Answering to a higher calling
Faith Yee (Left of photo) and Esther Chua (Right of Photo) Valedictorians from the Wheelock College-Singapore Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education, with Prof Tan Thiam Soon, President, SIT.
Three years of hard work and perseverance has paid off for Esther Chua and Faith Yee, newly-minted valedictorians of the last cohort of the Wheelock College-Singapore Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education.
Esther has known, since she was 16 years old, that Early Childhood Education is where she wants to be. “It’s a calling from God,” said the valedictorian who has always been a top achiever academically.
She was so eager to confirm that this was truly her calling, that while other secondary school students spent their afternoons hanging out in malls, Esther spent her after-school hours at the nearby kindergarten observing the teachers and students. She also created an opportunity to confirm if this path was really for her, by asking the kindergarten to let her join them on a temporary basis. The kindergarten agreed, and it turned out to be one of her most fulfilling experiences ever. She then dived directly into early childhood education at Temasek Polytechnic and worked at NTUC’s My First Skool for 2 years before deciding to enrol in the Wheelock programme after hearing rave reviews from her seniors.
From F9 Grades to Valedictorian: Faith Yee discovers her calling after working with children
For Faith, graduating as valedictorian is definitely something she had never imagined herself achieving. “I was never a good student. I got F9s for my preliminary examinations in the ‘O’ levels and I didn’t do very well in Temasek Polytechnic too. If I passed, the teachers would already consider it a significant achievement. My family was in shock too.”
In fact, it was by mere coincidence that Faith decided to embark on Early Childhood Education at the polytechnic. “I chose it because I thought it was a family-friendly career, with a stable income and fixed hours. I didn’t have the passion for it like my peers,” she said.
However, once she experienced pre-school work at NTUC’s My First Skool, , it all started to make sense. “I really felt the satisfaction and passion. I also wanted to give the students my best but I didn’t feel equipped as a teacher. That was when it started to motivate me to want to become a better teacher, and so I enrolled for the final intake at Wheelock College.”
Recognised as one of the top institutions in Early Childhood Education worldwide, the Wheelock programme came with its challenges. There were concurrent group projects and assignments with tight deadlines every semester. Though both valedictorians cited their 6-week stint in Boston during the Overseas Immersion Programme (OIP) as their favourite part of the course that was no bed of roses either.
Faith said, “Everyone was stressed and some of us felt that we were not doing our best due to other commitments.” Added Esther, “It was a very challenging period because there were a lot of conflicts among the students and I had to learn how to solve them.”
What Motivates Them?
What really motivates them when the going gets tough?
“Can I say God?” Esther asked intensely. “He has been my source of hope and motivation and when I feel I cannot do it, all the prayers lifted me up.” Apart from religion, what also kept her going was her classmates. “I was worried because there were many discussions and presentations. I’ve always been an introvert who cannot even raise my hands to speak in class. My classmates encouraged me to speak up and share what I know and believe. I felt very valued because I knew that I too have something to contribute.” Her family, especially her uncle, was also a tremendous source of support.
For Faith, it was an excellent project team and a good mentor, another pre-school teacher that kept her going. Her professors also contributed to her success. “They genuinely cared for us and that really motivated me to want to do my best.”
Takeaways from the Programme
Faith continued, “The professors have taught me that an educator’s job is not just to teach. I used to be very focused on grades. But I learned that it is more important to help your students cultivate a love for learning and make them feel valued.”
For Esther, her biggest takeaways from the programme included the realization that strength comes from teamwork and a deeper understanding of her own abilities. “The way I view gender, culture and children with different abilities are more unbiased. All these shaped me as a person and will impact the way I teach the children in future.”
Esther and Faith, who are on the same floorball team at Singapore Institute of Technology, are now working at NTUC’s My First Skool and Busy Bees respectively. Both hope to become senior lecturers or part of the management team in a few years’ time so that they can mentor and inspire other teachers too. They are confident that Wheelock College’s leadership modules will help them achieve this goal. For Faith, getting a Masters degree is also part of her plan.
We wish them all the best in their journey ahead!