Euginia Tan reflects on personal encounters with Tina Sergeant and what inspires her

Memories and Lessons from Tina Sergeant

Almost twenty years ago, Tina had taught me for three years during Secondary School, for our drama club CCA. I don’t have great memories of school, but I do remember Tina fondly because of two things:

  1. She told us to wear track pants with our P.E. shirt for the first session we had with her. I was the only one who didn’t buy track pants in either blue or black and had gotten a discount pair in white. I stood out because everyone appeared quite put together compared to me. Tina saw people side-eyeing me and said to everyone in the circle, “You know, I think she looks comfortable as she is.” And that comfort stuck with me for every theatre related session in my life after that.
  2. She gave us an excerpt of The Jabberwocky to read aloud. Although it wasn’t common at that time to always be on our mobile phones, we still had the habit of keeping our heads bowed down when reading. Doesn’t that say something about how we learn? When she saw us reading at that angle, she said, “Bring the script to you, don’t get dragged down by it.” Again, that shaped me as a playwright because I heard it another way – Words can empower.

Reconnecting with Theatre

I never thought of Tina after that. She came and left; I was busy struggling with growing up.

Some years later, I heard that she had passed away. A small part of me twinged, but I was engrossed with figuring life out and there was never a time to reflect on what she had taught. Seven years ago, I properly reconnected with theatre again as part of my life. Besides watching plays, I began writing them. I started working with people in the industry. It is now a deeply rooted aspect of my thirties. It is something I see myself contributing to until my strength has waned.

The seven years I took relearning about Tina from afar, the impact and awe she left behind- I wish I had that community to talk to in my younger days. When I started understanding more about TYA, I took the chance to further my knowledge with the Drama Pedagogy - Essentials of Teaching and Learning Approaches for Arts Educators - Early Childhood course at SDEA.

During the interview for the funding application, I did inform the team that I remembered Tina fondly. But I never fully disclosed to them how it really felt to accept this funding, how it represented the closure of some very difficult teenage years into a chance to be another person again.

Mentorship and Passing It On

I write this with utmost sincerity of getting a chance to pen down what I felt about Tina, although I never really knew her. During the course, this feeling of having a steady mentor continued with Elaine, our main facilitator. Besides expanding our vocabulary, it was a sense of having respect and solace. When an educator provides respect to their learners, it also gives them reason to look up.

One day, I aspire to give that sort of safety and assurance to people learning from me.

It takes a lot of inner strength to understand yourself, before you share that with others. From my experiences with Tina and Elaine, sometimes it isn’t the lessons you design that shape your students. Good education begins and continues with something far deeper within, what is it exactly? Grace in a classroom, a fervent passion, a keen observation? I suppose we use the years ahead to find out what we are inspired by before we inspire.