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ALL WOMEN, ALL WALKS OF LIFE, ALL NATIONALITIES

... stories, adventures and all things related to life in Singapore and Southeast Asia by AWA members

The Woman Who Taught Me to Shine

Women's Circle by Dulce Zamora

Note: This article first appeared on www.WindsweptWildflower.com on March 13, 2023. Updated April 1, 2024.


I see my children’s teachers as vital members of our family’s village. Their words and actions can greatly influence students. In my life, one teacher helped me to discover my inner light. Doing so has helped me shine in many of my roles – including as a mother, a writer, and a speaker.


On my first day of school in the U.S., I made the mistake of standing out. I was 10 years old. The 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Omega Lewis, asked me to read aloud a passage from a book. 


I should have recited the words in the same soft or monotone manner as the other students had done. I should have stayed in my seat. I should have slumped down the chair or rested my chin on the desk, as my classmates had done. 


Instead, my years of strict schooling in a Philippine Catholic school kicked in. As soon it was my turn to read, I automatically stood up, straightened my back with the book held high to eye level, and projected my voice with clear, expressive diction.


My classmates laughed. 


Mrs. Lewis, a tall, buxom African-American woman with red-rimmed glasses, gave me an affectionate smile. She might have said something to the class, but all I could remember was her warmth.


Perhaps that’s when she got the idea to cast me as narrator in the school’s production of Billy Goat’s Gruff. At the end of the play, she gave out trophies, Academy Award style. I earned the “Best Actress” prize. 


Mrs. Lewis presented me with a gold crown crafted with gold foil, shiny beads, and a hand-sewn sheer cape with gold embellishments. 



It may sound over the top, but the award did wonders for my confidence. The message of the moment was clear: It’s okay to stand out. It’s okay to be different. 


Mrs. Lewis provided me with more opportunities to shine. She cast me as “Annie” in the school musical and gave me numerous solo numbers in other shows. She loved to organize stage productions and I was one of her stars. At least that’s how I felt. I can’t speak for my peers who also had time in the limelight. For me, she was a nurturing light that brought out the queen in me. 



Yes, there were people who resented my stardom. Once, a group of girls cornered me in the bathroom during recess, stepped on my feet, and taunted me with words such as “teacher’s pet” or “fresh off the boat.” 


Other students reported the incident. Mrs. Lewis opened her arms to hug me. I immediately felt safe. She also took aside the girls who bullied me and talked with them. I don’t know what she said, but they never bothered me again. In fact, we became friends by the end of the year. 



If Mrs. Lewis were alive now, I’d ask her how she handled the situation. I mean, the woman had gifts of conflict resolution and confidence building that we could sure use today!


The sting of being different and various incidences of bullying have frequently taken center stage in my life, but I’ve come to realize that the darkness can lead the way to radiance. Mrs. Lewis helped me see that. She saw the light in people and reflected it back to them. It’s a practice I aspire to emulate, for, decades later, I still bask in her glow and in the warmth of her embrace.


 


Dulce is an award-winning journalist, blogger, and speaker. She has written three children’s books and hundreds of news stories. She currently shares perspectives on her blog (www.windsweptwildflower.com), and on Instagram and Facebook as Dulce Zamora.life. She lives in Singapore with her husband and two daughters.


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AWA members are women who come from many countries and life experiences but they all have one thing in common — they have chosen to live in Singapore. Some members are new to Singapore,  while some have been here a long time or have returned to Singapore after time away. Our magazine - written and curated by AWA members - focuses on a diverse range of topics including wellness and family, travel tips, cultural events and information, and other helpful tips around navigating and experiencing life in Singapore to it's fullest. 

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