While this vice principal from Faith Kindergarten strongly believes in being firm with the children under her wing, deep down, she really is a softie at heart.
Mrs Pauline Chia may be diminutive in size, but the children at Faith Kindergarten know not to mess with their no-nonsense vice principal.
Indeed, for some of her children, the mention of her name can strike fear into their hearts.
Mrs Chia laughingly recalled how a parent once resorted to name-dropping in order to get the child to eat his vegetables at home.
But though she is a self-confessed "old school" educator who doesn't believe in mollycoddling, Mrs Chia is nonetheless able to effortlessly switch between being stern and letting loose during playtime.
"I've had a child call me a clown before. But that's because I will go down to their level durnig playtime. It's a different story during lesson time, however. With me, the kids know they have to behave and follow the rules," said Mrs Chia.
Mrs Chia was not always in the early childhood sector. She spent the first three years of her career working as an accountant. It was only in 1991 that she was presented with the opportunity to take over her friend's position at a child care centre. Being someone who loves interacting with children, Mrs Chia promptly took up the challenge.
When the child care facility closed down in 1994, Mrs Chia alternated between other pre-schools before finally arriving at Faith Kindergarten - the very place where she used to attend classes as a five-year-old, about a decade ago.
"My teacher back then was Ms Iris Tan and she actually sent me home on her own accord! When I stepped into Faith again as an educator, Ms Iris Tan was still there, and she could still remember me," she shared.
Mrs Pauline Chia with her kindergarten teacher and now colleague, Ms Iris Tan, and daughter Joann Chia
According to Mrs Elsie Yee, the principal at Faith Kindergarten, Mrs Chia has been an integral part of the team and has even proven herself to be particularly adept at handling children with special needs. For example, Mrs Chia once taught a child who was diagnosed with mild autism.
"The child's mother didn't take the news too well. I had to constantly reassure and encourage her to work hard at the situation. I would coordinate teaching styles with his parents as we had to make sure that he was exposed to a consistent learning environment where his early childhood teachers and parents were very firm. I'm happy to say that he's now doing well and is even receiving mainstream education." said Mrs Chia.
Working closely with parents to support children's learning and development
In another incident, Mrs Chia had gone above and beyond her duties as an early childhood educator to care for a child who contracted tuberculosis. She remembered coming up with a story involving animals to help him overcome his fear of injections, which he had to receive several times a month. She would also frequently visit the child when he was recoving in hospital and at home, during her own free time.
Mdm Hah Ee Lin, whose children Renee and Rayden attend classes at Faith Kindergarten, can attest to just how committed Mrs Chia is to her job. Ms Hah recalled how the vice-principal was extremely patient and encouraging when helping her daughter improve the pronounciation of certain words.
Mrs Pauline Chia with Mdm Hah Ee Lin and her children, Rayden and Renee Koh
"Mrs Chia would consistently provide feedback about Renee's progress and encourage me to work together with her for better results. Although she has now moved on to the role of a vice-principal, she is still very committed in helping parents whenever we encounter any problems with our children," said Mrs Hah. "Mrs Chia is a rare teacher to come by and one who has really taken extra effort and time to make a difference in the students' life."
While Mrs Chia admits that numerous memorable incidents have taken place throughout her career, the time when she participated in an overnight camp in school with 12 children still ranks among the top.
"When we played water bombs with the kids, they immediately charged at me and aimed for my face! I guess this was probably because I was always the very stern teacher in school," laughed Mrs Chia.
"At the end of the night, we sat down together and talked about our experience. It was such a touching moment that everyone, including the teachers, cried and hugged."
Speaking about hugs, Mrs Chia is also a keen advocate of such affection, despite her stern disposition in school.
"When you punish or reprimand a child, he or she must always be told the reason," said Mrs Chia. "And at the end of it all, you must always end it with a hug and say 'I love you'."