As we celebrate this year’s Teacher’s Day, let's get to know three teachers who embody compassion, innovation and sustainability in making a difference in the lives of their students and communities.

Every year on May 16th, we celebrate Teachers’ Day to express our appreciation for the tireless efforts of our educators. This year's theme is “Guru Insani Pemangkin Generasi Madani”. It highlights how a teacher’s compassion and care are vital to producing an all-rounded generation. To understand the theme, let’s first unpack what MADANI is. MADANI is a translated acronym of SCRIPT, consisting of the elements of Sustainability, Care and Compassion, Respect, Innovation, Prosperity, and Trust.

Last year we had the privilege of showcasing the Best Classrooms of the Top Ten Finalists of the Malaysia Teacher Prize 2022 at our Leaps of Knowledge conference. While each of them was excellent in their own way, we’d like to highlight three that focused on compassion, innovation, and sustainability, in line with this year’s Teachers’ Day theme.  As educators working with special needs students, Dr. Shyielathy, Cikgu Azam, and Cikgu Kumar have modeled what it looks like to apply the principles of MADANI to ensure that no student is left behind. 

Compassionate teachers make differences in students' lives

“Cikgu, can you keep my child in school for another year?”

“Cikgu, what should my kids do after school? It’s difficult for them to get a job.”

Imagine having discussions like these with parents on graduation day – a day meant to celebrate a milestone in a student’s journey in learning as they progress to their next stage in life. Through having many of these conversations, it dawned on Dr. Shyielathy that she needed to better support her differently-abled students for life after graduation. 

As the majority of special needs students have been noted to struggle with living independently in society as adults, it is vital to start building these skills to prepare them before they graduate.

With the belief that entrepreneurship has the potential to bring her students out of unemployment, she began to introduce her students to a range of skills: planting bean sprouts, making organic soap, and illustrating characters in picture books, before her students graduated. 

The diversity explored in the activities that Dr. Shyielathy now does with her students stems from the fact that she recognises that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to preparing a student well, particularly for special needs students. She takes into account students’ preferences and interests. This way, they feel more included and motivated to sharpen their skills for life after graduation. 

Dr. Shyielathy and her students working on their bean sprout project. Image provided by Dr. Shyielathy

Dr. Shyielathy’s example shows that having compassion for students means having empathy, not just for when they are in the classroom, but for their lives as a whole. 

Innovation as the key to inclusivity

Now, imagine a world where visually impaired students can run together with other students during physical education class and even compete in a marathon together! 

Cikgu Azam used to support his students by running together with them, but it is no longer possible due to his age. So he decided to build a device that would do it for him instead - a running aid called “Caballus Rafvi”. This device helps his students with navigation, mobility, and stability when running. It is suitable not only for visually-impaired students, but can be made to support other special-needs students who are struggling with running in general. Through this innovation, he’s had the joy of knowing that he made a student’s dream come true: Nur Yusrina Alisya, who is visually-impaired, had always wanted to join a fun run on her own.  

Image of Callabus Rafvi provided by Cikgu Azam

But innovative teachers like Cikgu Azam do not just stop after their first attempt. From his first model made in 2019 using recycled materials, Cikgu Azam has now further refined the Callabus Rafvi to its third iteration, aiming to make it more robust and more portable. 

Innovation is the driving force behind progress and development. Teachers play a crucial role in fostering innovation by encouraging creativity and critical thinking. They inspire their students to think outside the box, challenge the status quo, and come up with new ideas and solutions. Their compassion and empathy towards their students drive them towards innovative solutions that are tailored to specific needs.

Teachers that go beyond to ensure sustainability

Apart from being compassionate and innovative, great teachers also know that education is not a one-person job. All members of society need to be engaged to help students become well-adjusted members of society. One way Cikgu Kumar modeled this was by engaging with people in industries where his students could potentially end up working. He wanted to ensure that his special needs students would be able to transition into employment smoothly. 

Image provided by Cikgu Kumar

His journey in starting these projects began with the determination to eliminate the stigmas that potential employers might have towards these students. To do this, he collaborated with FAMA Perak and the Veterinary Department of Perak State on a project to introduce agricultural skills to his students and to create awareness for employers to get to know his students better and to understand their abilities. In 2017, Cikgu Kumar’s Hello School to Work and Project School Enterprise Kedai Dobi OKU led to 20 of his students getting hired in the housekeeping and hotel industry.   

Moving forward together as a community

These teachers create a positive and inclusive environment where students learn not only academic knowledge, but also life skills that are essential for their holistic development. Through their compassionate approach, innovative teaching methods, and efforts to ensure sustainability, teachers prepare students to be responsible, compassionate, and forward-thinking citizens of the world. The teachers featured in this article model what it means to be committed to providing the best possible education for their students. 

Teachers’ Day 2023 provides an opportunity for us to celebrate our teachers and their role in creating an inclusive and supportive learning environment for all students. Let's express our gratitude to all the teachers who have touched our lives and continue to make a positive impact on future generations. Happy Teachers’ Day!

For more stories like this, head on to the Stories section at the FrogAsia website.

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