Hovan is one of our passionate and personable educators. A graduate from the NUS Computer Engineering course, he finds great purpose and satisfaction in nurturing the talents of youths. At home, he is also the oldest of 4, with three young brothers ages 14, 16 and 23.
In this interview, we learn more about the remarkable coding journey of the former Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student who did the International Baccalaureate programme (one of the most prestigious courses in Singapore)!
Hi Hovan, could you share with us how you first started coding?
I started coding very late. I only began at the start of my undergraduate journey when I majored in Computer Engineering at the National University of Singapore. I still remember the struggle I had to go through in the early days, where I had to compete with new students like myself and veterans of the trade. However, programming soon became a passion for me, and from the struggle came one of the greatest senses of achievement I’ve ever felt after completing a project.
Cool! Since you had no prior experience in coding, what drew you to major in Computer Engineering in the first place?
Computer Engineering was actually my second choice. My first choice was Electrical Engineering as I loved to tinker with hardware and electrical components. In hindsight, I’m glad that I got to do Computer Engineering, which is a hybrid between Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. This allowed me to enjoy the best of both worlds of programming and hardware.
The most important lesson I learnt from my time in university is that software alone is not enough. Coupled with hardware, a lot more can be done. The same goes for my teaching – it’s not one-dimensional; I approach each student differently.
“Coding can be colourful, unrestrictive, and imaginative. It allowed not just my students, but also me, to express our creativity and build something special.”
That’s great to hear. Have you always aspired to teach coding?
As a mischievous and playful kid, I had always been the bane of my teachers’ existence. It was only when I had matured and became wiser with age that I understood the passion that drove my teachers to come to class every day – the love, sweat, and tears as they saw us both fail and succeed. Then came along two small boys, my youngest brothers, who are ages 14, 16 and 23 today. I took on the responsibility as an elder brother and guided them through their early years of life. As time went on, I realised that I wanted to care for and guide children professionally as a teacher.
At first, I only wanted to teach – it didn’t have to be coding. However, while studying Computer Engineering, I wondered if I could take what I have learnt about coding and educate others on it. That’s when I joined Coding Lab, and I truly enjoyed teaching children to code.
When I first started, I viewed it as methodical and rigid, but after interacting with students of different backgrounds, I realised that coding can be colourful, unrestrictive, and imaginative. It allowed not just my students, but also me, to express our creativity and build something special. Seeing my students finish their personal projects after finally understanding their code, and the happiness, relief and accomplishment they feel when they test their programs and have it finally work after debugging never gets old and continues to drive me to teach coding.
Aside from teaching, I also contribute to the curriculum and had the chance to guide our students for the MIT App Inventor Summit 2019 (where they won numerous awards in the USA). Having the ability to exercise my imaginative mind inspired me to keep teaching and working on further projects. I’m excited to meet both new and returning students, hoping to not only teach them, but also to become good friends with them along the way!
“Be humble. Never stop learning. And your programs are never ‘finished’; it’s always a work in progress.”
We’re glad that you’ve found your love for teaching coding here! Why do you think that learning to code is important?
Learning to code is essential in this day and age of technology. Therefore, starting young and getting a feel for programming serves as a crucial skill that can be used for the future. Beyond that, it trains children to think logically and be independent in finding solutions to problems, not only in school, but also in life.
What’s your teaching style?
When teaching concepts, I ensure that I have everyone’s attention and am loud enough for everyone to hear. During practical parts of the lesson, it’s the students’ turn to up the volume and voice out their questions, errors and more.
Overall, I’m serious during classes, where I expect discipline and commitment. But during breaks, before and after class, I am goofy, just like every other kid and like to chat and laugh with my students.
Could you share about a class or student that had made a deep impression on you?
It’s hard to pick favourites or even long-lasting impressions because I’ve had so many classes and students that I had a great time teaching. But if I were to pick one, I would share about my student who was so advanced that he even helped teach and lead the class together with me. I saw a leader and a future coach in that student, and as a teacher, I welcome that.
If a student came up to you and asked for any piece of advice, what would you tell them?
Be humble. Never stop learning. And your programs are never ‘finished’; it’s always a work in progress.
Finally, what do you like to do outside the classroom?
I’m a gamer. I also play the piano a bit, work out, and I enjoy spending time with my family and loved ones.
Thank you, Hovan, for taking the time to share your journey from coder to educator with us. We’re so thrilled to have you with us as an educator. We hope that you’ll continue to warm the hearts of your students, guide them and ignite their passion for coding with your zeal and dedication to your calling!
(Written by Amanda Soh and Edited by Cheryl Tang)
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