Inspiring Teachers Awards: Miss Goh moulded me from rebellious teenager to top student of my cohort

Growing up, Francesca developed a rebellious streak as her family was going through a tough time.

When she started at Hua Yi Secondary School 14 years ago, she failed all her subjects.

However, her Geography teacher, Miss Shernice Goh (now Mrs Chia) managed to find the right strategy to reign Francesca in so she could reach her best potential.

Here is Francesca's entry for the Samsung-Stomp Inspiring Teachers Awards:

"Coming from a less privileged background, I used to think that the future was bleak.

"For six years of my primary school life, my father was unfit for work and my mother had to provide intensive care for the family. During that period, our household income was $0. We had to rely on the handouts given by the government and social assistance to tide through the six to seven years. Life was definitely challenging for the family.

"Since there was a lack of parental supervision, my primary school days were spent playing basketball or loitering around the void decks. I was never interested in studying and was never once serious in doing my work. Miraculously, I cleared Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) and went into Hua Yi Secondary School.

"As I did not have a strong primary school foundation, it was difficult for me to cope with the secondary school academic demands. I flunked all my subjects for my first class test. Miss Goh forced me to stay back after school each day till 6pm for extra classes.

A rebellious student back then, I asked my teacher what I had to do in order to get out of the programme.

“Show me your As!”

"That was her answer. Four words. Short and sharp. I was so determined to show her the As and get my freedom back.

"I studied hard, very hard in fact. I emerged third in class for my Secondary 1 SA1 examination results. I was pleasantly surprised. And that was the first time I tasted success.

"Ironically, her four words had motivated me to continue to work harder. It was no longer about getting out of the programme. Rather, it was myself.

"That simple taste of success led me to reflect on my definition of success. I concluded that the yardstick to measure success is not how many 'A’s one has, but how fruitful and faithful one has been with their given talents and capacity. If I choose to give up and continue to adopt the 'I could not care less attitude', I am the one who is disappointing myself.

"Family circumstances back at home were still challenging. However, with a positive attitude, I became more focused in class and adopted a more serious attitude in my work. Eventually, I topped the entire Secondary 2 cohort, even though I was not in the best class.

"However, there was no joy in me because in that same period, my mother’s health deteriorated and she had to go for surgery.

"My teacher was adamant to tell my parents of my good progress. She did a surprise home visit, just to visit my parents and tell them about my results. I was extremely touched by that simple gesture. I felt that there was a person out there, who cares for me genuinely.

"Since then, I was determined to break out of poverty. I started working at a young age to help make ends meet. If there were night study sessions in school, I would study in school, as it was a more conducive environment. 

"Today, I wish to share my joy and successes with my teacher. She gave me the desire to pursue knowledge and wisdom, not for others, but for myself. With financial aid and scholarship, I continued education and completed my Masters' programme.

"Today, I am also a primary school teacher at Xingnan Primary School. Beyond imparting skills and knowledge, I strive to give my pupils a renewed sense of purpose, creating in them a desire for new knowledge and empowering them to take ownership of their learning, just like how my teacher has inspired me.

"Riding on the trend of Pokemon Go, I told my pupils that each Pokemon has unique powers. They win and lose battles but they fight to their best each time. Similarly, each of them has strengths and weaknesses. Hence, the outcome of a test does not determine success. I share with them my definition of success - the faithful stewardship of the talents and capacity they have been entrusted with, inspiring pupils to live out the spirit of excellence.

"Knowing that I have faith in them gives them confidence to believe in themselves.

"Today, I am also the founder of a non-profit organisation, Bringing Love to Every Single Soul (BLESS). BLESS is a registered Non-Profit Organisation serving the families and children residing in the rental communities. They are the poorest of the poor in Singapore and the works of BLESS revolve around creating sustainable impacts in their lives.

"For example, we read to children at the void decks of rental blocks and have an online portal to meet their physical needs. For my works in the rental communities, I was awarded the Ten Outstanding Young Person Award (Singapore) in 2015 and the Silent Hero Award in 2016.

"Again, it was my teacher who gave me the courage to believe in myself and pursue my dreams. I hope to share my accolades with that teacher who transformed my life. 

"That teacher is Miss Shernice Goh (now known as Mrs Chia) from Hua Yi Secondary School."

When Stomp contacted Mrs Chia about Francesca nominating her for the Samsung-Stomp Inspiring Teachers Awards, she fondly spoke of Francesca and how proud she is of her accomplishments.

"I am very proud of her and she's definitely come a long way and overcome a lot of challenges amidst the adverse environment she was in.

"She had to work a lot harder than her peers."

Mrs Chia added kindly that she would not describe Francesca as rebellious, rather she was very earnest and lacking in confidence.

Now, the two are still in contact and Francesca frequently visits her alma mater where Mrs Chia is still teaching where she helps students as part of an outreach program.

Have a teacher you want to nominate? Find out how to join the Samsung-Stomp Inspiring Teachers Awards here.

Read all entries for the contest here.