A beacon for sixth formers
Madam Ng Wee Mei, who prepares students for the Malaysian University English Test (MUET), is one of the most understanding teachers I have met.
Although she often said we were “pressed for time”, she still went the extra mile to make her lessons interesting.
Once, she split us into groups where we taught each other art and craft while she shared with us the benefits of art therapy.
There was also the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” lesson where we brought ingredients for a feast. Madam Ng even taught us how to slice a dragon fruit – a skill none of us knew at the time.
When at one point we were told we would no longer have her as our MUET teacher, we were devastated.
Despite her busy schedule and the fact that she was not assigned as our teacher, she still made an effort to mark our essays and tutor those who needed help.
Thankfully, a few months later, she resumed her role as our MUET teacher.
Madam Ng never hesitated to give me pointers when I approached her for writing advice.
When classes moved online last year in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, she was still able to make her lessons enjoyable via various online platforms.
For example, in a lesson about places to visit, she introduced us to a virtual tour of the Buckingham Palace in the United Kingdom.
For group presentations, she recommended the Canva app so that we could create our own comic strips, videos or slides.
She also checked in on us from time to time to make sure we could cope with the work given.
I had always wanted to be an English Language teacher but I had never had a role model.But in Madam Ng, I have found an exemplary teacher figure, and I am immensely grateful. – By Carrie Ann, 20, Kuala Lumpur
Empowering girls to be leaders
The year Puan Azizah Abdul Majid was transferred to my school was the year I decided to sign up for Girl Guides.
As the national guild commissioner of Girl Guides Association Malaysia, she has been one of the central figures at its national and international events.
I first encountered her on a Co-curricular Day. I was chatting with my friend when she reprimanded me for not paying attention to her briefing.
Mortified, I made up my mind that she was not a friendly teacher.
The next year, when I learnt that she had been assigned as my English Language teacher, I immediately felt gloomy.
As days went by, however, I grew fond of her cheery personality. As my respect for her grew, so did my interest in Girl Guiding.
When she signed me up for a state level public speaking competition a few months later, I was so nervous about it that I almost withdrew as a participant.
It was her words of motivation that spurred me on, leading me to bag the runner-up prize – a win that further cemented my interest in Girl Guiding.
With her encouragement, I became one of the most active members in the uniform body, even becoming president.
Last year, as our activities went online, Puan Azizah ensured all the Girl Guides in my school took part in them. The activities centred on creating awareness of body confidence and women empowerment.
When it came to English lessons, we were required to answer one SPM trial exam paper every week and this was followed by online discussions.
Everyone had to switch on their cameras or we would be considered absent. Thanks to her, we completed every state’s trial paper and were fully prepared for the SPM.
She also ensured that we memorised certain parts of our literature texts. Because of this, we never had trouble quoting them in the literature component of our tests.
Her methods obviously worked as my class always achieved top scores in the English Language subject.
Puan Azizah empowered me to be a leader, as well as a public speaker. She believed in my capabilities and brought out the best in me.
I look to her as my role model, my second mother figure and my friend. I hope to one day be an alpha female just like her! – By Nieha, 18, Selangor
One’s passion for science ignites another
“Ever thought of melting plastics to extract fuel?”
“Imagine if we could charge the rods such that they create an electricity stream.”
These were the thought-provoking questions and action-inspiring words of my teacher and mentor Mr. James Enright.
I met Mr. Enright in 2018 when I joined a student exchange programme that took me to a high school in New Hampshire, the United States.
On my first day there, I went from class to class for the subjects I enrolled in, while navigating an unfamiliar environment.
It was just after lunch when I walked into Mr. Enright’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) class, and was immediately intrigued by what I saw.
There were a half-disassembled jukebox in one corner, an aquarium in another, and various models in varying stages of completion scattered everywhere.
Noticing my curiosity, Mr. Enright explained that they were students’ projects, and suggested several for me to attempt as well.
My worries of being a misfit in a foreign school seemed to evaporate all at once.
Mr. Enright was extremely popular among the students and staff members, and it was not hard to tell why. He had the most joyful personality and was always ready to assist students.
Inspired by his curiosity, another student and I decided to build an electron accelerator that could potentially produce radiation.
Mr. Enright then surprised us by inviting an engineer who worked at the local nuclear plant to advise us on our project.
What made Mr. Enright an exceptional and memorable teacher to me was his passion for his subject and the belief he had in each student.
In all our endeavours, he went out of his way to support us by sharing everything that he knew or offering everything he could to ensure the success of our projects.
On a more personal note, he made me feel welcomed in a foreign land. He introduced me around the school, which helped me make some friends, and offered drives when I had transportation problems.
Unbeknownst to him, he left a profound impact on me. Due to the projects I did under his supervision, I decided to major in chemical engineering.
Character-wise, he taught me to be empathetic and to push past boundaries to realise my dreams.
Thank you, Mr. Enright! May you keep inspiring others in this journey of life! – By Jonathan Lee, 19, Selangor
A window to Japanese culture
Our first impression of Cik Latifah Mohamad, or “sensei” (which means “teacher” in Japanese) as we usually addressed her, was that she was going to be one of those very mean teachers.
How could she have expected us to respond to her questions in foreign words during our very first Japanese Language lesson?
Our views, however, changed over time as we could see her dedication and genuine care for us as the only Japanese Language teacher in our school who was also in charge of the Japanese Club.
Although she’s a stern teacher, her lessons were the ones we looked forward to the most.
Instead of only teaching us the Japanese language, she constantly introduced us to the Japanese culture.
For example, we learnt how to play Daruma Otoshi and Kendama, and make Takoyaki and Onigiri.
And I will never forget the Yukata photo booth we had on Entrepreneurship Day, and the Soran Bushi performances we watched.
It was because of sensei Latifah that an introvert like me had the chance to lead many activities, from performances and school trips to festival booths. She was the one who pushed me to take the first step out of my comfort zone.
Last year, our classes were conducted via Telegram and Google Meet. We had interactive lessons where we would answer questions on the spot and correct each other’s mistakes.
We also had mini activities like “finding the difference” for Kanji and creating dialogues for scenarios in the photos she sent us.
Sensei Latifah was more than just a teacher; she was a mother to many of us, especially to me since I wasn’t living with my parents throughout my secondary school life.
She often offered to drive me home after school when my guardians were busy. During those many car rides, she would check in on me and give me advice.
She was a huge emotional support to me during those five years of my teenage life. I am thankful that because of her, I have many wonderful memories to reminisce about. – By Charis Chiang, 18, Kedah
Life lessons from class grandfather
Mr. Lurthanathan Robert Samy, fondly known as Mr. Nathan by his students, was my English Language teacher when I was 11 and 12 years old. He was a retiree, probably in his 60s, when he came to teach at my school. He was a calm man but a force to be reckoned with.
Trust me, he had the power to make you feel agonising guilt, especially with his “life lessons”.
All of us were fond of him. He was basically our class grandfather.
I had only seen him cross once, which was when my classmate leant back on his chair and broke its hind legs. Thrice. In a week.
The way he went from a calm teacher with a soothing voice to a livid man with flames in his eyes was terrifying!
From then on, everyone in my class made sure never to cross him again.
Mr. Nathan marked our papers diligently, always highlighting the good parts while addressing our mistakes, and never failing to remind us of our potential.
He would also comment on our strengths and weaknesses before the entire class, and none of us minded.
Mr. Nathan was quick to spot how much of a bookworm I was – I always had a book with me wherever I went. It was then he began encouraging me to write essays.
On the last day of school, he gave me a notebook with a pen. It was his way of encouraging me to keep on writing.
In a way, Mr. Nathan played a part in my being a BRATs writer. Thank you, sir! – By Alyson Wong, 15, Kuala Lumpur
Learning by doing
Throughout my schooling years, I have never met a teacher as dedicated as Ms. May, who teaches my class Additional Mathematics.
From the moment she walks in to the moment she walks out, there is pin-drop silence as we are enveloped in rapt attention during her lessons, which are both clear and concise. She does this by using the most effective techniques.
Ms. May believes in learning by doing. In every lesson, she hands out worksheets filled with past year questions on the day’s topic.
After the lesson, we will attempt the worksheets in order to understand how our knowledge will be tested in the exams.
Be it online or offline, she is always ever willing to make time to answer any questions we have.
Last year, while other teachers were fumbling with technology, she found a simple way to overcome issues such as lagging Internet connection.
Instead of writing explanations on a digital whiteboard, she handwrote them on paper before showing the notes to us via her video camera.
She later bought a high-quality microphone, and a tripod stand to hold her mobile phone as she recorded her lessons.
The lengths to which she went to give us her best truly impressed us.
I feel incredibly fortunate to have Ms. May as my teacher.
She not only made one of the most challenging subjects so much simpler, but she also helped spark a burning passion
for Additional Mathematics within the hearts of her students, like me. – By Ryan Roy, 17, Selangor
All students featured on this page are participants of the BRATs Young Journalist Programme run by The Star’s Newspaper-in-Education (Star-NiE) team. Throughout the year-long programme, participants aged between 14 and 22 from all across the country experience life as journalists, contributing ideas, conducting interviews, and completing writing assignments. They get to earn bylines, attend workshops, and extend their social networks. To read more articles written by BRATs participants, sign up for the Star-NiE pullout. It is published on Wednesdays bi-monthly and available only through school subscriptions. To subscribe, call the toll free number 1-300-88-7827 (Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm). For more information on Star-NiE’s BRATs programme, go to facebook.com/niebrats.