By Haidah Halid
There are a handful of people who I could comfortably say have left a mark in my life throughout the two decades that I have been alive.
Just last semester, I met one of them. She is Dr. Tengku Siti Aisha Binti Tengku Azzman, an IIUM alumni, an Assistant Professor, a lecturer as well as IIUM’s Academic Advisor for the Department of Communication.
Dr. Tengku Siti Aisha was one of the recipients of the prestigious academic award (silver-listed) at the recent Kulliyyah-level Takrim Al-Akadimiyyin for her achievements as an educator.
For the first time, the event was conducted virtually by the Kulliyyah of Islamic Revealed Knowledge and Human Sciences (KIRKHS) and I had the opportunity to watch Dr. Tengku Siti Aisha pronounced as the recipient.
I believe that Tengku Siti Aisha is more than just an educator in this university.
Just like any other fresh graduates, I was extremely nervous but excited to start my varsity journey as an undergraduate. The first time I met Tengku Siti Aisha in person was during the Communication Department Academic Briefing session at the start of last semester.
At the briefing session, my friends and I took note of every name and picture of lecturers which was displayed and compared them to the names we had on our class schedules.
I remember when Dr. Tengku Siti Aisha’s name and photo came up, I quickly whipped out my phone and said, “She’s our Academic Advisor! I’m taking a picture so that I can remember her name and face when we need to badger her with questions about our course in the future.”
I must admit that I did ask her many questions in regards to class assignments, study plan and pre-registration for classes. I won’t disclose how many times but I have asked questions like “Should I take this subject this semester? Would it work?” No matter how many times I’ve asked, Dr. Tengku Siti Aisha has never made me feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, instead, has left me feeling more at ease than before.
Tengku Siti Aisha is someone who is committed to helping, albeit you are willing to cooperate with her. She often greets her students with a warm and comforting smile, just like how a friend would.
After having experienced how Tengku Siti Aisha conducted her classes, I truly believe that the Academic Award (silver-listed) went to the right person.
I say this because she became a sort of role model and motivation for me in some aspects. Anyone who has taken her classes will know exactly what I mean when I say the energy she exudes when teaching is one of a kind.
The fruit from an IIUM tree
During the interview, Tengku Siti Aisha expressed how proud she is to have stemmed from the IIUM community, having graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Sciences (Communication) in 2002 before venturing out to work. However, she revealed that she never planned to teach initially.
“In 2004, I received two job offers simultaneously; one from the New Straits Times and the other one from IIUM,” Tengku Siti Aisha recalls. She further spoke on how her parents were instrumental of her pursuing a career in teaching at IIUM. After all, Tengku Siti Aisha comes from a family of educators, with her mother being a tutor, and her father, an Engineering lecturer at the University of Malaya (UM).
“But as time went on, I realised that I did make the right decision. I enjoy teaching and I love what I am doing now,” Tengku Siti Aisha said.
Perseverance is the key to success
Tengku Siti Aisha explained that while pursuing her PhD at Kent State University in Ohio, she took classes on teaching college/university Communication subjects which had helped her in developing and solidifying her views in teaching.
Until today, the useful tips she learned have been continuously applied in her classrooms. For an example, she practices classroom immediacy in her lectures where she remembers students’ names very fast.
Now, during this pandemic situation, Tengku Siti Aisha says it is important for an academician to keep learning new skills to do the best an individual can for their students. She says that in teaching and learning, perseverance should prevail at all time as it is a continuous and life-long process.
With additional self-learning to adapt to and carry out the job under the Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning (ERTL), Tengku Siti Aisha wants to improve on her teaching and learning techniques to become a well-rounded academic.
In this context, Tengku Siti Aisha expressed her intention to attend more teaching and research workshops, both inside and outside the university. On top of that, she aspires to be better in handling current and contemporary issues like mental health affecting the students. “Some of issues faced by students today did not affect me when I was a student,” she said.
A strong network of support
I found lectures and instructions given by Tengku Siti Aisha have always been very organised and easy to follow. For example, she gives clear deadlines and provides systematic ways on how to schedule consultations and organise meetings.
Tengku Siti Aisha credits her ability to do her job to having strong support from her network of colleagues and staff at the university who help and share tips apart from advising each other when “we have any issue with teaching and learning”. She said that she often tries to maintain good relationship with administrative and technical staff as well, as she noted “I can’t do this job alone”.
Just like any other individual, Tengku Siti Aisha agrees that work-life balance is also a challenge she faces.
Tengku Siti Aisha tries not to work beyond office hours as she believes educators need time with their families to rest and spend time on spiritual matters. A ‘practice’ I think that students should apply in respecting the personal time of our teachers and lecturers. Academicians are still humans and they need time to be on their own to recoup and give their best.
Words of advice
After over a decade of teaching experience, Tengku Siti Aisha openly shares a few secrets for students to manage time and make efforts to learn outside the classroom.
As students, she said, they should take the opportunity to engage and interact with others at the university as well as learn new skills so as to be more marketable when they graduate.
“IIUM has a unique environment in terms of opportunities for greater interaction with others from different countries, culture and backgrounds, and I believe learning to manage intercultural interactions will serve you well in the future,” Tengku Siti Aisha points out.
Tengku Siti Aisha advises students to enjoy the best of their time in the university as she believes “it is the most carefree time of your life”. ***
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