Mr George Teo receives President's Award for Teachers 2018

30 Oct 2018

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Mr Teo Keng Ann, course chair in Business Innovation and Design at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), is one teacher who goes out of his way to make lessons fun and interesting for his students, who often turn up for his marketing classes not knowing what to expect. 

The 53-year-old, a self-confessed “die-hard fan of the reality television show Masterchef”, said the cake designing tutorial exercise allowed the students to “really understand the customer’s needs and wants”, and “to sell the meaning of the product”.

“The learning outcome is to create a product with an emotional attachment to it,” he said.

For his creative teaching methods, Mr Teo was one of eight teachers who received the President’s Award for Teachers (PAT) from President Halimah Yacob on Wednesday (Aug 29) at the Teachers’ Day Reception at the Istana.

The teachers were chosen from a pool of 15 finalists for this year’s award. In total, 2,571 teachers were nominated by school leaders, teachers, parents, former and current students, said the Ministry of Education.

Recipients of the PAT are caring and nurturing educators, dedicated to the holistic development of their students, the ministry added. "They are committed to developing their students to their fullest potential and adopting innovative approaches in their lessons. As role models, these teachers embrace lifelong learning and are mentors to their peers in their learning journey."

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Mr Teo, who has taught at SP for 20 years, credited his year-long training as an Emotional Intelligence (EQ) coach for helping him become a better educator.

He said: “I used to be an impatient or insensitive lecturer. After attending the (EQ) training, there were two components (that were taught) — increased empathy and to exercise optimism.”

While increased empathy taught him to be more patient with students and coach them more, exercising optimism allowed him to believe that they could do a good job, he added.

“I became more positive (as a result), and subconsciously, this helps in my teaching,” said Mr Teo.

Mr Teo conducts an EQ test on his students at the start of each semester, and he found many had low confidence levels and did not know which path they wanted to take in life.

Together with his students, he worked on a programme, Be Your Own Hero, to address those issues. After each session, Mr Teo would debrief the participants and link the learning points back to their EQ results.

Mr Justin Lee, a SP graduate and former student of Mr Teo, said: “He sees the EQ results and knows, for example, that a student has no confidence and is not stepping up.”

As a result, Mr Teo would “bring the student out of his comfort zone” during tutorials and encourage him or her to answer questions and make presentations to the class.

Mr Lee added: “He takes notice of every single student and makes sure we are doing the tutorials. And we remember the things he teaches, because he is very passionate about his subject.”

Excerpt from the article "Masterchef fan, teacher and motivator; educators win accolades for fun, creative methods" by Asyraf Kamil that was published in TODAY, dated 29 August 2018

Pictures from SPVine and TODAY

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