Nur Atikah Binte Mohd Dahlan – Promising Early Years Educator Award 2023

Fostering an inclusive learning environment for all children

Nur Atikah Binte Mohd Dahlan, Lead Teacher at My First Skool at 491 Admiralty Link and winner of ECDA’s Promising Educator Award.

When a non-verbal six-year-old child with Down syndrome enrolled in her class in 2021, Nur Atikah Binte Mohd Dahlan, Lead Teacher at My First Skool at 491 Admiralty Link, conducted classroom observations and partnered with his parents to learn about his needs and his learning style. A firm believer in providing all children with equal opportunities, Atikah involved him in all of the classroom activities and tweaked them to his capabilities.

Even during the class’s graduation concert, Atikah made sure he was an equal participant.

“We included him in the class skit. He danced and took centre stage. Even though he was not verbal, he remembered to move props around as required. His mother thanked me at the end of the concert,” she said.

“When you have the heart for children, everything unfolds naturally. Yet, while passion can get you started, the practices and honesty in your practices are more important.”

Enabling children to learn actively, meaningfully and confidently

Atikah takes playtime seriously as it helps her understand each child’s development, their interests and learning styles through their unplanned responses and reactions.

“Diversity is inevitable, therefore as an educator, I embrace the beauty of differences and adapt to meet these needs as each child has their own unique traits and abilities. For instance, I curate activities to cater to different learning styles by including movements during lessons for kinesthetic learners and singing for auditory learners,” said Atikah.

Atikah also caters to the varying developmental abilities of her children in class. She intentionally asks more questions and simplifies activities for non-verbal children while giving children with advanced abilities open-ended tasks.

Spearheading children’s learning experiences beyond the classroom

Atikah believes in partnerships with community organisations to deepen children’s learning beyond the classroom. Taking the lead in nurturing connections in the community, she fostered partnerships with SWAMI Home enabling intergenerational interaction between children and seniors to facilitate their socioemotional development. During Hari Raya, children from the centre drew ketupats for the seniors at SWAMI Home and the seniors made them cards in exchange.

“Exposure to the community around them makes children understand the world better and makes them more empathetic,” Atikah said.

As the centre’s Sustainability Ambassador in 2021 and 2022, Atikah introduced a variety of sustainability practices to the children. During the centre’s Family Day, Atikah encouraged families to create family portraits using recycled materials to support the centre’s sustainability project for the School Green Awards. Throughout the school year, Atikah also got the children to make posters to raise environmental awareness, use recycling bins and get their hands dirty through gardening initiatives.

Atikah engaging children in multisensory outdoor learning at a nearby park.

Upskilling to serve children better

Atikah evaluates the activities she implements in the classroom on a bi-weekly basis and constantly seeks ways to improve them. In monthly curriculum meetings, she partners the centre leader to share positive teaching and learning practices with the school team as well.

A firm believer of upskilling, Atikah recently completed a degree in early childhood. Dedicated to honing her craft, Atikah does the hard and ‘heart’ work so her children can blossom under her care.