Inspiring Teachers Awards: Ms Lee's encouragement during my darkest days pushed me from an E to a B in English

When Teck Whye Secondary School student Bryan found out he had failed English, his favourite subject, it was the "darkest day" of his life.

"Life was never smooth-sailing ever since I was promoted to Secondary 3," Bryan said. "Many obstacles came and stress started building on day by day."

However, with the encouragement and motivation he received from his Secondary 3 teacher Ms Lee Fang Hui last year, he managed to jump several grades from an E to a B.

Inspired by Ms Lee, Bryan is striving towards becoming a teacher himself and wants to go to a junior college after his O-levels this year before heading to the National Institute of Education (NIE).

"I never thought I would have overcome any of this if it weren't for my English teacher Ms Lee."

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

"Meeting Ms Lee for the first time was just like with any other teacher, I treated her the same way, with the utmost respect.

"When we got back our mid-year results, I felt like I was a disappointment because that was the first ever time that I failed my English examinations.

"It literally became the darkest day of my life knowing that English was my best subject but I was still unable to score for it, and it was also shortly after we got back our results that she told us that she’d be heading elsewhere the following year and would not return to teach us due to personal reasons.

"Even though I was never close to her, it seemed like a car came crashing towards me. It felt as if this awesome teacher was doing her best to help me but I probably failed only because I did not put in sufficient effort.

"It was also because of all this negativity and the words she said, that made me change at that point in time.

"Even till now I can still vividly remember what she said.

"She said, 'Nothing will affect you in your resolve to achieve what you want, know why you want to do well.'

"It touched my heart like no words ever did before which then made me think to myself: Am I going to disappoint this amazing teacher? Am I going to disappoint myself and everyone around me? 

"From then on, I decided to make a change for the better.

"Every single lesson I would give my fullest attention and even chat with her whenever I got the free time to do so. It was also through those chats that I got to know her better.

"I learned how she was a very inspiring teacher, talking to her just gave me a strong vibe of positivity.

"However, our time together did not last for long, days passed quickly and soon enough, the year had already ended but I still missed her as a teacher, and always hoped that she would be back to teach me.

"It was through the inspiring chats with her and the fact that I started giving my fullest attention to her lessons, that my results improved tremendously from a grade E to a grade B, and I am really appreciative of her.

"Even till today, I’m still talking to her and she has helped me get through my darkest days and toughest times, even when I had a family problem that gave me sleepless nights, she was willing to sacrifice her time to chat with me, to help me get through it.

"She is certainly the most inspiring teacher I have ever met in my life.

"Meeting her allowed me to realise that my ambition is to actually become an English teacher just like her.

"I hope that I can inspire the lives of others and motivate students my age just like she does to me.

"My favourite quote from her is: 'Some people are very motivated because they want to test their own abilities and limits and in this life that you only live once. Are you willing to waste it? Or do you want to achieve the most that you can with your abilities?'.

"I strongly believe the actions and words of such a wonderful teacher should spread across the nation or even worldwide to create the awareness that teachers are one of the biggest motivators a student can ever get in their years of education."

When Stomp contacted, Ms Lee, 33, was humble when she found out she had been nominated for the Samsung-Stomp Inspiring Teachers Awards.

"I didn't go into teaching for these things but I'm very happy that Bryan wanted to nominate me.

Ms Lee entered the teaching force in 2009 and after teaching at Teck Whye Secondary School, she is now working at the Ministry of Education (MOE) Headquarters under the Curriculum Planning & Development branch.

"I had a very good experience as a secondary school student and I thought I wanted to give back," she told Stomp on why she wanted to be a teacher.

"I just really enjoyed teaching."

Ms Lee said that she built close relationships with her former students especially during her last few years of teaching when she helmed most of the graduating classes.

Ms Lee with her students.

"I spent many hours with them," she said.

To Ms Lee, building relationships with students is important: "Once you have a good relationship, you can work well with anyone."

However, it was a challenge for her to strike a close rapport with over a hundred students and getting to know their strengths and weaknesses.

"Knowing each and every student is a challenge but it is also very rewarding," she said.

It also gives her great satisfaction to see her students do well not only academically but emotionally as well.

"I saw my students for many hours and gave them guidance not only on their studies but on their personal problems too," she said.

"It's nice to see my students take my advice and put them into action and get good results."

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.