Tambunan teacher’s passion pays off

Best of both worlds: Engelbert says her ongoing online exchange programme complements classroom learning.

KOTA KINABALU: Teacher Sydney Engelbert (pic) is passionate about her job and the English language.

She wants to instil a similar love for English in her students at the Keningau Vocational College, some 110km from here.

However, she became worried after seeing her students losing interest during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This did not deter the 30-year-old, who hails from Kampung Kiawan in Tambunan.

“I realised their passion needed to be re-sparked. That was when I decided to collaborate with the South-East Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (Seameo) to start an online exchange programme,” said Engelbert, who began teaching at the college from February 2019.

The programme under the Seameo Regional Centre for Vocational and Technical Education and Training (Seameo Voctech) allows students to learn in a new environment through classes conducted by teachers from other parts of Malaysia, as well as the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia.

Her efforts paid off when she was named winner of the 2024 Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards for the South-East Asia and Pacific region, along with eight others representing their respective regions worldwide.

Engelbert is in the running for the overall winner of the award and the result is expected to be announced on May 29.

The Kadazandusun woman said winning the award does not mean that she outshone other teachers at the college as she believes that everyone is equally amazing, if not more.

The first edition of the three-month exchange programme began in 2022, which saw a total of 112 students from four countries participating, including 45 from Keningau Vocational College.

“The number grew last year to 252, with 70 from our school.

“Through the exchange programme, apart from improving their English proficiency, participants will also improve their communication skills, cultural competence and knowledge beyond the curriculum.”

Engelbert added that the ongoing initiative complements classroom learning.

Engelbert said her efforts are also guided by her own personal motto: “If it is meant to be, it is up to me.”

Her passion for teaching came naturally as her parents, uncles, aunties and cousins are all in the profession.

“When I was younger, I learnt English from watching cartoons.

“Now I divide my time between my many hobbies – reading, dancing, watching movies and learning new languages.”

Engelbert speaks fluent Malay and Kadazandusun language. She also learnt basic Korean and is currently picking up French.

Looking forward, Engelbert seeks more global opportunities that could include her students.

“The Keningau Vocational College has been involved with many global partnerships, programmes and sponsorships.

“I am excited that most of the students and teachers are equally passionate about it despite their busy schedules,” she said.

The Seameo Voctech was established in Brunei on Aug 28, 1990, to assist Seameo member countries in addressing common issues in technical vocational education and training through professional development, research, consultancy and information dissemination.

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Sydney Engelbert , English language ,


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