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When Sherissa found herself in a downward spiral while studying at St. Hilda's Secondary School, her Chinese teacher Ms Ho was her light in the dark.
Even now at 22, Sherissa still catches up with Ms Ho who freely gives her encouragement and advice over coffee.
Here is Sherissa's entry for the Samsung-Stomp Inspiring Teachers Awards:
"Henry Adams once said, "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” In these 22 years of my life, I have had the opportunity to learn from so many amazing teachers. However, I have never quite met a teacher like Ms Ho. My story may not be as sensational as Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan, but it is one that made an everlasting impact on me and eventually inspired me to be the person I envision myself to be one day.
"We first met in November 2011. In a sudden twist of fate, she was to be our new Chinese teacher just months before our GCE O-levels Chinese papers. I clearly remember not being very fond of her just because she looked really stern and unapproachable. At that time, I knew I was going to have a hard time in her class when proper lessons resumed during the next academic year. Needless to say, my worries were unfounded.
"Then came 2012 which marked the start of a crucial academic year. Like many other sixteen-year-olds, I had high expectations of myself despite being just a mediocre student. Life, then, was not a bed of roses.
"In addition to the stress from school, I had to deal with other things. My father was constantly in poor health and my 3-year old brother was due for surgery. Any spare time I had was spent pondering on my future. I was lost and all keyed up. It was also then I found it difficult to keep up with my class. I started to doubt myself, maybe I wasn’t ‘worthy’ enough to be placed in that class. It was a struggle trying to prove who I was and what I was capable of. I was literally a time bomb waiting to explode.
"Needless to say, I did. My whole world turned upside down when I received my GCE O-Levels Chinese results. I was just one grade away from my desired score. That one number that had kept me going for months.
"I could no longer move forward. I was soulless. All I can recall now is crying myself to sleep, every day, for weeks. The stress got the better of me. I started having severe headaches and had to rely heavily on medications. Despite that all, I still had to put up a strong front for the family and those around me.
"Honestly, I thought I was doing a pretty decent job with the smoke screen. That was until someone saw through me. A sharp-eyed individual who was different from the rest.
"She would patiently listen and comfort me for hours without brushing me off even when it was getting late. She became someone I could turn to in my time of need. There was always wisdom in her words. She taught me more than what the curriculum required of her.
"The time and strength she invested and gave me paid off. And because of her, I managed to stand back taller and stronger than I ever did. With her encouragement, I retook my Chinese paper and eventually achieved what I expected of myself. She also took it upon herself to help me in other subjects whenever there was a need.
"Even after my graduation, she continued to support me. In her own ways, she would constantly remind me that she has my back. Something I can never thank her enough for. Her advice and encouragements are what keep me going when times are tough. She would make time for me no matter how busy life gets. Because of all that and more, I am forever indebted to her.
"She was my teacher. A teacher that became more than a teacher to me. Till today, 6 years after my graduation, I continue to attend her ‘lessons’, through WhatsApp or at the Starbucks opposite school.
"She may never know how much her actions impacted me, and I wish that there were ways I could show her because words can only mean so much.
"While this story may not be as inspiring as Nick Vujicic’s, it still made a huge impact on the impressionable sixteen-year-old me. It taught me that there was nothing to fear and that it is important to learn from every experience life throws at you. Because of all that, I find myself more willing to enter uncharted waters and embrace change.
"My teacher not only inspired me to be a better version of myself, her selflessness also made me realised that I want to live for a bigger cause. To live for something bigger than myself. This has motivated me to serve the community more actively in an attempt to pay it forward.
"Thank you 何老师, my second mother. For being like a candle that consumes itself, just to light the way for me."
The contest is now closed and winners will be contacted shortly.
Read all entries for the contest here.