By Glenda Hua (24A01C), Michelle Lee (24A01A)
Attention Raffles: Let us welcome this year’s new additions to our RI family! As part of this year’s Teachers’ Day Special Edition, we’ll be introducing the marvell-ous Mr. Samuel Chan of the Literature department; Geography teacher Mr. Dixon Ho who absolutely rocks; and the Physics department’s force of gravity Ms. Stella Sim!
Mr. Samuel Chan
“There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”Hamlet
Mr. Chan might be new to RI, but his face is certainly familiar to many RI students. Having previously taught at Raffles Girls’ School (Secondary) and Anglican High School, Mr. Chan has thoroughly enjoyed his first eight months teaching here, as he is able to cover Literature at a greater depth than he did teaching in secondary schools, and the students are interesting and “more or less good to work with” (watch your lectures everyone!).
A humanities student through and through, Mr. Chan initially studied Law in the National University of Singapore (NUS), before realising his true passion lay in the world of words, artistry and timeless imagination. He subsequently transferred to major in Literature at the University of Oxford.
Upon graduating, Mr. Chan went to teach tuition in China, an “impactful experience” that set him on the path of teaching. “The system there was very, very stressful,” he reflected, “It showed me that being a student can be hard, and having a good teacher can be very impactful. That was the moment I felt that this was a meaningful job”. And the rest was history.
His experience in China also taught him to be open to the future, as “it is possible to end up on paths you did not expect”. Mr. Chan, who initially had plans to become a lawyer, now finds his current life a more meaningful and happier one. I think we can say the same for our lives too, for we would not have Mr. Chan dissecting Marvell poems with us otherwise.
Beyond his passions in Literature, Mr. Chan is an aficionado in military history, about which he confessed to “know more than what is healthy”. He even considered conducting a pull-out class on modern war, but he sadly scrapped the idea after reaching about 140 slides worth of details. (For those interested, please make it clearly known to Mr. Chan so that he can bring back the idea!) He also enjoys tabletop role-playing, an interest shared by other teachers too (See TDSE 2022, page 6 at https://tinyurl.com/teachersdayspecial2022).
“Be kind to yourself,” Mr. Chan advised solemnly when asked about his guiding philosophy for his students. “Students often have higher standards for themselves than teachers do—they take it more personally when they don’t do well, whereas teachers know that getting disappointing grades is not the end of the world.”
In fact, Mr. Chan called the world: “a bigger and more interesting place than we might have experienced until now.”
“Don’t get too caught up in chasing one definition of success and happiness” he concluded.
Mr. Dixon Ho
“Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again”Eleanor Roosevelt
This may be his first time being a JC teacher, but Mr. Dixon Ho — RI’s newest addition this July — has already has impressive and vibrant career experiences under his belt. Upon graduating from university, Mr. Ho joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a Foreign Service Officer, and subsequently embarked on e-commerce and strategy work with the global companies Hewlett Packard and TikTok, before finally teaching Geography here at RI.
So, what made him decide to become a teacher? After venturing into a myriad of exciting paths, Mr. Ho has ultimately decided that teaching is “the one” for him — no more “what-ifs”.
“As cliché[d] as it sounds, it really is because teaching is a meaningful job. It is something I know that I will fondly look back on with no regrets when I am on my deathbed,” Mr. Ho confessed with a laugh. “I’m not a morning person, but the fact that I can wake up at 7am and go to work says that I do like my job and I’m happy”.
When asked about how he found his time in RI so far, Mr. Ho happily called his 21 days here so far (at the time of our interview) “nothing short of amazing”. He had high praise for the people, from the staff to the students to the canteen vendors, who he found very warm and welcoming.
During the RI200 celebrations in May, Mr. Ho was very inspired by Mr. Frederick Yeo’s speech about FLAME, because of its student-centred focus. “I think that, as a teacher, students should always be the core of everything, so I felt that I am at the right place.”
As a student, Mr. Ho’s favourite subject was Geography (the subject he teaches now!). He double-majored in Geography and Marketing at NUS.
Mr. Ho is particularly interested in the physical aspects of Geography such as plate tectonics and volcanoes. “There are so many things we do not know and overlook about the earth and extra-terrestrial spaces, but Geography can give us some insights. Although the memory work was quite a pain in the place where the sun does not shine,” he added with a laugh
Apart from his interest in Geography, Mr. Ho has some very cool passions and hobbies. One of which is Taekwondo. He was on the National Team, and even continued competing while working at HP! Teaching Taekwondo in Secondary Two to primary school students was actually the start of his career as a teacher.
Besides practising a variety of other sports like fencing, gymnastics and tennis, Mr. Ho also enjoys watching political thrillers including House of Cards and Designated Survivor (which, incidentally, was his inspiration to join MFA), appreciates a good high tea, and loves playing with his adorable pomsky and golden retriever.
Mr. Ho recognizes that students may not end up remembering the exact things they have learnt, “but the experience is what they won’t forget”. This is what he strives to give us now as a teacher: a memorable time learning in his classroom (which, as his student, I can attest to already).
If there is one piece of advice Mr. Ho would give to his students, it is to live life to the fullest. “When I look at all of you, I see so much potential, promise and vigour!” He says enthusiastically, “Don’t let them go to waste! Seize the day and live your best life!”
Ms. Stella Sim
“People have become quicker to judge, but anyone can make the world a little bit kinder”
From Ms. Stella Sim’s youthful appearance, you wouldn’t believe that she has over 10 years of experience in the semiconductor industry. Trained as an electrical engineer, Ms. Sim found herself here in RI after a mid-career switch.
However, being a JC teacher was hardly what she had in mind—in fact, she had applied to be and was trained as a secondary school physics teacher. “You can imagine my shock,” she confessed, “when I received my posting: Raffles Institution. They just had to send me to [one of the top] schools in Singapore as my first posting. And there’s more! The next line: Junior College!”
“Initially, I was afraid—I hadn’t been in school in decades,” she reflected, “but my time here has been very, very enriching. It feels like I get to play the role of both the student, and the teacher.”
Ms. Sim, who has never been in an independent school, either as a student or a teacher, found herself equally amazed by the opportunities offered to independent school students, and how schools have changed since she was a student. “It’s a lot more interactive now, and it feels like the students are less fearful of teachers—it feels very fresh”.
As a student, Ms. Sim wasn’t very sure about her passions, and found herself focusing on attaining good grades. “At the time, most of the decisions were made by my parents,” she recalled.
When deciding on her degree, “it was between teaching and engineering—but my dad was really against teaching”. It was only when she took a course in micro engineering that she finally found “for once in my life, I enjoyed a class I was taking.”
Following her passion in engineering, Ms. Sim joined a semiconductor firm, where she worked in various divisions. In particular, she found herself enjoying the Learning and Development department, where they would train their employees. “In a way it’s very similar to teaching, although teaching adults is very different from teaching teens.”
Although she did end up in teaching after all, Ms. Sim calls her parents’ decision a “blessing in disguise”. “I really appreciated the time I spent in engineering,” she shared, attributing this to the soft and technical skills she picked up over the years. “The content you learn in school, unfortunately doesn’t really apply in work—it’s really about how your brain works. The education you choose shapes your thinking.”
Coming back to school, one thing that struck her was how differently people thought. “In engineering, everyone more or less thinks the same, and you only need a few words to be understood. Now, I really need to cater to different teachers and students to communicate.”
Between being a teacher and caring for her six-year-old daughter, Ms. Sim is a busy woman. In the midst of her hectic schedule, she likes to rewind by watching Netflix—mostly Korean dramas, but she also enjoys fantasy English dramas like Shadow and Bone. Apart from that, she also enjoys playing darts—”it’s actually my husband’s passion, I picked it up so that we could have a common thing we both enjoy”.
“Spread kindness, ignite change; if you want to see change, you probably have to start it yourself. It’s something I don’t think I had the courage to do as a student, but I believe you all can.”
As a final message, Ms. Sim urges all students to do what she dared not do in her time as a student—to change and to challenge and, most importantly, to be kind in its pursuit.