Inspire by his own English language teachers, multi award winner Mohd Sirhajwan Idek encourages his own students to persevere and not give up.

An English teacher from Keningau Vocational College in Sabah, Mohd Sirhajwan has won numerous awards including the International Innovation and Entrepreneurship Excellence in Teaching Award in September.

He presented case studies alongside fellow finalists from the United States, Britain, Russia, Germany, Canada, Denmark and Colombia. He was the only Asian and teacher in the group as the others were lecturers.

Mohd Sirhajwan said he never gets nervous taking on native English speakers.

“It shows that no matter where you come from or who you are, nothing can stop you from realising your dream and conquering the world,” said the Sabahan.

The teacher, who can be credited for Keningau Vocational College’s dominance in English competitions, has also received other awards for his achievements like the Teacher Icon Award at national, state and district levels, as well as the Youth Icon Award in Sabah.

Apart from that, Mohd Sirhajwan won the Macmillan Education Scholarship 2016, where he attended a two-week training course in Britain.

He will also be attending the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language conference in Britain in 2018 as an Express Publishing Scholarship 2017 recipient.

“Every recognition I receive, it makes me feel more motivated to work harder and do more,” he added.

Mohd Sirhajwan’s story on Bajau folklore with an inspiring message that everyone can relate to, won one of the top 10 spots in an international short story writing competition based on the theme of “belonging”.

“Taking part in the competition reminded me of the significance and beauty of my cultural heritage. The story that I wrote was an adaptation of Bajau folklore.

“It was very close to my heart,” said Sirhajwan, adding that his story was called Bele Bele.

Mohd Sirhajwan encourages students to develop innovative projects related to their studies and demonstrate the application of their ideas or products in real-world platforms particularly in innovation and entrepreneurship competitions.

Asked how this encourages his students to learn English, he said: “The authentic experience of using English to pitch their ideas boosts their motivation to learn and use the language.

“I always tell my students that they need to believe in their own abilities and ideas. I give them full support in anything they do and remain positive no matter what happens,” he said.

Mohd Sirhajwan added: “What we achieve isn’t defined by where we come from or by who we are. There’s nothing we cannot do. Although I may have some disadvantages, I choose to focus on my goals and give it my all. I encourage my students to have this positive attitude too.

“Our school is located in the interior region of Sabah and most of my students come from low socioeconomic backgrounds.”

It is crucial, he added, for students to develop great self-esteem and be optimistic about their passion, potential and dreams.

He enrolled at Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Gaya when he was 18. He subsequently completed a bachelor’s in Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) from Gaya-Universiti Teknologi Mara in a joint degree programme in 2011 and a master’s degree in research from the same university in 2014.

Born and raised in Kota Belud, Sabah, he speaks Bajau as his mother tongue and considers Bahasa Malaysia and English as his second and third languages respectively.

“I have always been interested in learning the English language. My parents and teachers were very supportive of my interest in learning the language,” he added.

He started his teaching career in Keningau Vocational College in 2012.

“I coach and manage my students for English language competitions, innovation and entrepreneurship competitions and various other contests.

“I also help my colleagues with their professional development including research, conference presentations and competitions,” he said.