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Switching Channels: From Media Professional to Preschool Principal

Joanna’s journey to becoming a preschool principal is an inspiring story of following one’s passion and persevering through challenges. While her career began in the media industry, she found her true calling when she took a chance on a teaching job posting. From there, she discovered her love for early childhood education and began her journey as a dedicated educator and leader. 

Today, as she leads a team of passionate teachers at Star Learners, Joanna is making a difference in the lives of young learners every day. In this interview, we’ll dive into her journey of growth with Star Learners.

Principal, Elias
11 years with Star Learners

Walk us through your career journey and how it has led you to your current role at Star Learners.

Prior to joining the ECCE industry, I was working in the media industry, but remained open to exploring other suitable career paths. One day, I saw a teaching job posting for a childcare centre and decided to give it a shot. While on the job, I discovered that I actually enjoyed the work and was performing well too, which motivated me to pursue further qualifications in the field. I started out as an assistant teacher for a playgroup class and after six months, I enrolled in a 3-year part-time diploma course. While studying, I continued teaching as well, so it provided me with practical experience and helped me apply my theoretical knowledge in real-life situations. In my final year of studies, I joined Star Learners.

How have your colleagues supported you throughout your career?

Throughout my Star Learners journey, I have been fortunate to have incredibly supportive colleagues who have been by my side every step of the way. They have been a source of guidance, comfort and encouragement during times of challenge and growth. My colleagues from our Pasir Ris centre hold a special place in my heart. They have witnessed my growth from a trainee teacher to a fully-certified teacher, as well as supported me through my personal milestones such as marriage and motherhood. When I was transferred to our centre at Elias, I initially found it difficult to adapt. But again with the help of colleagues, we worked together to build up the team. I am proud to say that we are making good progress in building our rapport and establishing our own culture at Elias. One of my teachers recently expressed how happy she is to be working in Star Learners, while another shared her gratitude for the opportunities that have come her way. Hearing that she felt like she has so much to learn from me and the organisation really made me feel that all that hard work was worth it!

What is one of your most memorable experiences while working here at Star Learners?

One of my most memorable experiences was during the early years of Book Club Day – a day where educators are free to choose a storybook to share with the children. I introduced my class to the book, ‘Boxes for Katje’. This book follows two children who became pen pals during a time of war, sharing their experiences and difficulties, including a shortage of chocolates and sweets. This led to a discussion among my class of children and me about the privileges we enjoy in Singapore, a country which is stable and safe. We talked about how not all children are as fortunate as we are and how we could make a difference. Inspired by the book, we worked together with an organisation and together with the children’s parents, we filled up a large box with books, writing materials, pencil cases, bags and shoes. We shipped this care package over to a small village in the Philippines, and I felt immensely proud of our effort.

I count myself a firm lover and believer of our literature-based curriculum because I see how our children have benefitted from such a learning approach, and it has also helped me find deeper meaning and purpose in what I do.

As you’ve grown both personally and professionally at work, Star Learners has also grown over the past 20 years. What is one significant growth you’ve seen that has made the most impact on you?

The implementation of our literature-based curriculum was a significant moment for me. It felt like a major project that we would continuously develop to become a signature of Star Learners. As a teacher at that time, I had a lot to learn and dissect from it. Over the years, I had the opportunity to teach almost every level, which provided me with valuable insights into its development through different stages. I count myself a firm lover and believer of our literature-based curriculum because I see how our children have benefited from such a learning approach, and it has also helped me find deeper meaning and purpose in what I do.

My son currently attends Star Learners @ Pasir Ris and my husband is impressed by the quality of education he’s receiving. He frequently comments on the depth and meaningfulness of the questions that our son asks. When my husband asks about our teaching methods, I would tell him that the teachers at our centres are experts at asking questions and getting children to think critically; that’s why our son is so adept at these too! (laughs).

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

Keep striving for growth and progress! Let’s not settle for past accomplishments, but aim to maintain our position as one of the leading childcare brands in Singapore!