Ms Ellya Hafsah Abdullah is sure of her role as an inspiring teacher and wants to make a difference when she teaches the younger generation.
“Being a lecturer at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) is not just about constantly upgrading with the latest technology, software knowledge or current issues and happenings to stay relevant,” she says.
“To me, a teacher must have a lot of heart. You must genuinely want to make a difference in the lives of these individuals. You must go down to their level and relate to them. Only then will you be able to excel.”
She teaches visual communication, engaging a class of 40 every day with modules like design principles, where they express themselves creatively using different mediums. Most of her students are talented but come from troubled homes and she motivates them to excel in their natural creative talents.
After graduating from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Design (Communication Design) with distinction, the 31-year-old is now an award-winning lecturer-mentor in visual communication in the School of Design and Media at ITE College Central, Ang Mo Kio.
Her passion shows when she describes her teaching philosophy. She says: “I don’t just teach. I make a difference. I share. I relate. I emote. I change lives. I mould my students into greater individuals because I can.
“What my students take from me at the end of two years is my definition of learning. I adhere to the famous educative words: ‘The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.’ ”
She can sense any difference in connectivity among her teenage students. She explains: “On a normal day, I always speak to them like my very own. At the end of the day, all they want is someone who can see the potential in them no matter how long it takes.
“A single word of encouragement can go a long way. When placed in a real-life situation, I prepare them for the harsh reality of the competitive industry.”
For example, she gives her students personalised cards on their birthdays.
She adds: “I groom them according to their strengths, put extra effort and time outside the curriculum hours, communicate with them through Facebook and Instagram, provide constant guidance on their work, submit their work in competitions and motivate them with positive feedback.”
Her unorthodox way of student-communication has not gone unrecognised. In 2010, she received the ITE College Central Special Commendation Award for Academic Excellence. In the same year, she was also awarded the ITE Teacher Award for Caring for Students’ Well-Being.
Recently, she was given the ITE College Central Special Commendation Award for Academic Excellence (Team Award).
Juggling work and family life has been a challenge since she tied the knot earlier this year. She starts work at 9am and finishes by 6pm.
Her life-long hero is her father, the late Dollah Kassim, hailed as one of Asia’s most feared football strikers. He was among the legendary stars of the “Kallang Roar” era of the late 1970s and 1980s, when Singapore football was at its peak.
“I cannot put into words how special this man is to me or the lives he touched,” she says.
“He was the best father one could ever ask for. He would be there for every award and event, and even deliver my laptop if I had forgotten it.
“He inspired me to take on a teaching role. He was a caring soul, very genuine and only spread goodness to his children. Extremely passionate in what he loved (football), I wanted to be just like him — to offer a value-added helping hand to the community.
“Growing up with dad, mum and brother played a huge part in making my life decisions. I started lecturing at ITE when I was 21. And yes, it has been my first full-time job ever since.”
Loyalty, dedication and creativity make Ms Ellya stand out like a diamond in the teaching industry, which is always crying out for inspiring educators.