My favorite teacher is my Grade 5 teacher, Melanie Agustina who taught me at the International School of Tianjin. There are a lot of reasons that I like her: she is extremely diligent, good-natured, and friendly. She is constantly willing to help and encourage students to become problem solving risk-takers and the philosophy of seeking to understand before being understood is obvious in her teaching.
Mrs.Agustina only taught me for a year but I had known her for a few years before I entered Grade 5. In grade 3 and 4, our classes involved a large amount of singing with her and our teachers brought us to her classroom during homeroom to learn a few songs with her while she played her guitar. In grade 4, I decided to join the guitar club and began taking lessons from her after a hard days of school. I realized my fondness for the instrument and how soothing the sound of it was for my soul. Many times we sang together in assemblies and I even received a certificate of great effort during one of those short and sweet guitar lessons. Although my fingers were sore and throbbed for the first few days, my passion for music flourished under her instruction. As an ensemble, we enthusiastically strummed and harmonized songs like River and Uncle Jed. Till today, I enjoy humming those melodious tunes when I feel blue or find myself weary in anxiety. I smile as they remind me of the fascinating times we had during those lessons and of her effortless teaching.
Although she taught me for only a year, she affects my life at an immense level even today. In elementary school, our homeroom teacher taught us all subjects except for arts and languages other than English (for me, this was Chinese). I would say that I gained huge amounts of knowledge from her on the subject areas that I was passionate about and developed an interest in those that I had disliked. Her enthusiasm and love helped me to become more inquiring. She brought a smile to her students and colleagues. a wave of happiness into the classroom.
I often recall Mrs.Agustina helping me with my math questions and how I could easily understand and apply my knowledge after she had helped me. I think the teacher’s attitude has always been critical for me; when I put in hard work, I want to be appreciated. Mrs.Agustina always kept a “you can do it” attitude which raised my self-confidence. The way I live is highly influenced by her teaching over those years and I believe I will always feel nostalgic for those moments. I love you Mrs.A!
What is your name?
Melanie (Mel) Jane Agustina (Maiden name West)
If you have a family, please list everyone’s FULL name and nationality. How old are your children?
My husband: Erwin Agustina is Indonesian. Our son Ameer Nathan Agustina is 6 years old and was born in China (he thinks he is Chinese but the name is Arabic). Our daughter Ambieka Jane Agustina is 4 years old and was born in China, but she is Australian/Indonesian. Her name is Hindi.
Please list your occupation and your spouse’s occupation.
We are both teachers.
How long have you lived in China? What brought you here?
I lived in Tianjin for 5 years from 2004 – 2009, we got an opportunity to teach in an international school in China
Why did you become a teacher? Have you always been a teacher or did you do something else before?
I have always been a teacher – I began by teaching when I was 13 – teaching
children recorder and flute. I continued through my university to support myself. I worked in Tasmania as a teacher in the state educational department for three years and then moved to Kalimantan (Borneo – Indonesia) for 2 Jakarta for 6 months, Malaysia Penang for 2 and a half years, China for 5, Tasmania for 1, Indonesia for 3 and now Saudi Arabia.
Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
My parents – they were both teachers too and what they taught me in life has been more valuable than any mathematical equations. But at school my favorite teacher was my Geography teacher in college. I found the subject really interesting and her projects extended my interests and abilities. I especially loved the field work.
What is your teaching philosophy?
The role of an educator is not to merely transmit facts, ideas and knowledge to students but rather to facilitate the development of skills and nurture the growth ofeach individual in ways that are engaging, challenging and relevant. Students who are motivated, inspired and curious will naturally become knowledgeable and thoughtful individuals. It is our role as guardians of these students for a period in their lives, to instill a positive sense of self that will endure and ensure their development as thoughtful and reflective lifelong learners.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
Making learning fun and interesting and watching the growth of students over time. Their ability to think, reason, find solutions and their creativity is always amazing.
What has been your greatest success as a teacher?
I can think of many things that I have been excited and happy about -but the best feeling is when you connect with the students personally as well as in a professional sense and are able to see them as individuals and unique people and help them grow and develop in ways that they feel are important for them. In a way my greatest successes as a teacher are not my successes-they are my student’s successes-I am just the facilitator to help them achieve these.
What is the most challenging aspect of teaching?
The parents, the meetings, the constraints of the curriculum, working with others who do not view or work with students in the same way, or who do not hold similar philosophies of teaching – anything that takes me away from my class, students, and their needs.
Gurkriti Singh is a Grade 10 student at Beijing City International School. She writes for the school magazine, BCIS Xuexi, and participates in inter-school debating competitions. Through her blog posts, she hopes to share unique and exciting experiences at BCIS as well as share experiences and topics related to her own life.
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Photos courtesy of Gurkriti Singh and Melanie Agustina