Teachers’ Day 2021: Just Joined

By Mirella Ang (22A01C) and Jason Nathaniel Sutio (22S06U)

Curious about teachers who recently joined RI? What they are like, their history, their motivations? Well, you have come to the right place. In this Teacher’s Day Special, we take a look into the lives of three “new” teachers.

Ms Vidhya at her Masters graduation from S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

NAME: MS VIDHYA LOGENDREN

DEPARTMENT: KNOWLEDGE SKILLS (GP)

Could you briefly introduce yourself for our readers? 

I am Vidhya Logendran. I joined RI in January this year. Prior to this, I taught at two other JCs. I am married, and have two kids.

Can you tell us about your professional working life?

I was an accidental banker😊. After graduating, as a foreigner, I found it difficult finding a job. I accepted a job that DBS offered as Trainee Officer, although what I wanted was to be a Management Consultant or journalist. 

Afterwards, I took a career sabbatical to complete a Masters course in International Political Economy (IPE) at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. It was enriching as I had classmates from all over the world, including North Korea (although she was understandably circumspect about her country).

IPE explores the intersection of politics and economics. I learnt about fascinating theories of interest aggregation and the paradox of collective action, which explains many developments in the global economy today.

I had two options once I finished: either to seek employment in Banking once again or to try something totally new. By then, I had completed CELTA and done a few stints teaching at Polytechnics.

I found the teaching process challenging, yet fulfilling. Given that I enjoyed it, I decided to take the plunge and applied to MOE.

We heard from your students that you had grown up in India. How was it like there? 

I am curious about the world, eager to learn and not hesitant to share my viewpoints (although I tend to hold back these days). I owe these attributes to my upbringing in India. 

In a country of a billion, you learn to speak up to be noticed. But some classmates in NUS would complain that I ‘talked too much’ during tutorials. I thought we were supposed to do that 😊! 

Even at 16, I had wanted to be independent. When I got a scholarship to come to Singapore to pursue my A levels, my parents did not hesitate and bid me goodbye as I took my first flight in 1990. 

I was posted to RJC. I must admit though, I did not do much talking here. I think my attitude was mostly of reverent awe towards some of the brightest people I knew. 

It was quite surreal coming a full circle 31 years later. I think there was this desire to come back and perhaps make my second innings as a teacher a little more impactful than my two years as a student had been.

Do you like it here? Is RI what you expected? 

Yes, I definitely like it here. It is really exciting to learn from great colleagues who are capable and committed. The students have been really motivated and well-behaved. Although, I must admit that I had expected students to be more curious and excited about learning.

I find balancing the need to meet exam requirements with the vast scope of GP really challenging. Because technically anything can be GP – as long as you are interested in the world around you. So, sometimes I am a little stumped when students look for the ‘right’ answer. 

To me the beauty is that there are none. There is just the process of discovery to arrive at an ‘aha’ moment. There is just the stuff that makes up the seemingly unending dorm conversations, mulling over and arguing about various issues. 

I do wonder whether such passionate (even if sometimes pointless) conversations take place amongst students nowadays. 

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future? 

On a personal front, I really hope to become a more skilled teacher like many of my colleagues. I also hope to be able to make a meaningful contribution to my students’ lives, beyond just question types and the Application Question. So, getting to know my students as people and responding to them as such is something I would like to continue doing (assuming that students want a similar relationship too). 

Any words for your students or colleagues? 

Be kind to others and, most importantly, to yourself – the latter is advice I would do well to apply to myself.


NAME: MR NGIAM XING YI 

DEPARTMENT: HISTORY ​​

Could you briefly introduce yourself for our readers? 

I teach Y5 Southeast Asian History, and am also a teacher-mentor for the Students’ Council. I am an alumnus from the class of 2008 and the 27th Students’ Council. I follow Christ, my wife is a writer, and my 2-year-old son is a ball of energy. 

What made you want to teach in RI? 

Coming home is always an attractive prospect! I was drawn to the institution I had spent six wonderful years at, and as clichéd as it may sound, returning really makes the Rafflesian experience come full circle. I also wanted to pass on the impactful experience I had been blessed with during my formative years. Professionally, I previously taught in Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), and I wanted to broaden my teaching competency by progressing to the A-level syllabus. 

Mr Ngiam (third from the left) during his RJC days. 

Why did you want to become a teacher? 

First, I cannot live being shackled to a desk. Second, I like knowing that my academic pursuit in History is directly applied in my career. Third, working with the youth reminds this cynical man that the world and people can grow.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, a quote by Hannah Arendt remains my motivation: “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token save it from that ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable.” I do not pretend to be the noble saviour here; I just want a part to play in preparing younger ones to navigate the (very complex) world that they will soon enter. 

We heard that you majored in History and Southeast Asian Studies. Could you tell us more about the Double Major, and why you chose to study it? 

I was struck by the sheer diversity and cultural depth of our region, and frankly was ashamed of my ignorance as a Singaporean living in the heart of Southeast Asia. It was high time to shed my Western-centric tendencies! I was also intrigued by the anthropological and archaeological approaches taken, both of which complemented my History major. We were also required to learn a Southeast Asian language, which was a nice bonus. 

At the time, I had recently learned that my grandfather, a libertine sailor, had left a family with five children in Java. They reached out to us just before I entered university, and subsequently we tried to strengthen the connection. This motivated me to specialise in Indonesian Studies — I would be able to practise Bahasa Indonesia and reduce the cultural barriers between my families.

I later went on a student exchange to Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta which deepened my learning experience. Yogya is the perfect place to practise ethnography since it is the cultural heart of Java, and is home to many transient students from all over the diverse Indonesian archipelago. I had to improve my grasp of the language very quickly, and even picked up some vernacular Bahasa Gaul, the informal slang. Finally, I was privileged enough to spend time with many Indonesian friends in their homes.

Mr Ngiam (front) on his university student exchange trip to Yogyakarta.

How have you found teaching life in RI? What is it like teaching History? 

It is a joy to teach motivated students who consciously chose to study History out of academic interest. I do not need to convince my students of the merits of studying the discipline, and can instead dive deep to push them to the next level. I am also happy to be teaching the Southeast Asian paper, since I hope that my students will develop an interest in the region earlier than I did.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future? 

I strive to be a Christlike father and husband. I hope my students trust and learn from me: to always be humble, kind, and responsible with your words and actions.


NAME: MR POH WEI LEONG

DEPARTMENT: BIOLOGY (ASSISTANT DEPARTMENT HEAD)

Could you briefly introduce yourself for our readers? 

I am Mr Poh Wei Leong. I joined RI in May 2021. And oh yes, if you had used some MOE Stellar story books, you might have seen my name in two of the story contributions (haha). Sorry, I digress. I have two small boys.

What did you study at university, and why did you choose that pathway? 

I was in the first batch of the NUS (Life Sciences) programme. Then, the government had been drumming up the biotech scene. There was a lot of money sponsoring people for PhDs and the glamour about being a researcher was certainly there. 

Ironically, I studied life sciences not because I wanted to do a PhD, but because I wanted to go into teaching. Teaching was part of my scholarship stipulations. I did a concentration on molecular biology and after killing many (baby!) mice to study their brain cells for my honours year project, I decided enough was enough. 

I went on to do a Masters in Conservation Biology in Oxford. I met many people from all over the world, and there were field trips to everywhere. Needless to say, that was one of the best years of my life.

How did you become a teacher in RI? 

When I was in Ang Mo Kio Secondary School, I did a Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and found that I was (and am) an ENFP. There was a list of suggested careers, and deep down I agreed whole-heartedly with most of them, and, you guessed it, one of them is teaching. So after finishing my A levels, I returned to my alma mater, Anderson Junior College to teach Physics. 

I was teaching students just one to two years younger than me and it was really fun to have that youthful connection, and yet, a sense of authority and responsibility. I remember I took my relief teaching seriously, sometimes marking dead into the night. 

I was teaching in ASRJC, and on the last Friday of April, I packed my things, gave hugs to a few dear colleagues, spent the weekends chilling, and then literally came to RI the following Monday. I applied to teach here so I can see the “outside world” before I get too old and no schools would accept me anymore.

Do you like it here? Is RI what you expected? 

It has been a very pleasant experience so far. The students address me as Sir (and I told myself, finally I am knighted!) and are very polite. The campus is huge, and there are like 5001 staff which was rather intimidating at first, but slowly some faces are getting more familiar. 

The funny thing is when I was teaching in ASRJC, I realised some of my students did not know certain “bare essentials”, and I would sweat as my inner voice would say, “You better know, cos RI kids surely know”. Of course, I don’t tell them that. But I will go through with them the essentials because “RI kids will surely know”. Well, now that I am here, I have found my answer.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the future? 

My hopes and aspirations are more for others. With the increasing VUCA world, I hope all students have that capacity to adapt, and not lose sight of other segments of the society who are struggling and have no access to the privileges we have. And also, be proactive to pick up new skills in the journey of lifelong learning. There is a lot of joy in discovering without the stress of exams.

Any words for your students or colleagues? 

Mr Poh is a big-time foodie. 

Thank you to those who have offered a campus tour, a canteen stalls guide, how to send for printing, basically an RI 101 crash course. Sometimes it is delightful to discover for myself a door which when opened, can lead me to another building or level. So students, open as many doors as you can, because RI does give you opportunities to do so. And oh by that, I meant it figuratively.

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