Congratulations to SMU’s Elliot Teng for his winning the Outstanding Deaf Student (Tertiary Education) Award at the Deaf Achievers Awards 2021

By the SMU Corporate Communications team

Second year law student, Elliot Teng Z-kai has won the Outstanding Deaf Student (Tertiary Education) Award at the recent Deaf Achievers Awards 2021 organised by the Singapore Deaf Association.

The annual Awards seeks to recognise the outstanding achievements of individuals from the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The award is given based on four categories, such as Outstanding Deaf Students, Teacher of the Year, Outstanding Deaf Sportsman/Sportswoman and Special Talent and is only one winner per category. The winners received a cash voucher of $500, a plaque and a certificate.

Elliot was nominated for this Award by SMU’s Disability Support Services, Mrs Wong Kwok Leong Student Wellness Centre.

Elliot with a big heart

Despite his condition of bilateral severe-profound hearing loss, Elliot is a dedicated student who performs his best in everything he does. In addition to achieving academic excellence, he continues to serve in many areas both in school and beyond SMU, demonstrating a strong aptitude for leadership and mentorship. His heart for others and teaching can be seen in the many CCAs he has taken on, in addition to being a busy Law student.

He had served in the Boys’ Brigade (BB) with distinction since he joined in 2013 and was awarded the President’s Award in 2018 in recognition of his contributions to the school, community, and BB Company. The President’s Award is the highest award the BB can offer in Singapore and is given to a select few every year. Now an officer for the BB’s 12th Independent Company, Elliot helps to plan and execute weekly parades for secondary school boys in his alma mater.

Elliot has also spoken at Deaf Appreciation Day as well as Parents’ Support Groups at various hospitals such as Singapore General Hospital and National University Hospital, where he encouraged and motivated new parents with children with hearing loss.

Additionally, Elliot has demonstrated leadership skills in SMU where, he currently serves as Finance Director for the Law Sports and Recreation Club, is a subcommittee member for the Mediation and Negotiation Club’s Professional Development department and is an Outreach Department Subcommittee Member for the Constitutional Law and Criminal Justice Club. He also holds the position as executive committee member for the freshman orientation camps for the Law school freshmen and SMU Cru, a Christian group. He has also volunteered his time as a role-player for the International Mediation Accreditation Workshop by Sage Mediation and volunteered as a facilitator for the Peacemakers Conference, leading a group of secondary school students in learning the basics of mediation.

His most challenging experience at SMU

These days, he has to balance the need to recharge from lessons, do his readings, as well as spend time on his various involvements. He says, “I love doing CCAs and various projects but sometimes I need to remember that lessons drain me more than people who are not hearing impaired, and I need to rest properly to have the energy to study and focus.”

“I think with Covid and the mask regulations, listening in class has been quite difficult, especially since I rely on lipreading to help me hear in general. However, my friends and my school have been really supportive. The school has gotten me a student assistant for notetaking during class, which has been super helpful. My friends are very accommodating too, if I need repetitions, or if I’d request them to be on my left-hand side, because it’s my stronger ear, they’d happily oblige without any complaints. I’m very grateful for all of them because it’s very loving of them to accommodate me. On a personal note, I also try my best to ask as many questions as I can to clarify my doubts with my professors, who have been wonderfully patient with me”, says Elliot.

Words of encouragement for other deaf students

Elliot thinks he won this award because he has demonstrated through his involvement and achievements that his disability does not stop him from living a full life.

He has this to say to other hearing impaired students, “Do not be afraid. Do not try to blend in. Be proud of who you are and educate people around you at every possible opportunity. Being hearing impaired doesn’t make you any less of a person, so make sure that you really let your light shine, and people will realise that we’re not there to be pitied, we’re just built differently, and we can do things that other people can do as well.”

He adds, “I’m really honoured to be receiving this because it is not only an acknowledgement of my achievements, but also the work of many people who have helped me over the years. I have been truly blessed with the people in my life. It really motivates me to push myself and try to gain new experiences. I know that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. I think that being hearing impaired has also given me a strong sense of empathy and that drives me to pay it forward to those who may not have had as many blessings as I have had.”

His aspirations for the future

He found his first year at university challenging but he has learnt many valuable lessons. He says, “I'm hoping to be able to use my legal training to improve society and hopefully effect change to help the hearing impaired and/or disabled community to better thrive in Singapore!”

Congratulations to Elliot, for your achievements, and being such an inspiration to others.

You can watch a video of the online awards ceremony here.