DUBAI // When 17-year-old Leena Al Khatib was told she would be awarded by the Ministry of Education for her academic achievements, the first thing she did was return to school to thank her teachers.
The Grade 12 pupil at the National Charity School, which follows the national curriculum, was one of the highest achievers in the country.
With a score of 98.7 per cent, the Jordanian was among the 22 Dubai pupils honoured at the Dubai Police Academy yesterday.
"I cannot forget the hard work my teachers put in just so that I could be here," she said. "I hated mathematics but it was just the way my professor taught that I love the subject now."
She ended up with a perfect 100 per cent in maths. She said her teacher, Khalid Abu Kaff, had "truly changed the way I think about challenges". "When he would begin his class everyone would pay attention and he would never object to explaining tough problems again and again," she said.
A total of 34,751 pupils following the Ministry of Education curriculum sat their final examinations in June, and received their report cards last week.
Though the pass rate in state schools dropped this year, education officials said their new assessment system, which puts far more emphasis on coursework, had had a positive effect on individual pupils' results.
"We believe the reduced pressure because of the marking process being spread over several assessments and assignments has helped them achieve better grades," said Ahmed Saeed Al Drei, the head of the ministry's exams department.
Top scorers in public and private schools as well as adult centres and those educated at home were awarded university scholarships. Many also received cash prizes and laptops. From Abu Dhabi, 312 pupils will get Dh15,000 each in recognition of their hard work.
Leena wants to be a pharmacist and will be applying to Sharjah University after she receives her Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score.
Her enthusiasm was also fired by her chemistry teacher, who she considers a role model.
"I remember once when a British boy came to school, my chemistry teacher picked me to help translate lessons for him," she said.
"While she was doing the experiments, I helped her and the boy communicate. She was so proud of me and told other teachers and the principal. I have to credit my success to them."
For Leena's mother, Neama, the teachers' influence went beyond education, helping make her daughter a humble person.
"Her teachers were like her parents at school, she often says," her mother said. "Their affectionate approach has made her a kind and respectful child, too."
At one point, Leena contemplated being a teacher herself. "If that is the way a teacher is, I thought it would be great to be one - affecting the life of so many students that way," she said.
But her teachers pushed her to pursue her dream. "I know what they taught me will always stay with me, no matter what I do, and the culture they passed on, I will pass on to my children."
The Abu Dhabi Education Council (Adec) has also recognised teachers' contribution to their students' successes. At Emirates Palace hotel last night, 18 teachers from Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Gharbia were due to be awarded Dh20,000 each by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister, Presidential Affairs Minister and deputy chairman of Adec.
* with inputs from Wam