Today, I won one of the most precious awards in my life — a School Teaching Award (STA). The last time I won an award was for Best Headline, given by MediaCorp when I was the editor of Lime magazine. Won it several times actually, for headlines like “Cheaper, Pho Sure” (for a budget travel story on Vietnam) and “A Roast By Any Other Name” (for a series of piggy-themed celebrity puns hahaha).
Don’t get me wrong. I was happy I won them, especially the cash prizes $$. But all it took was a bit of clever writing and a corny sense of humour, which I have in spades. So, winning those awards didn’t feel particularly difficult.
But THIS, this School Teaching Award — I am truly happy and humbled to receive this accolade.
This is the second time I have been nominated but my first win. It is extra precious to me because 3 years ago, I didn’t even think I could get back on my feet (literally) after my epic fall at Universal Studios Singapore, thanks to this rogue plastic sheet left on the ground due to some worker’s negligence; let alone go back to teaching and even win an award today.
I stopped working for 10 months after my fall in June 2015. It led to injuries in my right hand and fingers (my grip is still wonky today), a torn tendon in my right shoulder which became a painful chronic frozen shoulder, and a nerve injury that left my right face and body swollen and lopsided. Warning: ⚠️ My advance apology for the unattractive picture below. Not for little kids’ eyes.
Well, at least my face is no longer obviously crooked now, unless you watch my smile closely.
For 10 long months, I survived on a mountain of painkillers, awoken by pain every night, living for the next hit of drugs. The stress and injuries brought on other complications that led to 5 stays in the hospital.
To top it off, my fall happened just 4 months after I’d joined Ngee Ann Poly’s School of Interdisciplinary Studies full time, after being an adjunct lecturer with them since 2010. I was so embarrassed to wipe out all my MC, hospitalization leave and annual leave, so soon after starting a new permanent job. I felt terrible that I burdened colleagues to take over my classes/find adjunct lecturers and mark my scripts, because my right hand was entirely ruined then.
Worse than the physical pain was the mental anguish. Not many know this but I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depressive Disorder, which led to more meds. Nightmares every night, alternating with sleeplessness due to pain. I felt utterly useless. I thought my life was over. There were days when I simply couldn’t see a way out. I was afraid I’d be permanently disabled and a burden on my family. I was only 38 then. What was I going to do??
My condition worsened during my court battle with Universal Studios Singapore. (We eventually settled out of court.)
Was I suicidal? Well… let’s just put it this way. I had lost all interest in life, even the desire to take my own. But, I secretly thought to myself, if someone would do me the favour, I wouldn’t have minded. Yes, it was THAT bad; I actually had that conversation in my head.
Slowly but surely, I started recovering. When I went back to work in April 2016, I was still dependent on painkillers. But because I needed my wits together to teach, I would skip them till after my classes. Sometimes, that meant after 5pm. Some days, I depended on ice packs to numb my shoulder during meetings.
I remember those times when I couldn’t even lift my arm to clean the white board. I had to depend on my students’ help. But I LOVE teaching and feeling useful again. Being in the classroom with my kids re-energized me.
Like many teachers and lecturers, we work darn hard and rack our brains to make lessons interesting for our students. Sometimes, we get lucky and our students show their appreciation with messages or cards/gifts. But frankly, most students don’t really bother. They move on with their busy lives after they finish my module, maybe wave at me when I see them at the canteen.
But in 2016, just months after I’d returned to work and was still regaining my footing, I received my first nomination for the School Teaching Award.
That was such a boost for me. I was so grateful, even though I didn’t win!
Today, I am humbled to receive multiple nominations for the 2018 awards, and so chuffed to receive the STA alongside fellow winners Yu Ching, Chishiho and Edwin.
Here, I am with Deputy Principal Looi Mei Fong, who was my first boss at NP. She hired me as a Corp Comm manager back in 2009 and I have her to thank for taking me into the NP fam. So touched by how happy she was for me! Gosh, I miss working with her and the Corp Comm team. #coolboss
Look at us, all spiffy!
At the risk of sounding like I’m making an Oscar speech, I’d like to thank the following people:
– My AWESOME students who took the time and effort to write in and nominate me. And all my other former and current students who show me love by writing me little notes, text messages and follow me on social media to keep in touch.
– My equally awesome reporting officer Juliet who also nominated me, and is a mentor I really look up to.
– My husband Alan, son Ayden and my family who rally around me every day. ❤️
– My team of doctors, from Dr David Paul Bell to Dr Derek Yong to Dr Chan Herng Nieng, who patched me up from inside to outside. Infinitely grateful to you.
– My amazing colleagues at IS, who got my back. #mytribe
– My former director Andrew, who gave me my first chance to be a lecturer and was so kind and encouraging when I was out of action during my fall. Seriously, #bestbossever.
– My current director Philip, who offered me the opportunity to be seconded to an exciting new position in a different department that would be great for my career. I thought long and hard. And when I eventually turned it down (mostly because I couldn’t bear to leave teaching yet), he graciously and wisely told me opportunities will always come again, and to stick to what makes me happiest.
To be honest, I secretly wondered if I made the right decision to stay on as a lecturer. But THIS totally validates my decision.
Finally, thank you God for your grace, for restoring me, and giving me hesed wisdom to teach and serve my students with love. So, so grateful for my blessings.