BEFORE joining the teaching profession, Mr Andy Lee, the programme director of IT at Bukit Batok Secondary School, spent seven years as a civil and structural engineer.

While the job kept him busy, it was not as fulfilling as he had hoped. That was when he decided that he wanted a career change.

He says: “I enjoy sharing my experiences with youngsters and I have always had a passion to teach. No other career track was on my mind.”

Yet, determined as he was, he still had some initial concerns before venturing into the field. But several consultations with friends and family later, he decided to go ahead with the switch.

Mr Lee gives particular credit to his teacher friends who motivated him to commit to his decision. They shared with him about how they had coped with problem students and had inspired them to change for the better. The sense of satisfaction that his friends got out of helping their students was infectious.

Encouragement from friends and family aside, Mr Lee’s strong belief that teaching was most compatible with his interests ultimately trumped all his concerns about the profession.

“Every profession will have its challenges. But if you have a job that matches your interests, you will be able to overcome the challenges easily!”

Mr Lee benefited from the competitive performance-based remuneration and bonus system for teachers. He now earns much more than he used to as an engineer. He also appreciates the various professional development and upgrading opportunities available at the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Making it fun

As programme director of IT, Mr Lee has a wide job scope, with leadership and service opportunities outside the classroom.

He is in charge of the Element and Business Skills as well as the Computer Applications departments, and is involved in the infocommunications technology (ICT) programme. He also manages an allied educator and a residential ICT trainer, and is the Reporting Officer for four other teachers.

On top of that, Mr Lee is also in charge of the Media Club, and is the school’s webmaster and manager of the computer labs and broadcasting studio.

In the classroom, his lessons are “fun, interesting, educational”, according to his students.

“Mr Lee’s lessons go beyond the textbooks. He teaches us about moral values and life,” says one of them. “When he notices students falling asleep in class, he will throw in one of his many interesting stories.”

He tries to make mundane lessons engaging for his students. He demonstrates the relevance of mathematics in civil and structural engineering, and motivates his students by empathising with their academic difficulties.

Says Mr Lee: “The greatest challenge of teaching is in knowing the backgrounds and personalities of your students. Then you can engage them.”

Touching lives

To those intending to make a similar career change, Mr Lee advises: “Teaching requires passion and commitment. And if you are determined to switch to teaching, do not hesitate. There is definitely a lot that one can gain in life as a teacher.

“As an engineer, seeing an empty plot of land transform into a high-rise building … was a ‘visual satisfaction’. As a teacher, satisfaction is the tremendous feeling of having touched and made a difference in someone’s life.”