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2022 Valedictorian’s Speech – Mr Darrell Tan, Specialist Diploma in Specific Learning Differences (SpLD)


Good morning faculty members of the DAS Academy, honoured guests, colleagues and fellow graduates.


My name is Darrell Tan and I am honoured and humbled to be given the opportunity to address you on behalf of the graduands of the specialist diploma in Learning support for specific learning differences, also known as SpLd. I would like to thank all of you here for being present with us today on this very special occasion. To my fellow graduands, congratulations, you showed up, persevered and made it. To the lecturers who have been ever so patient and detailed in your teaching, especially to my practicum supervisor, Ms Rebecca Shahlini(Shalinah), thank you for making this happen. Your dedication to the empowerment of young lives has undoubtedly helped to motivate, inspire and provide us with the insights to complete this journey in our lives. And to my wife, thank you for putting up with me during this period in our lives.


To start off this, I would like everyone present here to remember this quote, “Leave no child behind.”


That was the driving force that propelled me to continually upgrade my teaching skills in English. Now, don’t get me wrong, as a teacher, we have been well-trained in the National Institute of Education (NIE) in terms of pedagogical knowledge and classroom management, but what people don’t realize is, in our short 4 years at NIE, the massive amount of information that we could download into our minds was catered and targeted mainly to the majority, the middle progressive learners.


Many of you out here today might possibly be like me. You look at your child, at your student, and you see the looks of confusion day after day. As any concerned parent or teacher, the question that continuously haunts you during your waking and sleeping hours is – how can learning be made easier? How can we help to unpack literacy and yet not undermine the quality of learning for students? If education is the vehicle for social mobility, then surely, literacy has to be the engine that propels that vessel. How can I, how can we, help our learners to learn?


In my search for answers, I found a beacon of light at DAS Academy. But unfortunately, COVID-19 was plaguing the land, and I had my doubts and worries about how the lessons at DAS Academycould retain their quality online. Needless to say, these were quickly dispelled. Despite the pandemic, the staff at DAS Academy made it possible for learning to take place. The countless breakout room sessions made discussion possible. Even though we were in a virtual space, the interaction during classes dissolved the physical distance between us. And of course, technology also made it possible for us to learn in the comforts of our own homes and pyjamas. For that, I am extremely grateful. Please allow me to walk you through the memory lane to provide a short glimpse into what I experienced at DAS Academy.


I vividly remember my first lesson at DAS Academy, where we were shown a passage that read, “*gibberishwordsalljumbledup asazz*”. Let’s take a moment to digest this. No, I was not trying to cast a spell, and no, that was not a foreign language. That was purely English presented in a way that students with dyslexia would face day in and day out. That first lesson etched a lasting reminder in my heart as an educator on why I am doing this. This was the daily struggle that our students were struggling with but now, we have the opportunity to make a difference. Through DAS Academy, we were exposed to various ways of teaching language to our students using a multisensory approach also known as Orton-Gillingham approach. To be quite honest, prior to this experience, I had not known the usefulness of sand other than building sand castles.


I had signed up to receive an education at DAS Academy and received much more in return. Through DAS Academy, my confidence as an educator has been boosted and my range expanded, providing me with much more flexibility in crafting my lessons.


Before I end off my speech, I would like to congratulate my fellow graduands once again for committing yourselves to the cause of our young learners. While I would like to assure you that the road ahead would be smooth going, it would often not. In times like these, I would like to urge you to keep going. The onus is now on us to continue experimenting with our newfound pedagogical tools and knowledge to see what fits our leaders. We are in a unique position to make a difference so that no child gets left behind. Be it your own child or a class of students, we can make a difference to our learners.