Inspiring Teachers Awards: Mr Yeo's passion for math inspired me to become a teacher as well

Teachers not only have an impact on the knowledge we learn in the classroom but on our careers in the future as well.

Such was the case with Chern Siong who was inspired by his mathematics teacher Mr Joseph Yeo Kai Kow at Anglo-Chinese School (ACS) (Independent) to join the teaching force himself.

Chern Siong, who is now 41 and teaching at Beatty Secondary School, said that Mr Yeo's extreme passion for math helped to shape his career path to become a math teacher like him.

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

"Mr Joseph Yeo Kai Kow was my math teacher when I was in Secondary 2 way back at ACS in 1990. It was odd that he was our math teacher, because he was teaching the “gifted” classes and besides, our class was not exactly cooperative and well-behaved; why would he teach math to the ninth Express class of the level?

"However, he gradually won us over, with his extreme passion for math, continually challenging our class to push beyond our limits. Never once did he look down on us as the ninth Express class.

"Over the year, he passed his passion for math to us, getting us to believe in our own answers, rather than trusting the answer sheets that were always behind the textbook. This gave us massive confidence in tackling any kind of questions.

"Before long, he was giving us “gifted” questions (without telling us initially). He only revealed it to us when we could solve it.

"Needless to say, we were really over-the-moon whenever that happened.

"As time passed we were even slowly exposed to O-level questions, in a similar fashion.

"The fact that being in Sec 2 and able to solve actual O-level questions gave us amazing confidence in our own ability.

"Even so, when tests and examination results didn’t go our way, as many times, life’s journeys do, Mr Yeo didn’t blame us.

"Instead, he used such opportunities to share stories of how the best preparations can also go wrong. He encouraged us to deal with the setback and move on with our lives.

"We particularly enjoyed how he made math fun, instead of being the daunting subject that many of us feared (when we were in Secondary 1).

"He was definitely the one who inspired my math adventure and in the end, helped to shape my path to be a math teacher, just like him.

"I pray and hope that I will be just as inspiring to help students become better, not only in the subjects I teach but in tackling challenges in life."

Dr Joseph Yeo Kai Kow when he was teaching at ACS (Independent).

Mr Yeo, who is now known as Dr Yeo, is currently a senior lecturer of mathematics and mathematics education at the National Institute of Education (NIE) and has 31 years in the education service under his belt, including seven years of teaching at ACS.

When Stomp reached out to him to inform him that he had been nominated for the Samsung-Stomp Inspiring Teachers Awards, he said that he still remembers Chern Siong after all these years.

"He was eager to learn," said Dr Yeo.

"It is heartening to see a student blossom into a confident and competent mathematics teacher.

"He was one of many students I taught, yet after more than 27 years, he still remembers me as his mathematics teacher who influenced him in his interest in learning mathematics.

"I feel very encouraged and grateful for his acknowledgement."

For Dr Yeo, being an inspiration to students like Chern Siong, is one of the most rewarding parts of being an educator.

"It is very rewarding to stand in a position of trust," he said.

"Students look up to you for inspiration, and trust that you will always act in their best interests.

"A teacher also trusts that in turn, students will respect the teacher who expects much from them."

With a strong belief that teaching is a special calling, Dr Yeo had always wanted to be a teacher when he was a student.

"My personal belief is that 'every child can learn'," he said.

He believes that his passion for teaching mathematics and the use of a wide repertoire of teaching strategies to develop his students' interest in learning helps to make the subject fun and engaging for them.

"Role-play, storytelling, problem-solving activities and real-life examples are some of the teaching methods I used to engage my students to enjoy learning mathematics. 

"My intention is about making the learning process a joyful one. 

"I gain much satisfaction in seeing my students experience the joy of learning and self-discovery when they are able to grasp mathematical concepts.

On the challenges that he has faced in his teaching career, Dr Yeo cited helping his students discover their strengths, develop their interests and realise their potential.

"This seems like a straightforward objective, but it is not easy to achieve in practice," he said.

"Part of the discovery process often requires 'trial and error' and accepting some mistakes and failures along the way."

"My hope for all my students is they will become socially adaptable, resilient and possess the ability to contribute to building societal cohesiveness.

"I hope that they are also active and innovative thinkers, with a strong sense of responsibility and ownership."

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.