for the Diploma in Business and Social Enterprise, Ms Nora is always looking for opportunities to learn more about different types of social enterprises. She has been to India to visit award-winning social enterprises like the Jaipur Foot and Barefoot College, and to the US on a programme to understand socially innovative businesses. With the insights gained, she has been able to “apply what I’ve learnt not only in my teaching but also in helping budding social entrepreneurs to develop their start-ups.”