By 65, most people would have started (or have thoughts of) enjoying life as a retiree.
But 67-year-old Madam Lily Teo starts off each day with a very important mission – and that involves making sure every child who walks through the glass doors at MindChamps PreSchool @ Leisure Park Kallang has a huge smile on their face.
When you first meet Teacher Lily, you would naturally be drawn to her calm and collected demeanour, and motherliness.
It’s no wonder then that the children see her as the resident grandmother at the preschool.
Embracing the joy in working
Confucious once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
If we had to pinpoint one person who truly lives life by that quote, that would be Teacher Lily. What drives her to work every day is simply the sheer enjoyment and fulfilment her role as a preschool teacher brings to her life. No child (or parent) is too difficult for Teacher Lily – whose patience, love and understanding for children are evident from the personal stories she fondly recalls.
One such story is how her motherly touch greatly impressed an overly protective great-grandmother. In no time, Teacher Lily turned her initial reluctance to leave her precious great-grandchild in her playgroup class, to one of complete trust.
Teacher Lily, who’s affectionately called “Ah Ma” by the little ones, recalled another child who was acting out. “We realised that he was upset because the helper who’s been taking care of him was leaving. When the new helper arrived, he slowly adjusted. These are issues you’ve got to slowly find out, it’s not written in the books,” says Teacher Lily who’s been in the industry for five years.
Her deep understanding of children makes tasks like getting the young ones to take their naps, controlling a child throwing a tantrum and kids going through separation anxiety sound easy.
Given her wealth of experience and knowledge, she’s also eager to share her feedback with teachers during staff meetings. Yet she’s not shy to ask for assistance from the younger tech-savvy teachers.
“Anything to do with IT, I’m not so savvy. I work with my team, check with them how to go about with the computer. Regardless of age, we should be able to adapt to them, or the environment and your work life will be different”, she said smiling.
This is a true embodiment of MindChamps’ philosophy of ‘100% Respect, Zero Fear’.
Where it all started
It would be interesting to note that before Teacher Lily entered the education industry, she worked in a wide range of roles, ranging from administration to real estate to F&B.
From the joy she gets out of working at MindChamps, it’s evident that this is by far her most fulfilling role.
Her love for children brought her to MindChamps where she attended a talk at its headquarters. Despite her nearing retirement age at that point, MindChamps warmly welcomed her into the family.
A selfless life
Working with children is not her only passion.
She is also an active grassroots leader. Among the many positions that she holds includes Vice Chairman at Pine Close Residents’ Committee and assistant secretary at the Inter-Racial Committee. She is also an active member of the Mountbatten Citizens’ Consultative Committee.
She also attends ukelele classes and volunteers at hospice care. So much so that her family ‘grumbles’ that they hardly see her at home because of her time spent with the elderly and children in the community.
For her contribution to volunteer work, Teacher Lily received the President’s award, PBM in 2011 and the PAP Long Service Award in 2018.
These are among the many other awards she’s received over the years.
“I’ve so many awards that my husband asked if there’s enough space to put his things – too many awards,” she laughed.
Lily was also featured in Channel 8’s current affairs programme Frontline which covered the story of Singaporeans who will be receiving special subsidies for common illness, chronic conditions and dental procedures under the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS).
Advice for the elderly
When asked for her advice to older people still in employment she replied, “Work for as long as you can work – as long as your mind is still working,” she says.
Grateful to be working at MindChamps, she praised the company for being very structured and shared why working was important to her, “I want to keep myself going. I want to stay positive. Coming to play with the children, time passes very quickly. I love children – I’m passionate about children. I suppose that’s a good life. Every day you see children – that’s what happiness is all about!”
Indeed, with her caring heart, her motherly nature and the great lengths she takes to offer a helping hand to others in the community, Teacher Lily is one special individual who truly embodies the Champion Mindset and all of the values that we instill in our preschoolers.
Written by Jacqueline Ong