They say start them young, so Ting Shi Qi is on a mission to create content with kids, for kids to provide healthy, safe and value-adding entertainment for our next generation of leaders.
Dress: Alia Bastamam. Necklace, ring and bracelet: Gung Jewellery.
Too cool for school? I beg your pardon. One 27-year-old teacher by the name of Ting Shi Qi, affectionately known as Qiwiie, is making school the new cool. Her 2.5 million followers on TikTok and 1.4 million followers and counting on Instagram—on her teaching accounts alone—are proof that education can be fun and engaging to the point of internet fame.

Granted, Shi Qi doesn't teach your usual subjects like Mathematics or English. Instead, you'll find lessons on unconventional topics like confidence, coping mechanisms, and emotions as you scroll through her snappy viral videos. Many of them have raked millions of views on each platform, earning comments like "If I had a teacher like you, I would look forward to school every day".

The teacher turned social media influencer's shot to fame came rather organically, just like her decision to pursue this career path. With a sunny disposition and endearing smile, she tells me all about her unexpected—and unconventional—journey on one of her days off from school.
Dress: H&M Studio. Earrings and rings: Gung Jewellery.
Born in Kuching as the eldest of three siblings, Shi Qi had always assumed the role of the older sister. Aside from her circle of family friends, she would help take care of kids in her church's Sunday school and volunteer with the Sarawak Children's Cancer Society. "Being the oldest as a kid helped me to be very aware of my surroundings and understand why people act a certain way," she reflects on her childhood. "I think it became pretty second nature to me to take care of everyone and make sure everything is okay."

Even so, it never occurred to her to become a teacher until she arrived at a crossroads in Form Five. "I was leaning towards psychology because I love trying to understand people," she recalls. "[But] I realised that I was really good with kids, and people around me affirmed that about me too, so I thought that teaching would be something meaningful."

With her mind made up, Shi Qi went on to major in elementary education at the University of Central Oklahoma. However, her teaching career didn't take off as smoothly as she'd anticipated. Two weeks into her job, she was faced with a classroom that had been turned upside down by one of her students. Picture broken pencils, flipped chairs, and a seven-year-old running around the place in defiance.
"I broke down into tears wondering if I was cut out for this," she recollects. There's a hint of exasperation in her voice at the memory, before she calmly continues, "But I think, slowly, I figured out how to manage him." Exactly how? I probe further on behalf of all the parents and teachers who have or will face similar challenges.

She explains sapiently: "Sometimes we try to use a one-size-fits-all approach, but not every kid will respond the same way. With him, it was a lot of relationship-building and giving him praise when he was doing the right thing. It was very rewarding because a few months later, he came up to hug me and told me, 'I was just not used to school and I'm liking it now.'"

The experience was humbling and opened her eyes to the whys behind every child's behaviour. And so, when she returned to the motherland a year later, she sought to find a role that would allow her to work with kids in a deeper, more impactful way. "I knew that I wanted to come home because I felt that Malaysia needed good teachers, and I wanted to be here to serve my community. That was always the goal—to go there [the US], get experience, and then come back," she shares.
Dress: Jewel Sum. Rings: Gung Jewellery.
Fast forward to today, Shi Qi has four years of teaching experience and currently heads the Contentment Foundation curriculum at a local private school in Cheras. The syllabus is acquired from Yale University and essentially teaches kids how to be content. While the subject revolves around pillars such as well-being and self-curiousity, she tailors each lesson according to the class' needs or even the time of the year. This can range from how to make friends and manage emotions to discussing new year's resolutions, with the aim of encouraging the kids to learn and be aware of how they feel.

"I was raised in a pretty typical Asian household where we don't really talk about our emotions. Only as I grew up and went for therapy, I learnt that emotions are very important in navigating the world. Knowing how to control your feelings and socioemotional skills is so critical, especially for kids who go through some really difficult situations," she asserts, highlighting the fact that one-third of students in one of her classes have divorced parents.
To help her students understand these complex topics, Shi Qi gets them to participate in exercises that instil reflection. For example, in one of her classes on how we—yes, we, because adults do this too—can be very harsh to others or ourselves with our words, she gets her students to share moments where they have been hurt by what people say, then consider words they tell others that can be hurtful too. Ultimately, she believes including them in the process instead of just teaching them what's right or wrong is more impactful.

"Personally, I feel like words really have the power to speak life into or lift someone up, and so I think my biggest impact is the words that I use with my students and how I teach them to be kind to themselves," she muses along the same note. "We never really know how what we do will be remembered. Hopefully, I'm able to create an environment where we encourage a kid, and that leaves a positive mark on them ten years later."
Education is just a fraction of what Shi Qi does, social media is another. You could say the latter is the bigger part of her life now. While she has loved being in front of the camera from a young age, little did she expect that one of her videos would suddenly fetch six-figure views.

"I used to hate TikTok. I thought it was cringey and for Gen Zs or kids only," she admits with a laugh. However, she—like many of us—succumbed to its pull during the COVID-19 lockdowns and decided to recreate a dance trend with her students. "It became a fun way to connect with the kids, but then my videos started to go really viral. Now, I think TikTok videos are great for quick bites of entertainment or knowledge."
Dress: Jewel Sum. Bracelets: Gung Jewellery.
Teaching and social media are not mutually exclusive; but evidently, it can be a sensitive subject when children are in the picture. Shi Qi acknowledges that she has made mistakes in the past, and affirms that the health and safety of children will remain her top priority when it comes to creating content with kids.

"Every parent has a different point of view on how they want to parent their kids and it's really up to them. Whether you like it or not, we are going into a highly digital age and everything will be online. If your kids are not using it now, they will use it later in the future," she says matter-of-factly.

"I believe in educating kids on how to manage it themselves with proper guidance instead of taking it away or restricting it from them," she adds on her role as an edu-influencer. "With kids being in front of the camera, of course, parental consent is one; but secondly, what they say or do in the video is important too."

As for the latter, Shi Qi details certain boundaries on what students share online, like never revealing personal information and doing things that they wouldn't want their parents to see or that would make it unsafe for them. "Kids are going to be online anyway, so I think that there should be representation or content made for kids, by kids, that is entertaining. I feel that this is my skillset so if I'm able to create content that is fun but also healthy for them, then that's what I would like to do," she opines.
With that being said, Shi Qi leaves me with a shocking revelation near the end of our interview: she is leaving her part-time position in school to focus on content creation. "As I started growing and being seen as an influencer with more brands reaching out to me, I realised that for me to keep this career growing, I need my personal branding as well. I need to do things on my own and share more about my life," she divulges.

Despite her ambitions to juggle both and then some, she recognises that she cannot do it all. For those wondering where else would you get your dose of light-hearted yet purposeful educational videos, fret not—she hopes to keep them coming, albeit in a different format.

"The plan is still to work with kids, but just outside of school so we can have longer, in-depth conversations. I think the impact that I can have online will be better and bigger because I will have more time to plan better content and there will be more eyeballs on me versus in a classroom," she confesses. "If what I create can inspire people to be passionate about teaching because they want to—and not because there are no other options—I think that's very meaningful to me."
Top: Motoguo. Earrings and rings: Gung Jewellery.
In other words, Shi Qi will continue producing the videos netizens know and love her for in the year ahead. On top of updating her teaching account (@msqiwiie), she also aims to create other entertaining content on her main account (@qiwiie). Expect more kid-friendly conversations about mental health, parents, and even racism on the former; and possibly long-form videos on the latter.

"When I was younger, I actually wanted to be a YouTuber, so this is me doing a little of what I dreamt of as a kid!" she gushes. We briefly digress over the good ol' days of watching videos of KevJumba, NigaHiga and Wong Fu Productions, before she ties it back to her goal moving forward: "I want to build a tighter community with the people who follow me. I think that's what YouTube does—it helps you be more involved because I'm able to share more than just a minute for a deeper glimpse into my life."

Wherever her content creation journey takes her next, Shi Qi hopes it will be inspiring, entertaining, and wholesome for you and your (inner) child.
Top: Maje. Dress: AllSaints. Rings: Gung Jewellery.
Editor-in-chief / Sarah Hani Jamil
CREATIVE DIRECTION & layout design / Sarah Tai
Videography / Dennis Kho