Classroom Thursdays: Yam Phui Yee

This week’s Classroom Thursday – a regular feature showcasing stories from Teach For Malaysia classrooms – centers around 2013 Fellow Yam Phui Yee, who refused to allow daunting conditions early on in her journey to effect her spirits – or her impact on her students. As told by Leadership Development Officer Shobana Seelan.


“Imagine spending a day with 100-odd kids you are still trying to understand, who don’t get you either. Chasing paperwork at the same time that you’re chasing 14-year-old students who don’t see the point of what you are doing. You stay back in school in the hopes that the Internet will tell you how to get ahead of the curve. Frustrated, tired, you drive home looking forward to a hot shower and your nice soft bed.

Well Phui Yee didn’t have that. For the first four months of this year, she and another Fellow lived in an all but dilapidated house. It leaked, a dining table was all the furniture it came with, the windows were plastered with newspaper and the house owner refused to do anything about it.

How did the girls choose to combat this? With a smile, of course! No fridge or stove? “Let’s look for the most awesome cheap restaurants around!” Kids are all over the place? “Let’s take them to Kidzania!” They can’t speak English? “Let’s use phonics to build their skills and confidence!”

Despite the universe giving her every excuse to give up and underperform, Phui Yee always holds herself to high expectations. She researched and came up with strategies to teach her kids phonics. Despite it not being part of the Form 2 syllabus, she found a way to integrate it into her classroom. On the concrete floors of her house, she created aids and researched strategies to teach phonics.

Even when her students are disruptive and complain about the “kindergarten work,” she perseveres.

With that much grit, sense of possibility and dedication to excellence, I have no doubt that Phui Yee and her students will go far. They already have!”