Prathibah Pillai, Grace Orchard School
Teacher, Grace Orchard School
For this composed teacher from Grace Orchard School, you would be surprised to hear that her favourite movie is the action-packed Face/Off, directed by John Woo, and starring Nicolas Cage and John Travolta.
This is what drives her as a teacher and transition planning co-ordinator. The voices of students with special needs are often lost, and she is advocating for the best practices so that their true characters and their choices for the future are heard. Grace Orchard School takes in students diagnosed with mild intellectual disability and mild autism spectrum disorders. Ms Prathibah specifically focuses on the 17- to 18-year-olds who are transitioning to work, or further education, after graduation. There are a number of reasons to why their voices are often lost in their transition process – expectations from the family, expectations from the school etc. She aims to provide them with the skills to fully exercise autonomy, so that they can learn to speak up for themselves and lead an improved quality of life.
All that Ms Prathibah has in her repository to carry out her work is the result of the intense and valuable training from the Bachelor of Education (Special Education). Among many things, the course helps her to develop programmes for both students and staff. It greatly enhances her public relations skills, allowing her to competently facilitate meetings and discussions. Most of all, it paves the way for her to work in tight collaboration with many people and teams in the school, including the students and their parents, teachers, the allied health professionals (AHPs) and job coaches. Therefore, she highly recommends the course to anyone who wishes to embark on a teaching career in the special education sector.
|This is what drives her as a teacher and transition planning co-ordinator. The voices of students with special needs are often lost, and she is advocating for best practices so that their true characters and their choices for their future are heard.|
But Ms Prathibah is not stopping her education just yet. She has been offered a doctorate place in Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, where she completed her Master of Education (Special Education) with an MOE overseas scholarship award received in 2013. Her principal is very supportive of her intention.
What is very apparent in Ms Prathibah is her passion in helping people. In her previous job, she worked at a bank, providing on-the-job training to frontliners in customer service. Then she heard about students with special needs transitioning from school to work, and thought that she could use her skills as an on-the-job trainer to help them to manage the transition to work, and the rest is history. When not teaching or liaising with parents and her fellow colleagues, Ms Prathibah is happily roller-blading away at East Coast Park, something that her peers in the school do not know. As to why she likes it, this is what she says: “It’s that adrenalin rush, that I’m going to fall.” Essentially, this is an apt analogy to how her students feel when they are being given a task. When she rollerblades, she has to be fully focused, to get over her fear of falling or deciding how best to negotiate the road bumps. Therefore, she is able to place herself in her students’ shoes whenever they are being given a task. Do they feel scared? Or motivated? Or do they succumb to their fear and back off? With this, she is better equipped to help them manage their expectations and fears. And she would definitely be in a better position to champion for their voices when she obtains her PhD in a few years’ time!