Why COVID Failed to Stop This Teacher from Growing her Skills

Ms. Natthaya Issarangkoon Na Ayuttaya is a 5th-grade teacher with a unique background. Three years ago, she hung up her lab coat to switch from a career in the private sector, where she worked first as a sales engineer and later as a lab technician, to educate the next generation of Thai students.

Despite a strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) background from her work experience and an engineering degree from Kasetsart University, she has a lot to learn about the art of teaching. Like for other young professionals, COVID-19 struck at a bad time. She has been in the process of developing her classroom skills since starting her new career as an educator. The pandemic risked putting that on hold indefinitely.

Kenan knows that providing an excellent education is challenging, and will become more urgent the longer school openings are delayed. As such, our education team acted quickly to move our teacher professional development program online, while maintaining the hand-on, group-based activities that define our award-winning program. Luckily for Ms. Natthaya, her school, Ban Pak Khlong 31 School in Nakhon Nayok province, participates in a Kenan Enhanced Project-based Learning (E-PBL) program, made possible with funding by Boeing. This led to Ms. Natthaya receiving an invitation to join Kenan’s first “virtual teacher training” workshop from May 4th-6th.

From past E-PBL training, Ms. Natthaya knew that Kenan uses an interactive, hands-on learning approach, in which the teachers do activities themselves and have plenty of time for discussion. She wasn’t sure if the hands-on approach would carry over to the online environment, however.

Shortly after logging on to Zoom on the morning of May 4th, her doubts disappeared. Following a brief introduction, Ms. Natthaya was transferred to a Zoom breakout room, where she joined four other teachers and a Kenan facilitator for a breakout session. There, she performed activities on screen, asked questions, and discussed the experiments with the group – just as she did at Kenan’s in-person workshop a year earlier.

“When we divided into subgroups, we could see other people’s work and perspectives,” said Ms. Natthaya. “We were able to talk to each other, and the modules became easy to understand by using the equipment [provided by Kenan]. Some things are difficult to understand at first, but when we learn by doing, they become simple.”

Ms. Natthaya believes that by applying the knowledge from the virtual training, she will take her ability to engage and inspire students to the next level. Once the workshop concluded, the wheels in her mind started to turn about how to bring the new modules to her classroom.

Her enthusiasm stems from the remarkable response of her students to the E-PBL approach. Unlike the traditional rote learning techniques that abound in Thai schools, E-PBL grants kids the freedom to use curiosity and creativity to design and implement projects related to the curriculum. When you have a skilled teacher, who is adept at coaching and guiding students, magical results happen – students’ knowledge, interest, and confidence balloon.

When she implemented her first E-PBL module, Ms. Natthaya said, “My students would go home and search for information on the internet by themselves. I didn’t even have to tell them to do homework or look for information!”

Seeing her students invest in the pursuit of knowledge confirmed that she made the right decision to become an educator.

“I feel that teaching is a special career because it provides positive energy to myself and others. The more we educate children, the more pride we create [in ourselves and them],” said Ms. Natthaya.

Whether in-person or online, Ms. Natthaya is committed to improving her skill set so that she can uncork her students’ potential and build their 21st-century skills. When schools re-open, Ms. Natthaya’s students will be in for a treat.

Kenan Asia

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