Award-winning teacher shows her care beyond the classroom


As a veteran teacher with 37 years of experience, Mdm Maznah Yusak has handled her fair share of challenges — including the time she received a call from a student on a Saturday morning, saying he wanted to kill himself.

The 56-year-old, who gives out her mobile number to students so they can reach her any time, sprang into action — keeping the student on the line by talking to him until she could get to his home. It turned out he had been beaten up by his brother, with whom he had a bad relationship. By talking to him and then taking him to her home — and inviting his friends over to keep him company — Mdm Maznah was able to calm him down and speak to his parents about his problems.

Recognised yesterday with 11 other teachers at the National Institute of Education’s biennial Caring Teacher Awards, Mdm Maznah said her passion for teaching has kept her going, even though the role of teacher has become more complicated over the years. For example, while class sizes have become smaller, teachers are now also expected to go beyond academics and care for the holistic development of their students.

“There’s a lot of effort that has been put in place to have a wider focus and develop children in different aspects according to their talents, interests (and) inclinations,” said Mdm Maznah, who has taught at Chongzheng Primary School for three decades.

Asked whether teachers were given enough support in the classrooms, Mdm Maznah felt improvements have been made over the years, such as by the introduction of Allied Educators and special needs officers.

Teachers also have to engage parents, who at times can be “demanding” and “unreasonable”.

“But I always tell myself not to be distracted by parents because I’m there for the child, for the children, not for the parents,” said Mdm Maznah.

Mdm Maznah, who, by Secondary Two was already giving tuition to her neighbour’s children to earn pocket money, works hard to engage her students, even outside the classroom. On weekends, she invites students who are performing less well in class to study in her home.

“The environment is different, at home … they are more relaxed and they feel good that they’re being invited to the teacher’s house,” she said.

She also pays close attention to their well-being in class, recalling an instance when she discovered one of her students was sniffing glue. She had noticed something was amiss when he appeared in class distracted and teary-eyed.

“I checked his bag (and) I found the glue,” she said. This led to many meetings with his parents and talks with the student as she tried to help, said Mdm Maznah, who called it a particularly “tough” challenge that she remembers to this day. “I think what is important is the love for the children. Once you have that, I think that can keep you going,” she said.



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