Yanxia’s journey with Star Learners spans eight remarkable years, tracing her evolution to now a distinguished Senior Chinese Language Preschool Educator. Her commitment to this profession remains unwavering, evident in her extensive expertise encompassing curriculum and cultural knowledge and the orchestration of centre-wide events and activities. Notably, she stands as one of our nominees for this year’s prestigious Outstanding Preschool Educator Award by the Early Childhood Development Agency.
Beneath her accomplishments lies a deeper wellspring of motivation – her ardour for instilling authentic enthusiasm for the Chinese language among young learners. Her profound influence reverberates through her children, both past and present, whose heart-warming greetings on the streets echo their enduring affection for ‘Deng Laoshi’. Such encounters serve as poignant reminders of her lasting impact, forging connections that persist beyond the classroom walls. Read on to uncover the insights, stories and wisdom that illuminate her journey and underscore her dedication to nurturing young minds.
*Note: Responses shown in English are translated from interviewees’ original responses in Chinese
As a native speaker of Mandarin, I am proud to use my first language to communicate and express myself. This pride led me down the path as a preschool educator teaching Chinese. At my first job interview at a small private kindergarten, the principal then did not dismiss me due to my lack of credentials in the field and encouraged me to pursue a diploma in early childhood education. Thus, I became a teacher during the day and a student at night, eagerly absorbing all the knowledge and experiences like a sponge. The demanding combination of work and studies strengthened my determination and resilience.
When I started in this industry 14 years ago, teaching resources were scarce. I sourced for materials like wall charts and storybooks directly from China and created my own illustrations, in the absence of readily available visual aids. This gradually sparked my interest in drawing. Using my own journey as an example, I often encourage the children to boldly express themselves when drawing, and not to be fixated on how the eventual product would look like. I believe that through consistent practice, anyone can be good at what they do.
其次，在Star Learners工作期间，我遇到了非常棒的工作团队。校长的信赖支持，同事之间亲密、互助的合作关系，让我开心、放心、用心地投入到工作当中。还记得是二0一七年，我们中心准备SPARK的等级检验，园所里从校长到每一位老师，为了顺利地通过检查，下班了都自愿留下来熬夜，准备检查所需的课室环境布置、教具等等。那种万众一心、齐心协力的感觉令人难忘。每一次节庆日、Star Project和毕业典礼的活动，老师们从活动设计、布置开展、顺利完成，都能集思广益、主动承担、不计较个人的得失。团队之间的这种良好的工作氛围，使我懂得了换位思考，理解他人，学会了有效地沟通是合作的桥梁。
There are two particular memories that I hold dear.
When I first joined Star Learners, I was doubly stressed as I dealt with the challenges of being in a new work environment. This was in spite of my 5 to 6 years of experience in early childhood education. However, our robustly-designed curriculum enriched my professional expertise. The opportunity to organise centre events and activities also broadened my horizons and fostered a newfound independence and confidence. The initial waves of anxiety and resistance were replaced by a composed mindset, as I started to embrace every obstacle as a chance for growth and confronted challenges positively. When fellow teachers ask me, “Deng Laoshi, what keeps you in this industry for such a long time?” My response would always be, “The love I have fuels my passion.”
I am fortunate to be a part of an exceptional team of colleagues whose mutual trust and support, along with a positive relationship with our principal, enable me to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to my job. When our centre was preparing for the SPARK accreditation assessment in 2017, all of us, principal included, undertook a collective endeavour beyond regular hours to meticulously organise the classrooms and refine teaching materials. This shared experience remains imprinted in my memory. Be it festive celebrations, Star Projects or graduation ceremonies, every one of us contributes generously in activity design, decor and setup. As we collaborate harmoniously, personal achievements take a backseat. Such a work environment has nurtured my sense of empathy, taught me perspectives, and the importance of effective communication to ensure successful teamwork.
On my way to work, I would meet children I once taught. What’s amazing is that even as they’ve grown older, they still remember me and shout out, “Deng Laoshi!” While I might struggle to recall every name, those brief encounters are memorable to me.
After 14 years of teaching Chinese, I’ve learnt that culvitating interest in the subject is crucial to a child’s learning. Hence, figuring out how to make Chinese exciting for preschoolers is something I’m always thinking about. Children have short attention spans and are distracted easily. To overcome that, I come up with fun games and activities that match what we’re learning, to keep them engaged. For example, the children were learning about root vegetables in Term 3. I noticed there was a market near the centre, so I came up with a ‘Market Adventure’ activity, where children had a blast searching for tasty root vegetables they learnt about!
Seeing our young ones grow and develop well means a lot to us teachers, as well as to their parents and themselves. The longer I’ve been teaching, the more I’ve realised how important it is to encourage and guide these little learners. That is why I don’t shy from publicly praising children when they do something good or make progress in their learning. I truly believe that a child’s progress happens step by step. It’s like them being in diapers yesterday but using the restroom independently the next day; nervous about climbing yesterday but holding my hand and giving it a shot today. Even if a child takes things slow, it is a bold step forward and signifies progress and growth nonetheless.
Over the last eight years at Star Learners, my journey has transformed me from a Chinese preschool educator to my current role as a senior Chinese preschool educator. Along this path, I’ve gathered a ton of cultural know-how and fine-tuned my knack for planning and running all sorts of events. I have has also built strong bonds of trust and support with my colleagues, principals and parents. It’s given me a new sense of confidence and fulfilment, making my connection with this job even stronger.
Staying constantly motivated and finding excitement in your daily job isn’t as simple as it might seem. After 14 years, even though the daily routines keep ticking along, the feedback and reactions from the batches of children I teach are always fresh and unique. I remember sharing this with a younger colleague: “Teaching the same stuff to the Nursery 2 class two years in a row might feel like a rerun, but because every group of children is different, it’ll always be a whole new experience. There’s always a chance to redo activities that didn’t quite click before by giving them a new twist.”
If I had to point out specific things that help, I’d say it’s all about adjusting your perspective every year. It means letting go of past hiccups and disappointments, approaching the new year with a clean slate and being open to exploring new approaches.
As we mark two decades of inspiration, my hopes for Star Learners are simple yet heartfelt. May it continue to grow like a lush tree, spreading its branches and leaves far and wide, radiating strength and energy. And as we journey together, I wish for all of us to find happiness and joy, with each day filled with safety and contentment.