Award-winning teacher from Bau urges rural teachers to persist in seeking excellence despite the odds

Collage shows Tessy (centre) and school activities at SK Sungai Buloh, Selangau.

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By Lian Cheng

KUCHING, Oct 27: Global Teacher Award winner Tessy Rijem, 30, hopes her win will inspire other teachers serving in rural areas to not give up but continue striving for excellence and breakthroughs.

“I really, really hope my win may be an inspiration for other teachers, especially other rural teachers like me. I hope through my win, they will know that nothing is impossible, that everything is possible,” said a sincere and earnest Tessy.


Tessy thanked Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg for his congratulatory message and said she was honoured that her efforts were recognised and noticed. As a teacher, she understood the challenges faced by rural teachers and the fact that their contributions are often not acknowledged.

Global Teacher Award winner Tessy Rijem from Kampung Serasot, Bau.

“There are many rural teachers out there whose contributions are not recognised. I want them to know that they are doing a great job despite the lack of people’s acknowledgement. I know, because I was one of them.”

Tessy’s efforts and innovative teaching style came to light after another award wining teacher Nazmi Roslin of SK Luangan, Lawas had nominated her for the Global Teacher Award.  

“I am very humbled to receive the award. I have never dreamt of winning an award as highly recognised as this. I am grateful to all those who supported and helped me.”

Apart from Nazmi, she also expressed her gratitude to her mentors including School Improvement Specialist Coaches and Selangau District education officers Nicholas Andrew Ling and Noel Jimbai Balang, former District English Language Officer Dr Jarrod Sio and former Education, Science and Technological Research Ministry department head of English Language Education Hazelyn Rimbar.

Students of SK Sungai Buloh, Selangau giving their full attention in Tessy’s class.

Tessy was a music major but ended up becoming an outstanding English teacher since 2016 when she was posted to SK Sungai Buloh, Selangau as an English teacher. Tessy does not plan to turn back. She has made teaching her lifetime vocation and will continue to commit to teaching children.

Her parents are both teachers but that is not the reason why she wanted to be one.

“I love children and I would like to see them grow, both in knowledge and in personality building.”

A Bidayuh from Kampung Serasot of Bau, her first posting is SK Sungai Buloh. This year marks the sixth year she has been teaching at the school.

Tessy will remain to teach in SK Sungai Buloh until her work is done.

“I will be happy going back to serve in Bau after I have completed with whatever I have planned to do in SK Buloh.  

“I am not sure how many years will that be, but I will only apply for transfer when I am done and am happy with my students’ achievements here in SK Sungai Buloh,” Tessy told DayakDaily in a telephone interview.

Tessy was awarded for her outside-the-box thinking to teaching which she described as nothing fanciful but the application of project-based inter-disciplinary teaching approaches where students not only pick up English but at the same time, another skill.Then there is also gamification of lessons, where students learn English through games.

“I always give project assignments to my students. For example, cooking. The students will need to show others how to cook by speaking in English. Or for example, I may ask them to build a boat model and they will have to explain their projects in English to their classmates. Through this way, they learn how to speak in English.”

Using an inter-disciplinary approach is part of teaching guidelines introduced by the Education Ministry. However, it is up to teachers to decide how to apply the principles of inter-disciplinary teaching in a creative and innovative manner.

To Tessy, teaching and learning are not confined only to the classroom.

For tessy, what made her approach successful was the zealous participation of the 150 students of SK Sungai Buloh who are energetic and active and love to learn English despite it being their third language.

“Their first language is their Iban mother tongue. Then their second language is Bahasa Malaysia and English is their third language. But they love to learn English.”

Tessy does not pray for fame or wealth but basic infrastructure such as 24-hour electricity supply, treated water and Internet access for her students.

Presently, SK Sungai Buloh which is 80km away from Sibu still lacks these basic facilities. — DayakDaily

Students of SK Sungai Buloh, Selangau are eager to learn English.