Mr Leoforster Ruben anak Upom's photo

Mr Leoforster Ruben anak Upom

From SK Ba Kelalan

Nominated by Bulan Binti Dawat

I have been a teacher for 37 years. At this point in my career, I have worked with many other teachers such as myself, but one teacher in particular who has stood out among the rest is Mr. Leoforster Ruben anak Upom. Teaching is hard work and some teachers only do the bare minimum required, never growing to be anything better than mediocre. Some teachers, however, give it their all, creating a nurturing and challenging environment for their students. Mr. Leo is one of the latter. I first met Mr. Leo at the primary school I worked at 3 years ago. The school, SK Ba’ Kelalan, is situated in a rural village in the northern part of Sarawak. It is accessible by either a 35-minutes flight by the MASWings 20-seat Twin Otter (which is scheduled to fly only thrice a week) or a 5-hours (or so) 4-wheel drive on logging roads from the nearest town, Lawas. Mr. Leo is born to an Iban father and a Bidayuh mother in August of 1991. He was a fresh graduate from IPG Batu Lintang, Kuching, Sarawak, when he started teaching at SK Ba’ Kelalan. He worked under my supervision for 2 years (2017-2018) before I transferred to another school.Throughout my occupation at that school, I have been inspired by his incredible passion and commitment as a teacher. His credibility seems to have less to do with his knowledge and skills – even though he lacks neither - than with his attitude towards his students, the subject he teaches, and his work. He has a motivation board that has these written on it: “Work Hard. Give Your Best. Dream Big. Success is Earned. Focus. You Can Do This. Never Give Up. Do What You Love, Love What You Do. Stay Humble.” Everything on that board depicts his personality. Among his colleagues, - teachers and the school staff members – he is generally soft spoken and polite. Even though so, he is an approachable, dependable and resourceful colleague with prominent professional ethics. He is open to other people’s ideas and opinions. When he has any of his own, he delivers them with such enthusiastic academic humility. His ideas are always innovative and brilliant. When these ideas are accepted, he always follows through to ensure that these ideas are well-executed. He is always supportive of all the school activities and is never late for meetings or events. He goes above and beyond his job scope to achieve something for the students and the school. In the classroom, his positive attitude and teaching methods make the subject come alive. His goal for his class is not to promote a curriculum or method, but to connect with his students. Therefore, depending on the situation, he has no trouble changing or modifying his teaching approach or schedule to accommodate his students. With his creativity, he decorated his classroom with interesting decorations by using mostly used materials. Every now and then, he will make some other simple changes to breathe new life into his classroom. Besides that, apart from using current technologies, he has created a very effective 21st-century learning and teaching system by designing dynamic and effective teaching aids out of used materials. It keeps the students on their toes, ignites their brain with excitement and adventure, and inspires their creativity and innovation. Mr. Leo is always willing to sacrifice his time, energy, and even his personal finances for the students’ academic benefit. I remember once when he created an eye-catching "English Corner" using used materials on his own until late at night accompanied only by the school guard. Used plastic bottles with the names of all the teachers in the school on each bottle were hung at the “English Corner”. The students can write letters in English for any teacher they’d like and put the letters into the respective bottles for the teachers to later read and respond. This encouraged the students to practice their English through writing. It became a part of the school’s “English Highly Immersive Programme”. There were many such instances when his passion and dedication is evident. Working after hours to make his fun educational ideas come alive is a norm. Even as I am writing this, even though schools are closed for holiday, he is now at school decorating the notice boards. Initially, his plan was to hold extra classes for the Primary 6 students during the holiday, but since we are now ordered to be on partial-lockdown, he has decided to do other productive activities for the school. As the English teacher for the Level 1 and Level 2 students as well as Ketua Panitia Bahasa Inggeris, to instill the love of language among his students, he encourages them to speak English everyday by having engaging conversations with them. He also initiated several academic enhancing programmes. One such programme is the “Early Birds – Good Morning Grammar” which began at 6.50 in the mornings before the usual school period starts. Because of his hard work and determination, the use of English among the students has seen a sharp increase and their academic performances improved. It came as no surprise when SK Ba’ Kelalan consistently achieved a high pass rate for UPSR for the past consecutive years. Mr. Leo is always smartly dressed for class and his modulated voice is always engaging and encouraging. He treated the students with respect and appreciation and cared about each one of them. He always took the initiative to do something that the students will cherish and learn from. By presenting a good example of himself, he has encouraged and inspired the students to achieve great things in life. He has proven to be a great influence towards the students. Each time he was entrusted to accompany students to any competition outside the village, he will take the opportunity to bring the students to visit interesting places such as funfairs, markets and so on. Apart from allowing the students to enjoy and have fun, he will ensure that they learn something educational from their trips. He likes to share his personal life learning experiences and give them advice on independent city living which they can certainly benefit from in the future. For instance, during his first year as a teacher, the school has entrusted him to guide and accompany a team of students to compete in an international robotics competition at St. Anne, Labuan. He enthusiastically guided the students from the beginning of their preparation until they were able to win the 4th place in the competition. Although he was relatively new as a teacher and had limited experience, his great zeal has made them successful. Mr. Leo is also a meticulous and analytical teacher. Therefore, the school had entrusted him with a few other responsibilities: Setiausaha Peperiksaan, Pegawai Asset and Setiausaha SKPMG2. By having a teacher like him, the school’s orientation, goals and objectives that I have set as the school leader have been successfully achieved. With his innovative strategies, he has drawn the attention of the private sector in contributing reading materials to the school library. Even with the existing job demands, whenever I needed assistance even at the last minute, he was always willing to assist with high commitment and maximum achievement. Personally, he has been an inspiration to me to improve and enhance my work performance in order to achieve the vision of the Ministry of Education. Such teacher is especially needed in rural schools like SK Ba 'Kelalan to maintain the school's performance as the “Light Beyond the Mountains". Since my transfer to my new school, I continued to be in touch with all my colleagues from SK Ba’ Kelalan including Mr. Leo. I have seen his continuous effort to this very day. He still holds early morning tutoring classes for the Primary 6 students as well as regular night and weekend classes even though it is not in his required schedule. He even buys his students additional exercise books with his own money. His countless extraordinary effort throughout the years has certainly done a lot of good things for the village children and the greater community. Apart from his love of educating the younger generation, he is also passionate about the environment. As of this moment, he is currently working on a project called “Fostering the Forest”. He is in-charge of “Forest Play and Insectifier”. With the unwavering dedication and commitment that he has, I believe that he will achieve this dream and soon become the pioneer of forest school amongst young teachers in Sarawak. For me, the “Anugerah Guru Inspirasi” award represents a strengthened sense ofexcellence and collaboration within teaching which I believe is an award Mr. Leo deserves to receive. Apart from all the wonderful things I have shared about Mr. Leo, because I have seen how he has been relentless in choosing to chase the best version of himself every day to inspire greatness in others, and particularly, his students, I nominate him to receive the award.

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