Our Stories: A lifelong passion for students with special needs

A lifelong passion for students with special needs

  #60Stories

Despite retiring in 1995, Mrs Priscilla Theseira, 78 (or Mrs T, as she is fondly known as) remains connected to MINDS and the wider special needs community. Mrs T has had a long and decorated journey in MINDS – close to 20 years of contribution in enhancing the education of children with special needs. In 1976, she joined MINDS as an Association Teacher and later progressed to management roles, serving as vice-principal and principal at MINDS’ schools.

Even in retirement, Mrs T’s love for teaching and her students continues to burn brightly. This passion for her students and their growth led Mrs T to return to MINDS schools as a relief teacher and volunteer with the schools’ external travelling lessons or school outings. Mrs T vividly recalls a particular time when a student had a meltdown during one of these travelling lessons and sat on the sidewalk, refusing to move. Working with her fellow teachers and school staff, two teachers stayed with the student while Mrs T and another teacher brought the rest of the class back to school. Back in school, Mrs T got into her car and drove back to bring the student back to school. Despite these seemingly trying situations, Mrs T remains clear about her purpose, “Challenges aside, these students are the ones who remind us of why we are here in the first place. We are here to help them with their learning disabilities”.

lady taking a selfie in her home
A warm and sociable person, Mrs T generously shares her wisdom and advice with those who seek more information about Special Education (SPED)

I have the passion, I love the children and I look for opportunities to contribute.
Passion does not end when you retire.

Mrs T
Retired MINDS Principal
a MINDS teacher taking a selfie
Through Mrs T, her former students and their parents have forged a network for meaningful social interaction and a community of friendship.

Strengthening bonds and building communities

Mrs T has left an indelible mark in the lives of her students. Some students who left Towner Gardens School (TGS) as far back as 1986 still call her to ask after her and seek her advice. One student faithfully sends her ‘good morning’ messages every day, while others inform her of new developments in their lives. Mrs T wistfully recalls a former student calling her to express her joy in receiving a salary increment and strikingly, how that increment meant ‘more money’ for her.

Mrs T also keeps in contact with her former students and their parents from TGS by occasionally visiting her former students at work. One of her visits was to a former student who graduated 40 years earlier. He was employed with a cleaning crew in Parkway Parade Shopping Centre, and was very happy to see Mrs T, introducing her to his supervisor. It was a heart-warming moment of pride for Mrs T hearing the supervisor commend her former student for his hard work.

Through Mrs T, her former students and their parents have forged a network for meaningful social interaction and a community of friendship. Mrs T would host Christmas and Chinese New Year lunches for her students and invite them to extend the invitation to their peers from various MINDS centres, creating a platform for them to form friendships with peers outside their own schools and centres. Other than creating this community for MINDS clients, she keeps abreast with the newest programmes in MINDS to look for new opportunities to volunteer and contribute to the community.

If you are taking it on as a job, DON’T! This job embraces passion.
You must have the passion to teach and to go out of the way to do things for the children.

Mrs T
Retired MINDS Principal

Looking to the future of special education

When asked about how she has seen the special needs and MINDS community change over the years, Mrs T noted the wide range of facilities catering to all MINDS graduates at all levels of functioning. She reflected, “In the 1980s for instance, only three pathways were available for the graduates: open employment for those who were independent, sheltered workshop for those requiring some support and stay-home for those with high support needs. I am glad that everyone has an option or programme to transit to after leaving school nowadays”.

A warm and sociable person, she generously shares her wisdom and advice with those who seek more information about Special Education (SPED).

When asked what advice she would give to people who want to join the SPED field, Mrs T exclaimed, “If you are taking it on as a job, DON’T! This job embraces passion. You must have the passion to teach and to go out of the way to do things for the children. It is not just paperwork lying on the desk when you decide not to turn up for the day, but students who will be left without a teacher”.

Beyond the work at MINDS, Mrs T is an active member of Special Olympics Singapore and currently sits on the organising committee of the national games that take place every 4 years.

When asked how she manages to keep herself updated and involved in the SPED scene despite her various commitments, Mrs T stated: “I have the passion, I love the children and I look for opportunities to contribute. Passion does not end when you retire.”

As MINDS celebrates its 60th anniversary, we recognise the passion and work of our Special Education educators past and present.

Join us in our mission to provide a holistic environment and inclusive curriculum for our students with varying needs and abilities. Find out more about starting a career in Special Education here and career opportunities with MINDS here.

Be a friend of our MINDS community! Explore volunteering opportunities or consider donating to our cause.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories and updates from the MINDS Community!

NOTICE OF THE 59TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF MINDS: NOTICE is hereby given that the 59th Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) will be held by way of electronic means as follows: Date: Saturday , 18 September 2020 Time: 9:30am (Registration starts at 8:30am) Venue: Online via ZOOM MINDS members will be receiving an email on the notice of AGM and are strongly encouraged to register your attendance to facilitate the verification process on the day of the AGM. For enquiries regardingthe AGM, members may email to agm@minds.org.sg or call 849607358