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Malaysia ‘Teacher Sam’ vying for global glory

By TN Alagesh NEW STRAITS TIMES Fri, October 30, 2020  

Samuel Isaiah speaking to a student during a farewell ceremony in SK Runchang in this file photo taken in August last year. -NSTP/File pic

KUANTAN: The proverb “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” rings true for English teacher Samuel Isaiah.

When the 33-year-old reported for duty at SK Runchang, an Orang Asli school in Pekan some eight years ago, he was determined to change negative perceptions about his pupils with his unique methods of teaching English.

His hard work paid off when pupils scored A’s for English in the Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah, while the passing rate for the subject improved from 30 per cent to 85 per cent.

Samuel on Wednesday was named one of the 10 finalists for the 2020 Global Teacher Prize and stands to win US$1 million.

The Universiti Utara Malaysia and Teachers Training Institute (Penang campus) graduate said the Orang Asli children in Runchang were his real driving force.

“When I arrived in SK Runchang in 2012, I was told not to push myself too hard as they were ‘just’ Orang Asli kids. That was not acceptable.

“I was challenged by that negative perception and knew I was sent here for a reason. So I put myself in my pupils’ shoes so that I understand what challenges they are facing,” he said in an interview yesterday.

Samuel, who is pursuing a Master of Science in Educational Policy and Leadership at the State University of New York at Albany, New York, said being named among the 10 finalists had helped put Orang Asli schools in the limelight.

“I share the honour with other teachers at Orang Asli schools who are going the extra mile trying to bring changes to the community. This nomination shows that Orang Asli children have a lot of potential.”

Samuel recalled coming to the village in 2012.

“They were surprised to see a tall Indian man with moustache entering the village and were not sure why I was there. So I met the parents and asked how I could help them and their children. I learnt that they have a different idea of how to raise their children, so it was important to listen,” he said.

If he won, Samuel, fondly known as “teacher Sam” among his pupils, said he planned to start a foundation or education hub for the Orang Asli focused on finding solutions to various issues faced by the community.

Samuel, who has been taking online classes after returning here from the United States in June due to the Covid-19 pandemic, said he had been visiting his “children” at SK Runchang regularly.

“I travel twice a week to help the pupils after school hours. We do some reading and other activities,” he said, adding that he planned to be back in New York in January next year to complete his final semester.

He is nominated along with teachers from India (Ranjitsinh Disale), Nigeria (Olasunkanmi Opeifa), the United Kingdom (Jamie Frost), Italy (Carlo Mazzone), South Africa (Mokhudu Cynthia Machaba), the United States (Leah Juelke) and South Korea (Yun Jeong-hyun).

The remaining top 10 finalists will be announced one each week in the run-up to the Global Teacher Prize ceremony, which will held virtually for the first time.

The ceremony will be hosted by renowned actor and comedian Stephen Fry at the Natural History Museum in London on
Dec 3.

In Kuala Lumpur, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah congratulated Samuel for being one of the 10 finalists of the 2020 Global Teacher Prize.

Comptroller of the Royal Household Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said Al-Sultan Abdullah also expressed hope that Samuel’s great achievements and commitment would be a source of inspiration and example to all Malaysians, especially teachers, to give their best and strive for success in the country or on the world stage.

“His Majesty also wishes him good luck and prays that he will win the prize and be blessed with continuous success in the field of education,” he said in a statement from Istana Negara yesterday.

https://www.nst.com.my/news/nation/2020/10/636578/teacher-sam-vying-global-glory?fbclid=IwAR2l39wFIMq98WmfOUbIows4JLpswfn2lU53w3iLYNvnyhWfpcMx8JUSLfM

Source: NEW STRAITS TIMES Fri, October 30, 2020  

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