You step into the classroom and your teacher is at the front holding a staff and wearing large black horns on her head.
We don't know about you, but that is definitely not the kind of teacher that we're used to seeing at school.
For the lucky kids at SK Minden Height, Penang however, sights like this are not so rare. It happens once a month there.
This is when the lucky students have their interactive story session with their beloved English teacher Norashikin Zainull Abdin.
Fondly known as Ms Ash, Norashikin's out of the box teaching methods and various other efforts in helping students and fellow teachers were recognised recently.
She was named as one of the 25 winners of the McDonald's Anugerah Guru Inspirasi 2020 - which roughly translates to McDonald's Inspirational Teacher Award 2020.
The award which was initiated in 2017, has recognised 82 amazing teachers so far.
The winners this year were selected from a total of 5,000 applications.
When speaking to Rojak Daily, the jovial Norashikin said that she was truly humbled and honoured to be named as one of the winners.
"It's something that I never expected, and I am additionally honoured as I was nominated by Mohamad Faiz Mohamad Shakri who was a past year winner," she said.
Norashikin said that she had only met Mohamad Faiz once, but the two have been communicating and sharing teaching notes ever since.
Teaching was not always the dream
Speaking about her journey as a teacher, Norashikin said that it happened almost by accident.
"I was a science stream student. I wanted to be a doctor. Before SPM, I applied for several scholarships, and I also sent applications to several colleges.
"I eventually received a scholarship to do medicine in the Middle East, and at the same time I also got accepted to the National Teaching Institute," she said.
She added that she loved the English language but never thought of teaching it.
Because the medical scholarship required for her to study overseas, she decided to go for the teaching degree instead.
"A teacher instead of a doctor! Looking back, I think it was the best decision that I have ever made."
I can't imagine being anything else except a teacher," she said.
Dressing up for the part
The most outstanding portion of Norashikin's English class is her storytelling sessions.
Apart from animatedly narrating the stories to her students, Norashikin also dresses up for the part.
"This is something new that I introduced late last year. We've had three storytelling sessions where I dressed up. The first one I did was on Little Red Riding Hood, then it was Maleficent, and the latest was Cik Siti Wan Kembang, the Kelantanese warrior princess," she said.
While you would think that the hardest part of the lesson would be getting the costume done, Norashikin said that it was actually the easiest.
"The challenging thing is to try and incorporate the English lesson into the story itself. For Little Red Riding Hood, we were learning about question texts.
"So I made the ending of the story into a mystery. The kids had to find out what happened to Grandma. To do that, they had to ask questions," she said.
For Cik Siti Wan Kembang, on the other hand, the lesson was on the usage of present tense.
"The aim was for the students to join Cik Siti Wan Kembang to war and include the best warrior chant incorporating present tenses," she said.
This writer immediately replied “I wish YOU were my teacher! That sounds so fun!”
“I love immersive experiences. By dressing up, the kids not only hear the story, but they experience it too,” she said.
Sounds like a lot of work
While it sounds like a blast to carry out, lessons take quite a long time to prepare.
"I usually DIY the costumes. It doesn't take too long. If I need additional props, I usually ask my colleagues, and they are more than willing to help."
"In fact, they are extremely supportive of my initiatives," she said explaining that the only challenge was to make Muslimah friendly versions of the costume for herself.
As for preparing the main lesson, it sometimes takes weeks.
"This is why I only have it once a month," she said.
"Don't you get tired?" this writer asks.
"I would be lying if I said I don't get tired, but when you do something that you love, you don' feel like you're working. Plus it's worth it when you see the smile on their faces," she said.
Does the method work?
Norashikin said that she has seen positive results following her interactive method of teaching.
"Academically, it's much more relatable to them. They sometimes recall what happened during the storytelling session, and they use that information in day to day classes," said Norashikin.
Other than helping them with their English language skills, the lessons also created a bond between her and her students.
"It is very important that my kids be able to talk to me. We have a good relationship," she said.
The bond is so strong that the kids actually give her ideas on projects that they would like to work on in the future.
"Last year, we even had song requests in class. They would pick an English song, and we would all sing it together," she said adding that when they were part of the teaching process, the students felt more connected to the lesson.
Other than songs, Norashikin has also introduced board games, treasure hunts and all sorts of other activities.
"You just can't expect 9-year-olds to sit there and listen for a full hour," she joked, adding that even she found it difficult to do that.
Beyond the classroom
After being encouraged by colleagues, Norashikin also started sharing her teaching materials with other teachers.
"It started with a Facebook page and now we share information via Telegram," she said.
The channel has over 30,000 educators from around the country.
Norashikin also includes her teaching materials on her blog and even has a podcast where her students are invited as guests.
"The MCO has been a challenging time for all teachers. I am also trying my best to adapt to the situation."
"Other than online classes, I communicate with parents and even post teaching materials to students who live in remote areas," she said.
Norashikin said that she misses her students very much and even sent them cards for Hari Raya.
"I have a few other ideas in mind, and we will probably do it once everyone has settled in after the Raya celebrations," she said.
Thank you Ms Ash for teaching from the heart and inspiring all of us with your passion!