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From Creating Classroom Mischief to Creating Classroom Magic

With a twinkle in his eyes and a playful spirit, Andre Joachim Fernandez, or more affectionately known as Teacher Dre, has made waves at Star Learners. Within just six months, Andre is now known in the organisation for having his passion for his craft shine through every interaction. 

His journey began with a profound childhood memory of a kindergarten teacher who left an indelible mark on his life. Although life took him on a different path for a while, Andre’s love for working with children was reignited through various interactions and sealed through conversations with a former schoolmate, now a fellow male preschool educator at Star Learners. Andre’s aspirations are crystal clear: to give the children entrusted to him the same magical experience he felt under his kindergarten teacher’s wing, proving that one’s positive experience in the early years can be indeed powerful and enchanting!

Beginning EL Preschool Educator @ one-north
< 1 Year with Star Learners

What led you to pursue a career in early childhood education?

It all started with my kindergarten teacher. I can still vividly remember how I felt going to school back then. She was always so cheerful and bubbly, and it made a huge impression on me. Our class was small, just five of us, and even though I was a bit mischievous (I may have broken a fan while playing football in the classroom… oops), she never got angry or scolded me. Instead, she was incredibly nurturing and built such a strong bond with all of us. She even had a great relationship with my mum and you could tell she genuinely cared for every child in her care. She was like a second mum to us, creating a loving and welcoming environment outside of our own homes.

 I’ve always enjoyed interacting with children. My passion for teaching was ignited when I joined a band and we started doing performances, sometimes for audiences that included children. Seeing the children’s enjoyment of what we put out sparked something in me. My friend Edward, who was studying to be a preschool educator, shared his experiences and insights about the early childhood industry and I decided to take the plunge. He eventually introduced me to Star Learners after he joined and here I am!

What strengths do you think you bring to the classroom?

People often assume I have this stern or fierce demeanour, just based on how I look. But that couldn’t be further from the truth (laughs). What’s interesting is that other teachers have actually mentioned to me that the children tend to be more well-behaved when I’m around! I believe it might be because they felt a bit intimidated initially but over time, that fear turns into respect. They understand that there are certain expectations in different situations, like being quiet in the library or lining up for lunch. They quickly grasp these routines and tasks because they know what I expect of them after a while. 

I also bring some unexpected skills to the table, like being the go-to person for heavy lifting or handyman tasks. I’ve been asked to move furniture or troubleshoot technical issues. I remember once there was a problem with the projector and I honestly had no idea how to fix it. But I pressed a random button and miraculously, it started working again. Everyone was so impressed (laughs). Since then, I’ve become the default IT guy, much to the amusement of my colleagues.

How do you go about building positive relationships with parents?

During the school day, while interacting with my K1s and K2s, I make it a point to ask them about their weekends. They often excitedly share stories about their parents bringing them out for various activities. I then seize these opportunities to connect with parents on a personal level. For example, if I hear a child mentioning that his dad is taking them to watch the new Transformers movie, I’ll casually mention it to the dad, saying something like, “Oh, Aiden’s daddy, I heard Aiden say you’re bringing him to watch the new Transformers movie. Sounds like fun!” This sparks conversation and creates opportunities for bonding between parents and I. Just last week, a mum asked me, “Teacher Dre, is the abacus programme beneficial? I see my child bringing back abacus homework, but I’m not sure how to help.” I playfully replied, “Oh, yeah, I’m not sure either. But back in your time, you all used abacus, right?” We shared a laugh and she jokingly said, “Do you think I’m that old?” (laughs). 

Using humour during casual conversations really helps to break the ice and make parents feel comfortable with me. It’s one of the strategies I employ to establish positive relationships with parents. By showing genuine interest in their child’s experiences and engaging in friendly banter, I aim to create an open and welcoming environment where parents feel at ease approaching me.

It’s moments like these that truly fulfil me as an educator. I believe in the power of giving and to see that reciprocated by these young hearts is truly heartwarming.

Can you share a specific moment or experience where you felt a strong connection with the children or their families, and how did it make you feel?

I do think that my children really love me (laughs). One of my K2 boys went to Japan and knowing how much I adore Spiderman, he bought a tumbler for me from Universal Studios. He surprised me with it during our parent-teacher meeting and I was absolutely overwhelmed. My heart just melted at the thoughtfulness and generosity. Another special moment happened just a few weeks ago, when one of the girls handed me a Spiderman balloon during her birthday celebration in school — she had gotten it specially for me! 

It’s moments like these that truly fulfil me as an educator. I believe in the power of giving and to see that reciprocated by these young hearts is truly heartwarming.

What are your well wishes for Star Learners as we celebrate 20 Inspiring Years?

As we celebrate 20 Inspiring Years at Star Learners, my well wishes for the organisation revolve around the recruitment of male educators and young educators in general. Having a diverse team of educators can truly make any centre shine. I believe that it not only brings about unique dynamics, but it also ensures that there’s always someone who can take on handyman or IT tasks when needed (laughs).