Meet our Alumni: Fiona Teo
“I have seen how real education inequity is, and I know it will take years to solve it.”
Fiona Teo was a fresh graduate when she joined the Fellowship in 2013 and taught in Kedah for two years. She graduated from Northwestern University in the US with a Bachelor of Arts (Political Science). Fiona decided to join Education Performance and Delivery Unit (PADU), as an analyst after completing the Fellowship. Read on to find out why.
What initially compelled you to join the Fellowship in 2013?
I was very active with social justice groups on campus and knew I wanted to continue this interest in my work. By chance, Teach For Malaysia came to my campus for a recruitment event and I decided to go and see what it was all about. I initially thought that being a teacher was not meant for me. However, the more I considered my offer from Teach For Malaysia, the more I figured the experience is a good opportunity for learning and self development.
What experiences or memories from your Fellowship journey impacted you the most?
So many to share I can’t choose! One story I always find endearing was during the last week of school in 2013. My form 2 students had bought me food for lunch and refused to accept money from me. The following conversation took place:
Me: Oh. Thanks for belanja-ing me.
Hazif*: Teacher, what did you say???
Amin*: Teacher, that is wrong English!
Haziq*: Teacher, the word is treat, not belanja!
Needless to say, I was both embarrassed and happy that my students caught me making a mistake. Most of my students have very low proficiency and confidence in English. The fact that they could correct my English and jumped at the opportunity to do so made me proud. It affirmed me as a teacher, knowing that meaningful learning had taken place.
Where are you currently working and what factors influenced your decision to do what you are currently doing as a post-Fellowship career option?
I currently work as an analyst at PADU (Education Performance and Delivery Unit). I support the Ministry in implementing initiatives under the Education Blueprint. The initiatives I work on relate to internet connectivity in schools and data integration. I chose to join PADU because I wanted to learn how I can still make a difference in education beyond the classroom. I was also interested in working with the government as my long-term plan is to become a diplomat.
How has the Fellowship experience and your current work influenced your views on educational issues, particularly education inequity?
I have seen how real education inequity is, and I know it will take years to solve it. But at the same time, I have seen many committed people working on the ground and in the ministry, and I know that change is happening. Slowly but surely, Malaysia will get there.
How has your Fellowship journey developed your leadership skills?
I think my Fellowship journey cultivated a stronger confidence in me to become a leader. It taught me so many skills such as organization, planning and communication. It also strengthened my character in terms of perseverance and patience. Most importantly, it taught me that being a leader is not about being in the limelight, but serving wholeheartedly so that my students can learn and reap the benefits in the future.
Having the mindset that leadership is service spurs me to do the best in my current job and in my future plans, for I know that somewhere along the way, somebody deserving will get to experience the fruits of that endeavour.