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Following in the footsteps of Joan Bergstrom, early learning pioneer and entrepreneur

The second winner of the annual Joan Bergstrom Award follows in the footsteps of a dynamic pioneer in early childhood education with an entrepreneurial spirit.

The award is named in honor of the late Joan Bergstrom, Professor of Education and the first Director of Wheelock College’s Center for International Education, Leadership and Innovation. Dr. Bergstrom was the driving force and one of the founders of Singapore’s first Master’s program in early childhood education with RTRC Asia (now SEED Institute) and Wheelock College.

Dr. Joan Bergstrom

Dr. Joan Bergstrom

In addition to being a professor of education at Wheelock, Dr. Bergstrom co-founded two companies that developed curriculum and educational materials for children’s time away from school and a third to promote family friendly programs and child-care settings in the workplace.

So it’s fitting this year’s Bergstrom award goes to a similarly entrepreneurial young woman who, like Dr. Bergstrom, is making a lasting contribution to the field of early childhood education in Singapore and beyond.

The winner is Ng Puay San, who despite a schedule heavy with work and business travel abroad, enrolled in Wheelock’s Master of Science in Early Childhood Education degree program, offered in collaboration with the SEED Institute.

Puay San currently works at CM Asia Learning, a start-up company that advocates Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education for any students from ages five to 18. She leads the STEM educational programs, which are turnkey solutions that synthesize STEM expertise from the United States and local education expertise across Asia. The programs entail professional development for teachers to become certified STEM-educators and quality curriculums that are suitable for K-12 students from different subject-disciplines.

Ng Puay San at graduation.

Ng Puay San at graduation.

Prior to joining CM Asia Learning, Puay San worked in Microsoft Asia Pacific and Microsoft Singapore in different roles at the Education division.

When she played the role of the Regional Academic Programs Manager for Microsoft Asia Pacific, she led the Microsoft Partners in Learning programs across 12 countries in Asia Pacific. She worked with local Program Managers to increase technology access for schools, foster innovative approaches to pedagogy and teacher professional development, and provide education leaders with the tools to envision, implement, and manage change.

Before Puay San joined Microsoft in 2008, she taught Economics and led a team to teach Project Work at GCE A-level in a school under the Singapore Ministry of Education. She has keen interest in continuous professional development of teachers, authentic assessment, curriculum planning, educational technology and holistic student development.

Puay San attained a master degree at Columbia University, Teachers College before deciding to pursue a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Wheelock College.

The different ways in which children learn has always appealed to Puay San. Though her professional years were spent with adolescents, Puay San became curious about how young children learn when she spent time with her god daughters, children of her friends and the children whom she coaches at the Changi-Simei PAssion Children’s Football team.

Puay San realized that early childhood education (ECE) plays a significant role in children’s development. Thus, she started her journey with Wheelock College and Seed Institute to pursue further knowledge about ECE in the Master’s degree program.

Through her years in the education sector, Puay San recognizes that professional development of educators is the key to quality education for children. This prompted her capstone research project where she examined how participating in a virtual community of practice (VCoP) will influence mentoring practices of educators in the ECE sector in Singapore.

Beth Fredericks, Wheelock Singapore executive director (left), with Ng Puay San

Beth Fredericks, Wheelock Singapore executive director (left), with Ng Puay San

Puay San completed the research and other requirements of the Master Degree program, which include 10 modules, three foundational ECE modules and 300 hours of practicum. She completed the program over 18 months on a part-time basis.

What she learned in the Master’s program helps her to do her current job.

“I picked up quite a bit on curriculum and curriculum design, it gave me a very good foundation,” she says. “The master’s program gave us the depth to look at curriculum design, and because of this zero to eight training, it gave me some very good grounding to explain to customers how our curriculum is developmentally appropriate, and in what sense.”

Puay San attributes the successful completion of the program to the edifying classes conducted by faculty members of Wheelock College and SEED Institute, staff from various departments of SEED Institute, a group of collaborative classmates who jointly weathered through thick and thin in the past 18 months, supportive family, and a group of critical friends and ex-colleagues who helped her unconditionally.

Puay San says, “The journey through this Master’s program is full of ups and downs. Every bit of the experience in this journey has been a gift and it is such a blessing that I met so many wonderful people along the way! The faculty members and classmates have taught me many things and inspired me to do more for the ECE sector in Singapore and abroad.”

Puay San said that she is honored to receive the Joan Bergstrom Award and to be associated with such an inspiring pioneer in the ECE field. She concluded that the best outcome and takeaway from this course is the people – faculty members, classmates, teachers and children at the practicum center, family, friends and ex-colleagues who made up the enriching journey.

Joan Bergstrom would heartily agree.

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