Teacher extraordinaire

THE eldest in a family of seven children, Noorjahan Sultan, 45, has always been the source of reference for her siblings, especially after their parents died just when she was starting to build her career at the age of 24. Left as the only breadwinner in the family, Noorjahan, who has a Diploma in Early Childhood Education, had to let go of her dreams to further her studies and raise her school-going siblings instead. She was teaching in SK Puchong Jaya,

Selangor when her parents died and she requested for an immediate transfer to teach in Kuantan, Pahang. After many years of taking care of them, her plan to pursue a degree programme in teaching materialised when her youngest sister registered her name online without her knowledge. Her sister had told her that “she shouldn’t stop dreaming”. Therefore, at 38, Noorjahan started her degree course at Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Sultan Mizan in Besut, Terengganu in 2009. Four years later she graduated with three awards — first-class degree, Best Academic and Overall Best Achievement Student. Last December, she was nominated as one of the finalists of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2016 award for her dedication in making English a fun subject. With a selection of 8,000 candidates from 150 countries worldwide, Noorjahan made it into the Top 50. Although she was not among the Top 10, she found that the interaction with teachers from around the world an enriching experience at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai.

A preschool teacher at SK Indera Mahkota Utama, Kuantan, Noorjahan pioneered Let’s Rhyme, a method of English language learning based on the alphabet and thematic rhyming, in 2009. “I hope to share the product of my hard work with the children of the world and improve their English proficiency. “My research on fostering language comprehensively through rhymes and my children’s books with short rhyming text and storybooks have received good reviews throughout the nation. I am proud of my contribution to the country,” said Noorjahan. Not only does this method teach listening, speaking and language skills, it also instills moral values, love for one’s country and cultural understanding. The rhymes cover 40 themes based on the national preschool curriculum. Noorjahan would like to expand Let’s Rhyme to children in rural areas of Malaysia as she believes many experience difficulties in practising English in class. “I would also like to research into whether Let’s Rhyme can help autistic children. “They usually possess untapped potential that should be honed. They are often misunderstood by society, giventheir extraordinary behaviour,” she added. She plans to digitalise Let’s Rhyme so it can be accessed by anyone and from anywhere. Road to success “My parents inspired me to teach. They encouraged me to pursue teaching 23 years ago. “The transformation of a child due to knowledge motivates me to teach, especially when some teachers teach in inadequate facilities and non-conducive environments and yet they are able to impart their knowledge to their students.” There is a great sense of accomplishment that comes with being a Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize 2016 award finalist. “There’s pride among teachers — the significance of the teacher has been upheld. Teachers do make a difference in the lives of students. “Being a role model is a responsibility.

I never thought that I would impact someone as I am still learning myself. “The Education Ministry has appointed me to prepare English modules for preschoolers. I am also involved in the highly significant process of reconstructing and improving the educational syllabus of preschools in the country. “With national and international recognition of my work, I had been tasked as a national trainer for teachers.” Early this year, Open University Malaysia invited Noorjahan to be a part-time lecturer. “I have been able to encourage teachers to further their studies with the aim of enhancing their knowledge and skills.

“I aim to not only make my students academically successful but also morally ready to face a competitive society.” Noorjahan’s awards includeMalaysia Teacher Icon (2016); Hyacinth Gaudart Award by the Malaysian English Language Teaching Association (2016); Top 10 finalists in the product category at the National Innovation Conference and Exhibition 2014 organised by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation; and Edwin Malachi Creative Teacher Showcase Competition Silver winner at MELTA’s Asia TEFL Conference 2014. Noorjahan was one of the speakers at the Asia-Pacific Regional Policy Forum on Early Childhood Care and Education (APFEC) 2016 held in Putrajaya last Wednesday. She spoke on Innovations in Pedagogical Approaches and Human Resource Development to Improve the Quality of Early Childhood Care and Education in Various Settings. “Malaysian preschool teachers have developed several modules, methods and classroom materials which have helped pupils to improve.

“A teacher must continuously gain knowledge and keep abreast of current technologies. Innovation should be in sync with the curriculum,” she said in her presentation. APFEC 2016 saw 1,000 participants from 36 countries in the Asia Pacific, with Malaysia sharing its success stories through exhibitions. (File pix) Noorjahan Sultan (centre) conducting the Let’s Rhyme module in class. RECOGNISING TEACHERS THE Global Teacher Prize is a US$1 million (RM4million) award presented annually to an exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession. The prize serves to underline the importance of educators and the fact that, throughout the world, their efforts deserve to be recognised. It seeks to acknowledge the impacts of the very best teachers — not only on their students but also on the communities around them. Held for the second year, the Global Teacher Prize is awarded by the Varkey Foundation under the patronage of United Arab Emirates Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum, who is also the ruler of Dubai. The Top 10 finalists for the 2016 prize were announced on Feb 17.

Hanan Al Hroub from Samiha Khalil Secondary School in Palestine was named the winner at the Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai on March 13. Australian Richard Johnson from Rostrata Primary School in Western Australia was among the Top 10 finalists while two Malaysian teachers — Noorjahan Sultan, a preschool teacher at SK Indera Mahkota Utama, Kuantan in Pahang and Vanesri Kasi, a remedial education teacher at SJK (T) Jalan Khalidi, Muar in Johor — were shortlisted among the Top 50. (File pix) Students John Chen, Eliana Joy and Jannah Mohd Azmer taking a closer look at one of Richard Johnson’s (second from right) science activities during his visit to SK Taman Megah in Petaling Jaya. ‘SCIENCESATIONAL’ LESSONS STEPPING into science specialist support teacher Richard Johnson’s STEM lab at Rostrata Primary in Perth, Western Australia is like entering a wonderland. One group of children is working on robots while another explores augmented reality. Tropical fish swim in an aquarium, a 3-D printer is busy producing the children’s designs for a holographic projector while every activity is videotaped.

Everyone’s busy, everyone’s hand-on and everyone’s excited. It’s a far cry from Johnson’s own schooling. Although he was fascinated with scientific experiments, science was low on the list of priorities. One of the top 10 Global Teacher Prize 2015 award finalists, Johnson started out as a general teacher but noticed that his science lessons seemed to engage the children most. He resolved to explore teaching the subject in new ways with the backing of the head teacher. Together they set up the first Australian school science laboratory specifically designed for young children. With a significant academic performance improvement since the setting up of the lab, the school was awarded Teacher Development status. Johnson has been tireless in his efforts to get the best equipment for his pupils. Crowdfunding platforms help him secure some of the most coveted STEM equipment in the world.

He invites inspirational people including Australian Nobel Laureate Dr Robin Warren to meet the pupils. Johnson’s website links important innovations developed for children by teachers around the globe and it has received 320,000 page views. He has received Australia’s most prestigious teaching award, the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science Teaching. The Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur recently hosted Johnson’s visit to Kuala Lumpur under the auspices of its Public Diplomacy programme. He shared with teachers and students how he teaches STEM in the most “sciencesational” way. He visited SK Taman Megah, Petaling Jaya and conducted a fun and engaging one-hour science lesson for 45 Year Four pupils and teachers. He enlivened the lesson with hands-on activities and science experiments to the delight of the attendees.

“Schools should place emphasis on hands-on science for children as young as 5 years old. My pupils’ excitement in class motivates me. “Each week I teach 600 pupils science using web-based technology and a hands-on approach. I use a variety of exciting activities gathered from around the world to engage them, mostly using simple materials and equipment. “This allows pupils to investigate the different sciences, become critical thinkers and achieve outcomes at a high level.” Johnson’s awards include Premier’s Science Award (2012) and Department of Education Award for Excellence and Innovation (2008).

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Source: New Straits Times. Date: 25 July 2016

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