Going the distance to support children’s learning needs
As a Learning Support Educator, Justine Ho works with therapists, pediatricians, psychologists, teachers and parents to identify and support the learning needs of children. Sometimes, she also works with social workers to improve children’s lives and well-being, which she believes, will allow them to be more motivated to learn at school. For always going above the call of duty to help children in need, Justine was a finalist for the Outstanding Early Intervention Professional award by the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2021.
In 2008, Justine Ho started her career as a senior teacher at My First Skool (MFS) (Haig Road). She joined NTUC First Campus’ (NFC) Department of Child Support Services as a Learning Support Educator in 2011.
In her role as a Learning Support Educator, Justine works with therapists, pediatricians, psychologists, teachers, principals and parents to discuss a child’s learning needs and identifies the extra support that the child requires. She also provides strategies to teachers to help them better support children with more complex learning needs.
As every child’s circumstances and needs are unique, Justine often adopts various methods to engage each child, such as using music, dramatic play and art to encourage children to express themselves through words and feelings.
To help a child regulate her emotions, Justine introduced her to clay for the first time.The girl enjoyed the texture of the clay and felt calm whenever she interacted with it. Subsequently, she became more expressive and involved in class.
“Justine puts in extra preparation and thought into each of her sessions. She always prioritises the connection with the child and takes into account each child’s ability to manage his or her emotions,” said Louisa Chng, Chief Child Support Officer at NFC.
During the Circuit Breaker period in 2020, Justine continued to offer her support for children and their families through tele-intervention. Through the sessions, she taught parents how to regulate both their emotions as well as their child’s.
Her efforts paid off when one of the children she helped was able to better vocalise his feelings and intent at the end of the sessions, which allowed his parents to better manage him at home.
“I am passionate about the impact I can have on the early years of a child’s life. My best memories and key accomplishments are working with vulnerable children and their families. I become someone they would trust and seek help from so that they can better focus on the children, without having to worry about making ends meet.”
Justine Ho May Lin
Lead Learning Support Educator
NTUC First Campus, Child Support Services
Supporting children in need beyond school
Joanne is a strong believer in hands-on sensorial experiences.
Despite having to spend extra time off work to prepare the materials, Joanne proactively sets up interesting activities at various spaces of the school – to spark children’s learning. Often, her ideas surprise both children and adults alike. Some of the games she has devised thus far include a water ballon bomb game, an elaborate spray gun painting, and a soil play area.
“I plan and use a variety of methods to help children grow cognitively and conceptually. I also maintain a positive relationship with my students to ensure they enjoy school and are well-engaged in the environment and learning experiences that I plan for them,” she said.
A strong advocate for constructive play, Joanne regularly shares her knowledge with colleagues so that more children can benefit from such activities.
“Joanne taught her colleagues how to create useful resources using recycled materials, and how to adopt different storytelling methods such as box play. She also shared how to create an effective environment for the children. This has led to an improvement in our goal of making learning meaningful for children at our centre,” said Tan Chu Jin, who is the centre principal of LSH at Republic Polytechnic.
Observing that some children were experiencing difficulties with daily tasks like putting on shoes and drinking from cups, Joanne integrated these activities into classroom learning. To teach them how to put on shoes, she created a cardboard shoe cabinet for the children to practice putting on clean shoes in the classroom. With the support of her colleagues and the school’s cook, she also created more opportunities for the children to drink from cups during their meals.
“Children also require respect, and for adults to show care and compassion as well as develop healthy relationships so that they can be well and emotionally stable. Children’s basic needs have to be met in order for them to be capable of learning.”
– Lee Lai Yeng Joanne
Little Skool-House (At-Republic-Polytechnic)
Building positive relationships with the families and community
Guided by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, Justine believes in helping children from vulnerable backgrounds meet their basic needs first, before they will be motivated to learn. Besides supporting children’s learning needs in school, Justine also helps to counsel the children’s families at times, especially for the ones who come from vulnerable backgrounds.
“Sometimes, I work with social workers from the Family Service Centres and Child Protection Officers. I am willing to go beyond my role as a Learning Support Educator to support these children,” she said.
Once, Justine met a child whose mother worked long hours at a fast food eatery to raise her seven children. As she was often absent from home, the child exhibited negative behaviours and learning needs.
Together, Ming Ai and her team of teachers attained strong parent satisfaction survey results in 2019 and 2020.
Justine encouraged the child’s mother to be home more often, and helped to seek additional social support for her family. Her efforts paid off when the mother heeded her advice and switched jobs to spend more time at home. Since then, her child’s results have improved.
“The work of a Learning Support Educator is not just about early intervention, but also prevention. If we identify the children’s needs and work with their families to support them early, they can progress like their peers and have a good start in life,” said Justine.
In another instance, Justine went out of her way to meet a pair of brothers’ mother late at night to share strategies on how to calm her children. To entertain the children while their mother was at work, Justine bought painting equipment and game sets out of her own pocket for them. Gradually, the eldest boy became more responsible at home, taking care of his younger brothers.
“I am passionate about the impact I can have on the early years of a child’s life. My best memories and key accomplishments are working with vulnerable children and their families,” Justine said.
“I become someone they would trust and seek help from so that they can better focus on the children, without having to worry about making ends meet.”
For her commitment to supporting children with learning needs and their families, Justine was a finalist for the Outstanding Early Intervention Professional award by the Early Childhood Development Agency in 2021.