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Educators and students watch proceedings at the celebrations for World Teachers’ Day in Phnom Penh last week. Moeun Nhean

Teacher of the Year says personal touch keeps students engaged

October 5 was World Teachers’ Day. Post Education spoke to the winner of this year’s Teacher of the Year competition, Dy Sophorn, about her approach to educating primary children in Kampong Chnang

This year’s official Best Teacher Award, given by H.E. Dr. Hang Choun Naron, has been won by a primary school teacher in Kampong Chnang. The teacher, Dy Sophorn, received her award from the Minister at a ceremony in Phnom Penh on World Teachers’ Day, October 5.

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Dy Sophorn speaks at the celebration for World Teachers’ Day. Moeun Nhean

Sophorn spoke of her experiences as part of a discussion forum that formed part of the day’s celebrations. She was one of two guest speakers who shared their experiences in the education sector. Sophorn said that she could not have achieved the success she has without “the utter cooperation of my school as well as between the local authorities at all levels, especially encouragement from her family.”

She added that her home life supports her professional life, because her husband also works in education. “My husband is also a teacher, and so we understand each other, while he always encourages me and me with my work. He always motivates me to teach the students better.”

Sophorn joked, “Before I won the Best Teacher Award, I was healthier. Now, I’ve lost 10 kilograms. What’s funny is that all of my students in previous years passed their grades, but this year I feel ashamed because some of my students failed and had to repeat the class.”

Sophorn’s personal approach to her profession includes a lot of phone calls to parents, so as to keep in touch with students’ home lives and motivate them to attend classes. She spends some of her monthly wages on phone credit to do so.“Actually, teachers like us get only around a million riel (about $250) each month and have to pay a lot to support our families.

“For me, I also spend money on phone credits to talk to the parents of my pupils regularly, including the outstanding, the average, the weak ones and those who are absent in class. It takes a small toll on my expense, but I’m happy to help improve our students’ study results, and they don’t avoid school either.”

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The forum on pedagogy at World Teachers’ Day. Moeun Nhean

Sometimes, “I meet the parents in person because they confer all their trust on us and our school. We are the trainers to their children to embrace their knowledge and walk on the right path. Therefore, they aren’t really worried about their kids as they are very busy trying to earn money to support their family.”

This is an issue that needs a mutual solution between the parents, the teachers and the schools to ensure our bamboo shoots grow to be the pillars of Cambodia. The award-winning teacher continued, “Communication between parents and teachers as well as schools is crucial as we can help give the students better directions to achieve a better result. For example, if a student is weak at a subject, we, the teachers, can get them to try harder at the subject.

“However, if we know a student is weak, and we can inform the parents about it or why they are absent from class. We are able to tell what the reasons behind it are.”

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