Last September, the Association of Lecturers at the Educational Institution of Educational Personnel or Lembaga Pendidikan Tenaga Kependidikan (LPTK) of West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) Province hosted many literacy competitions to commemorate International Literacy Day or Hari Aksara Internasional (HAI) 2020. This competition was held to capture local potential in order to improve the quality of children’s literacy in NTB. Imam Subayil S.Pd., M.Pd., a teacher from state elementary school SDN 9 Mataram city, is the winner of the competition.

Imam Subayil, S.Pd., a teacher at state elementary school SDN 9 Mataram NTB, won the competition on International Literacy Day. He participated in nine categories by sending nine of his works to the committee. For the writing category, he sent in three of his stories. His story,  titled “Dona’s Present” or “Kado dari Dona”’ earned him second place. “Kado dari Dona’” was a short story on how to respect the diversity of people. According to Imam, he got the inspiration for this story from the school where he taught. He saw the daily behaviors of his students, who are of various ethnicities and have different cultural identities, and he was interested in writing a story about that diversity.

Other than “Kado dari Dona’”, another work of Imam’s works in the poster category won first place. He also won second place in the illustration category. In an essay competition, he was voted as the first favorite. Imam himself did not think he would win in many categories during HAI 2020 competition. He said that he just wanted to pour his talent and interest into his creative works and send them in when there was an opportunity for a competition like this.

In addition to winning in the 2020 HAI competition, this 36-year-old teacher has won several competitions, including winning third place in an Insect Photography competition that was held by the STEM Exhibition Center of Ministry of Research and Technology, and a nominee for the Regional Innovation Competition for the General Public in Mataram. His works have always selected at the Lomba Inovasi Pembelajaran (INOBEL) or Learning Innovation Competition, at the national level. The culmination was back in 2018, when he represented NTB in the National Teacher Achievement for elementary teachers where he ranked fourth. His achievement brought him to Australia to learn about the basic education system there. While he was in Australia, he studied a lot about innovation in the classrooms.

“An important lesson that I gained there is that innovation does not mean having to use high technology. Instead, it’s how we, as teachers, are able to use the things around us to present something unique to our students,” said Imam.

For Imam, being creative while teaching in class is very important. As a teacher, he can tell immediately when his students are becoming bored in class, which will truly inhibit the learning process. He will often explain a concept by drawing on the board or by holding a musical poetry recital, which is accompanied by him playing the guitar in class. During every introduction to his new students, he would use pictures to spell his name. This is so as to inspire creativity in his students starting from day one.

For Imam, teaching is not just memorizing a program and completing it, which he believes tends to make teachers underestimate the importance of process. Imam prioritizes good teaching processes and not just starting and ending it. In a good process, according to Imam, children tend to enjoy learning activities and do not feel pressured in class. This is particularly, since he is a homeroom teacher for grade 6 students, who need peace of mind and self-confidence while facing the final exam.

Presently, Imam and some of the best participants in the International Literacy Day (HAI) 2020 competition are in the midst of attending writing and illustrating workshop facilitated by the INOVASI program. These potential story writers and illustrators from NTB are equipped by the Komunitas Forum Lingkar Pena (organization engaged in writing and reading) on how to produce literary works for school age children. They are expected to contribute to enriching the reading world of children within the local context of NTB. Imam is highly grateful for getting this opportunity. There are many important things, which he has learnt. This workshop also helps him to realize his old dream, which is creating and authoring a children’s book that is a collection of NTB folk stories.