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A chat with Kanniga, who has 30 years of experience working with children and champions inclusivity

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

In this series of chats with our staff, we get up close and personal. They share about things like their favourite drinks, to their experiences and motivations at work.

Hello! Could you introduce yourself? I am Kanniga, the Assistant Director of the Care and Development department, so I oversee the early intervention programmes in PPS. What does a typical day at work look like? Should I start from the time that I get out of my bed, then have my bath? (laughs) Usually I will spend 30 minutes saying my prayers, then I have breakfast. I will then walk to the downtown line to travel about 21 mins to Bendemeer, then I take bus 145 and reach PPS Balestier office and say good morning to everybody! Most of the time, the first thing I do in the office is I will check my emails. I get loads and loads of emails that I have to reply. if I’m not in the office I’m at the centre. I would be having discussions with the Education Support Teachers (ESTs) and class teachers to find out more about their work - what’s going well and what’s not going well. I would also play with the children at the centre.

What is a pick me up that you need to keep you going? I must have a cup of Meiji cold milk!

Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of work?

I actually love to cook, I like to try new recipes. I also love baking. I think I am a pretty good cook! Kanniga was very proud of the first black forest cake that she made! What are some exciting or encouraging moments at work in the last few months? I could say that a lot of exciting things happened when I first joined Presbyterian Welfare Services (now PPS) about 30 years ago, I still remember the first day when I went to work. There was this child with Down’s Syndrome who was running towards me - I was so happy and I was also stretching out my arms, waiting for him to hug me. The next minute, I saw him ripping off my blouse! And I was thinking to myself “oh my gosh is this going to be a daily occurrence?” That night, I was thinking so hard about whether I am cut out to be an educator. I even wrote my resignation letter. The next morning, I went back to the same centre and the same boy was running towards me again. Surprisingly, he just gave me a tight hug. This was how my journey in PPS started. I also remember this story involving a teacher who attended a diploma course in special education. She had this child in the centre who was exhibiting the characteristics of a child with autism. With good intentions, she brought all her notes on autism to the centre and gave them to the child’s parents and told them, “I think your child has autism, you should read up on this”. Before I knew it, I saw the whole family marching into my office. The grandfather was scolding me in Hokkien, using all the colourful words that I could understand. Then, at the end of the conversation he just spat on my face! I was too shocked to say or do anything. At the end of the day, we kind of had a conversation and everything, to cut the long story short the grandfather eventually donated $25,000 to set up a toy and book library for children with special needs. I think that is something I will never forget in my life. I do have many more funny stories from the past as I guess now my work with the children and the parents is more indirect.

Having worked with children with developmental needs for years, what is your hope for the early intervention industry? You mean, what is my hope for all children? The answer is the same - for them to thrive! I hope to see more nurturing and inclusive preschool environments designed to support all children regardless of their needs.

What motivates and encourages you to continue in this line of work?

I suppose it is the joy of seeing these children grow. The children whom I taught when I first joined PPS - I think today they are all in their 30s, and some of their families also have become my good friends. I still see them during festivities and occasions. It’s so nice to see them grow and witness them having fruitful lives and being contributing members of society.

How can teachers stay motivated in this sector? The important thing is that you do not see it as a job. Instead, it has to be something you are very passionate about - you must really want to see something good happening to the children around you. And I think for that to happen, we must be nurturing to the children. What are qualities that a teacher must have? Flexibility and creativity. As a teacher you must be flexible in terms of thinking “how am I going to adapt my lessons and activities so that all the students can participate?” For creativity, preschoolers’ imagination is so wild, so you have to think about how you are going to help these children and what teaching methods you will use to bring out that creativity in each child.


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