Sabah teacher named world's best educator by Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards


KOTA KINABALU: Sabahan Sydney Engelbert has been named the world’s best educator by the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards.

Emerging as the overall winner of the 2024 Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards, the 30-year-old who teaches English at the Keningau Vocational College triumphed over 14,800 nominees from 140 countries.

Humbly attributing her success to support from family and friends as well as the trust of “my amazing colleagues and dear students”, Engelbert said she would not have achieved it without them.

She had previously won the 2024 Cambridge Dedicated Teachers Awards for the Southeast Asia and Pacific region, qualifying her for the overall award.

“I am grateful for this award and recognition from Cambridge University Press and Assessment,” said Engelbert, who is from Kampung Kiawan in Tambunan.

On the Cambridge Dedicated Teacher Awards website, Engelbert's winning entry was highlighted; in it, she had written about her experiences as an English teacher at a rural vocational school in Keningau, adding that her students rarely travel outside the district.

“In an effort to enrich her students’ learning experience, she kickstarted an online exchange class in 2022 with several vocational schools in Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia.

“The first cohort of the three-month exchange programme involved 112 students from the four countries with 45 students alone from her school. In 2023, the number increased to 252 students with 70 of them from her school,” it said.

Cambridge University Press and Assessment added that the programme had allowed her students to improve their English language, communication skills, cultural competence and learn about topics beyond their standard curriculum.

Engelbert said her passion for teaching came naturally as her parents, uncles, aunts and cousins are all in the profession.

“Growing up, I witnessed my parents touch and inspire countless lives throughout their careers.

Despite receiving numerous awards and recognition for their years of service, they often said that the proudest aspect of being a teacher is when former and current students remember and respect them," said Engelbert.

“Many of their former students still recall them fondly. This is what inspired me to pursue this profession," she added.

She pursued her tertiary education at an education university in Peninsular Malaysia and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).

When she started her career in 2019, she learnt to tackle her students’ limited proficiency through a variety of language art activities.

Engelbert also plays an active role in other internationalisation programmes like hosting foreign students at her school.

She then shared her most memorable teaching moment as when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, leading to the closure of schools nationwide.

"We had to transition to online classes, something that was new to both our students and teachers. It was a challenging learning experience for all of us, requiring us to abandon our usual teaching methods and fully embrace digital materials," said Engelbert.

As the head of Keningau Vocational College’s Internationalisation Unit, she mentioned their involvement in several exchange programmes including the Global Online Classroom, AFS Intercultural Link Learning Programme, and the Gaja! Korea Autumn exchange programme.

"These projects are beneficial for both teachers and students, providing opportunities to broaden our horizons and make our mark internationally. I'm excited about these initiatives as they offer incredible opportunities for growth and learning," she said.

Engelbert is the second Malaysian to win this prestigious award, following Khalifa Affnan, also a teacher from the same college.

Affnan initiated a STEAM (STEM + Arts) programme at the school, training students, including those with special needs, to master emerging technologies like drones, 3D printing, and robots.

This project has notably increased the participation of female students in STEM activities.

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