06 Sep 2019

Award-winning learning innovator, Li Fong, shares the true meaning of being an educator

As the saying goes, teachers are the backbone of our society. They work tirelessly, taking on multiple roles to help shape our future. Award-winning learning innovator Woo Li Fong aka Teacher Lifong knows all about it. In her journey to redefine the way children learn, she has been a tutor, an author, a game designer, a trainer and even a producer.


Li Fong first entered the education sector as a freelance Math and Science tutor back in 2002. However, as she followed her students through their academic progress, Li Fong quickly realised that these young people were not always prepared for life outside of school. With the world becoming more globalised and moving into a digital age, she knew that her students needed to be able to do more than achieving good grades in school.


“I am someone who has always strived to bridge the gap between what a child needs and what the formal school system can provide,” she shared.


Meet Woo Li Fong, also affectionately known as Teacher Lifong


Being a teacher goes beyond the classroom


It was this philosophy that led Li Fong to start her own enrichment centre, where she taught for over 13 years. She found opportunities to create learning resources as well as spearhead initiatives that engage children and their caregivers. Her goal was to let students enjoy the process of learning and to be equipped with skills like problem solving, effective communication and resource management.


Understanding that there are multiple approaches to education, she began several educational projects spanning different mediums, such as card games, animation and puppetry shows.

Young learners get to travel the world with the Little Explorers game

In 2014, she designed a card game called Little Explorers that allows young learners to discover new cultures and countries around the globe. Created to mimic the experience of travel, the game was a finalist in The 4th International Educational Games Competition, a truly impressive feat for the then-novice game designer.


Have you ever played SingaPlorers – the Nation Builders game?


Li Fong also produced SingaPlorers – the Nation Builders, a cooperative board game that sought to teach its players of the importance of teamwork and collaboration. In this game, players have to learn to work together to overcome the challenges that Singapore faced in its early years as a nation.


These games were created to teach important life skills to the young players, skills that may not always be taught in school.



Now based overseas, Li Fong finds that technology keeps her close to home


In 2016,  Li Fong found herself having to move with her husband and two children to the USA.



For Li Fong, this move gave her the opportunity to reap the rewards of her efforts. While her son faced some difficulties academically back home in Singapore, he thrived in the new environment. This led to Li Fong searching for the different factors that played a part in the change in her son. Needless to say, this has shaped her perspective on children’s learning. With these new insights, she has continued to build strong and lasting relationships with her students and their caregivers.


To this day, she keeps in touch with former students through technology and social media, and many still turn to her for direction and advice in their studies. Some students even help her with her projects as volunteer facilitators.


Now living in Texas with her family, Li Fong also stays connected with her project teams back home.


For example, she worked on a cross-cultural video puppetry project about environmental awareness. This project involved constant interactions with a team of young budding puppeteers, aged 8 to 13. She remained in regular contact with them, following their progress and coaching them via videoconferencing over a period of 6 months. The actual filming of the puppets took place during Li Fong’s back home, and it was a resounding success, thanks to the months of preparation.


Behind the scenes of the cross-cultural video puppetry project

From teaching to learning


It is clear that Li Fong practices what she preaches. Whether in Singapore or in the US, she remains the poster child for lifelong learning.


Now that she’s moved to the US, Li Fong is no longer teaching. Instead, she now turns her attention to learning again.


Currently, she’s in the middle of the “Certificate of Early Education Leadership” online programme run by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Thanks to the interaction with her fellow educators on the platform, she is constantly inspired to broaden her scope on what children’s education is capable of.



Ultimately to Li Fong, being a teacher means building strong relationships with students


Li Fong vividly remembers an incident when a parent was grateful that she had helped his son through a difficult patch at home. From her perspective, all she did was to provide additional lessons for the child and showed empathy when he needed a listening ear.


“This reminded me that any action of a teacher, no matter big or small, could impact someone, for good or bad, even without my knowing,” she shared.


Her advice to young Singaporeans on how to have a sustainable career in education?


“Have a positive and strong relationship with the students and their caregivers. Practice self-care and always reflect and focus on what you wish to give to your students.”





Singapore celebrates Teacher’s Day this year on 6th September. We wish all educators around the world a Happy Teacher’s Day!



Read the stories of Singaporeans living overseas.