Wiki Impact celebrates Teacher’s Day 2023 by honouring teachers who go above and beyond to ensure that all children, regardless of their socio-economic status, citizenship, abilities, or background, have access to education. Their names may not immediately ring a bell, but these unsung heroes have positively impacted countless lives and futures.
Teacher Chen or Chen Siew Yee has taken on the role of the strict teacher at Persatuan Sindrom Down Malaysia (PSDM), a position she embraces and finds comfort in. Understanding the importance of firmness when working with children in the Early Intervention Programme (EIP) for Down Syndrome, Siew Yee believes it is necessary to prepare them for further education. However, she also knows the significance of nurturing the students with care and love when the situation calls for it.
There are times when you can sayang (love) them and they sayang (love) you back, but there are also times you have to be firm, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Colleagues vouch for the influence Teacher Chen holds over the children, as her experience as a mother to a 12-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome gives her a unique understanding. Even before becoming a teacher, Siew Yee was a familiar face at the centre, regularly bringing her daughter to participate in the programs offered.
I used to bring my daughter to classes and got to know the people here. After she turned 7, she enrolled in Sekolah Integrasi, but I still bring her here for activities.
After leaving her retail and sales job three years ago, Siew Yee was invited by the centre president to fill teaching vacancies due to her firsthand experience as a parent. She saw this as an opportunity to share her knowledge and connect with other parents raising children with Down Syndrome. However, Siew Yee quickly realised that teaching at the centre presented different challenges compared to tending to her own daughter.
Each Down Syndrome child has a different attitude and character, so you would have to use different methods to interact with them. I’m grateful that PSDM sent me to a lot of training programmes and as a result, I have learned various ways of connecting and teaching with my students.
PSDM not only offers holistic assistance to Down Syndrome children but also advocates for their rights. They provide vocational training programs such as baking and hospitality for Down Syndrome school leavers. Observing the adult students at the centre has given Siew Yee some foresight into raising her own daughter.
By observing other Down Syndrome adults, I can anticipate what kind of future my daughter would have, the possible opportunities that are available to her and how her character may change as a teenager and young adult.
Raising a child with Down Syndrome and teaching these children both have their challenges, but seeking professional help and attending informative talks have aided Siew Yee on her journey. Patience is paramount, especially when working with these children, but the reward is immense when they progress to the next stage, such as enrolling in primary schools.
What fills Chen’s heart with warmth is when the students remember her in their own unique ways, even years later.
They’ll surely remember their teachers even after years. It’s a good feeling to know we played a part in the ‘first steps’ of their journey towards leading independent lives.
As a mother and teacher of children with Down Syndrome, Siew Yee’s hope is simple and practical.
We don’t harbour big dreams. As a parent and teacher, I hope they are happy and learn something new every day. It is also the hope of parents who send their children to the centre, that they do better every day.
Above all, Chen envisions a more inclusive world for children with special needs. By increasing public awareness and understanding of the unique needs of individuals with Down Syndrome, Chen believes society will become better equipped to support them and create a more comfortable and accepting environment for all.