Shahrun Sofian is one of many Malaysians who switched to a career in education through the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship. She graduated with a Bachelor of Engineering in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan, and previously worked in engineering. She joined the first cohort of Teach For Malaysia Fellows in 2012, and is currently a sixth-year teacher at a high-need school in Jeram, Selangor.
1. What were you working as before you switched careers and joined the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship?
I was working in engineering before I joined the Teach For Malaysia Fellowship. I grew up in a family of teachers, so teaching is in my blood! I also wanted to be around people who are like-minded who are searching for a solution, instead of blaming everyone else. It’s not easy being in the system, looking at the problem from the inside, from the ground up.
2. What’s been the highlight of your six years as a teacher?
What pops in my head is a message I got from a student’s father. He told me that for the first time in his daughter’s life, she loved maths – because she said I cared about her. All these years, his daughter did not like maths at all. She was rather stubborn and refused to learn maths. When she found someone who cared about her, she found she not only likes maths, she’s also really good at it! So I think that was really something. For a parent to send me a message like that, it really gave me a boost and told me that I’m on the right track.
Shahrun and her students on a learning trip at DHL
3. What have you learned from the teachers and students in your school?
There’s much to learn from the other teachers in school. I’m humbled, because I am surrounded by extremely great teachers who are willing to share their experience and knowledge. It’s not easy being a teacher, and having colleagues like that really helps.
I’m humbled by my students. Some have parents who are drug addicts and are missing in their lives, some live with just their siblings – and yet still manage to excel in school. If my kids can do this, then there is no way a teacher shouldn’t strive to be better for them. They are actually my biggest inspiration. You don’t give up, because they don’t give up.
4. Who needs to be part of the solution to the challenges in education?
Solutions are dynamic, and everyone has to play a role. I have my own role as a teacher. Every day we teachers come to work, we teach in the classroom, we are part of the solution in our own simple, local way. But I think, to have greater impact, it needs to be systemic. It needs to be big, so that the impact will be bigger than what just one person could do locally.
Shahrun received the “Anugerah Perkhidmatan Cemerlang” from the Ministry of Education in 2015
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