Church, Life Stories

Living Out My Calling In Both Church And The Classroom

HOGCStories Joyce Teo Story

Joyce Teo, winner of ECDA’s Outstanding Preschool Educator Award, shares why she’s spent more than a decade serving in children’s church

From left: Tan Chee Wee (CEO of ECDA), Joyce Teo, Sun Xueling (Minister of State for Home Affairs, Social and Family Development)

When a new student from overseas enrolled in Joyce’s class in the middle of the year, the preschool teacher immediately thought of a children’s book she’d read about missing your parents. 

“I heard that he was very nervous coming to a new school, although he didn’t look nervous at all,” Joyce said. “But I showed something from the book that painted out how even when you’re alone, you can keep your mum in your heart.” 

Days later, Joyce learned from the student’s mother that he was still using the strategy on the way to school — it was a lesson that went beyond the classroom. 

This anecdote is one of Joyce’s memorable moments in teaching and just one of the many reasons why she was the winner of 2023’s ECDA’s Outstanding Preschool Educator Award. 

What is the Outstanding Preschool Educator Award?

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA)’s Outstanding Preschool Educator Award recognises exemplary educators who deliver high-quality early childhood care and education. Many excellent teachers are nominated every year for the award yet only one is selected.

Joyce has always dreamed of becoming a preschool teacher

Years before Joyce joined the teaching force, she was a youth who enjoyed playing with children. That joy then culminated into a big dream as a secondary school student: to be a part of building the foundations of a child’s character. 

“What interested me was the growth you can see in those early years and how I could be part of that,” she said. 

At the time, Joyce had just started attending Heart of God Church (HOGC). It was here that she recognised an opportunity to start making a difference in children’s lives and indicated her interest in serving in HeartKidz (children’s church).  

Seeing her passion and willingness, Joyce’s leaders in HeartKidz gave her ample opportunities to serve.

“When I was new in the ministry, they included me in planning events and camps in the children’s church,” she recalls. “My leaders saw that I could use basic Photoshop so they let me design name tags for the teachers and children during camp. I was also involved in the admin team, administrating for weekend services and camps as well.” 

After she collected her O Level results, Joyce realised that she could study early childhood education at Polytechnic and so she enrolled in the course.

“Working with children is something I’d always wanted to do. So why not use that to also serve?”

– Joyce Teo

Although she was busy studying, she still put her whole heart into HeartKidz. 

“When I was schooling, I was serving in children’s church every weekend,” she laughed. “The Sunday service was new at the time, so I would volunteer at HeartKidZ every Sunday to make sure everything was okay.” 


Serving in HeartKidz and growing up in church shaped Joyce’s teaching

“I also grew up learning life principles in my church that I applied at work – like having a spirit of excellence, going the extra mile and serving others, being simple, and most importantly, letting the young people take charge,” Joyce recounts, attributing how serving in Ministry and growing up in church prepared her to be successful in her classroom.

Being in HeartKidz trained Joyce to speak with openness and compassion to her students as she often finds herself having a lot of 1-on-1 conversations with her students to hear them out and tell them how they can grow to become better people.

One of the things Joyce has always told her students is to give their best in everything they do! And it warms her heart seeing this take effect on them. As she shares, “I see the transformation in their work! For example, they know that colouring is not just scribbling and finishing as quickly as possible. Rather, they want to make something full of colours and details. I also hear them spur each other on and saying ‘Remember we should give our best?’”

As she served in HeartKidz Ministry, she was taught to always give children room to voice their thoughts. In big and small ways, Joyce listens to her students’ thoughts and values them, empowering her students and giving them opportunities to make their ideas come to pass.  

As Joyce shares, “In a preschool setting, it’s very easy to say, Okay children, we’re gonna do this or talk about this today,’ but I don’t want to always make decisions for them. I want to empower them to think and decide for themselves. If I want to change a setup in my class, I would ask them what they would like to see. I think of myself as a facilitator, to support them and make their interests come to pass.”

After 12 years of serving, Joyce is living out her calling in both church and the classroom

Even after experiencing national recognition for her work in the classroom, Joyce can still be found serving in HeartKidz on the weekends. 

“Serving is a commitment I made to God,” she shares. “As a student, I told God and myself that when I start working, I still want to give my best to serve. I came such a long way as a teacher because of church. So this is my way of giving back.” 

The same goes for the classroom. “Being with young children is a calling…At the end of the day, when I see the children grow and improve, I’m very happy. When a parent tells me they notice a change in their kids, that’s what drives me.”

ECDA Awards 2023 | Outstanding Preschool Educator: Joyce Teo

We at HOGC Stories would like to congratulate Joyce on her achievements and wish her all the best. You have made an impact on us too!

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