Inspiring teacher of English who once failed in the subject in primary school

SINGAPORE – When Mr Ignatius Lim was in Tanglin Primary School, he struggled with English and mathematics and eventually failed those two subjects at the Primary School Leaving Examination.

He had to repeat his Primary 6 before making it to Presbyterian High School. There, he met a good English teacher, Ms Maggie Lim, who sparked an interest in reading in him by introducing him to books that intrigued him.

“Books didn’t interest me back then, but she guided me and suggested books in the adventure genre. From there, I began to love reading,” said Mr Lim, 42, who is now an English teacher in Kheng Cheng School.

On Tuesday (Oct 27), he was one of seven teachers awarded the Inspiring Teacher of English award.

An educator for 20 years, Mr Lim said: “The kind of struggle I had when I was learning helped me to think about how I can make my students understand what I’m teaching.”

He said it is important for his young charges to find meaning in learning and not just blindly memorise things like grammar rules and good vocabulary.

He added that he regularly exposes his pupils – he teaches at Primary 5 and 6 levels – to newspaper articles and online clips from The Straits Times and Channel News Asia.

Mr Lim, who also teaches pupils in Foundation English classes, said his childhood experience has also taught him the importance of building confidence in struggling learners.

He finds ways to help them learn to enjoy writing, such as by teaching them phrases that are “good while easy to spell, connect and make sense in a story”.

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Words like “suddenly” could be replaced with “out of the blue”. An alternative for “scolding” would be “dressing down”.

He paid tribute to a former mentor, Mrs Jessie Ching, who taught him various teaching methods. She was the school staff developer in Mayflower Primary School, where he taught from 2003 to 2009.

Between 2010 and 2016, he furthered his studies and was also posted to the Ministry of Education’s headquarters. He has been teaching in Kheng Cheng School since 2016.

Said Mr Lim: “What is important to me as a teacher is that my students see meaning in their learning and they can apply what they learn.

“I am a firm believer that every child can learn and improve, and I am glad to have the privilege of journeying with my students in learning to be effective users of English.”

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