Teachers who’ve taught teachers who’ve taught teachers–we speak with 19 teachers across the campus to find out more about their generation-spanning legacy.

There are many more staff members who are Rafflesian alumni than we could capture in this article. We felt it was worthwhile, however, to begin tracing some of these genealogies. If you know of more relationships to add to the web, please let us know!
There are many more staff members who are Rafflesian alumni than we could capture in this article. We felt it was worthwhile, however, to begin tracing some of these genealogies. If you know of more relationships to add to the web, please let us know!

Clockwise from left: Mr Lu Shang-Yi, Mr Carlsen Tay, Ms Tang Mui Kee, Mr Leroy Choo, Mr Chan Ter Yue, Ms Wang Juat Yong Not pictured: Mr Mohamed Kamel and Ms Ng Yee Ling

Clockwise from left: Mr Lu Shang-Yi, Mr Carlsen Tay, Ms Tang Mui Kee, Mr Leroy Choo, Mr Chan Ter Yue, Ms Wang Juat Yong
Not pictured: Mr Mohamed Kamel and Ms Ng Yee Ling

From left to right: Mr Eng Han Seng, Mr Michael Jeyaseelan, Mr Lam Nam Soon, and Mr Tan Mian Ou Not pictured: Mr S Magendiran
From left to right: Mr Eng Han Seng, Mr Michael Jeyaseelan, Mr Lam Nam Soon, and Mr Tan Mian Ou
Not pictured: Mr S Magendiran
From left to right: Ms Lye Su-Lin, Mr Jamie Reeves, Mrs Nicola Perry, Ms Melissa Lim, Mr Geoffrey Purvis and Ms Teo Siew Kuang
From left to right: Ms Lye Su-Lin, Mr Jamie Reeves, Mrs Nicola Perry, Ms Melissa Lim, Mr Geoffrey Purvis and Ms Teo Siew Kuang

wang-juat-yong

Ms Wang Juat Yong
Senior Teacher, Mathematics, Year 5–6
Taught: Mr Carlsen Tay, Mr Edmund Kwok, Mrs Jasmine Lim, Mr Leroy Choo, Mr Lu Shang Yi, Mr Mohamed Kamel, Ms Ng Mei Sze, Ms Ng Yee Ling, Mr Yeo Yam Khoon

Could you tell that your students were going to become teachers?

I taught most of them when I was very young in my teaching profession, and I was perhaps too focused on teaching to notice any potential teachers among my students. In retrospection, they were strong in content and have qualities that would make them good teachers and for that matter, any vocation they choose.

I did notice Shang-yi’s great passion in Maths and I was aware that he had an interest in becoming a Math teacher. At the back of my mind, I was thinking that he would one day come back to take over from me!

What were they like in class?

Chan Ter Yue (1982-1983): Conscientious and thoughtful

Yeo Yam Khoon in my Civics tutorial class S03C (1982-1983): Model student (steady, respectful, attentive). I enjoyed marking his work—he was very neat, organised and displayed good understanding of the subject matter.

Both Ter Yue and Yam Khoon have, without fail for many years now, come up to me with a Teachers’ Day card to wish me.

Ng Yee Ling (1988-1989): Serious, highly motivated, respectful, and appreciative—I remember her sending me a card to thank me after the release of the A-Level results. I’m glad to have met her again, when she joined the school last year. She’s just as respectful and appreciative, and I’m happy to see that she’s blossomed into a highly competent and confident lady who exudes joy and exhibits passion in her work.

Lu Shang-yi (1998-1999): Respectful and highly competent in mathematics—he represented Singapore in the International Maths Olympiad! His class was one of the best performing classes in the school, such that when the school first introduced air-conditioned classrooms, his class was rewarded with one as a home room. It was always a joy to go to his class as the students were very focused, enthusiastic, participative and intellectually-stimulating.

Ng Mei Sze (First three months of 1994): Chatty, witty, interacted well with her teachers. I have been working under her for the past two years and she treats me with kindness and respect.

Edmund Kwok (First three months of 1982): I taught his class AO maths for the 1st 3 months in JC1 at the Paterson Campus. He was scrawny and one of the well-behaved and responsible students.

Carlsen Tay (1996-1997): A respectful student who spent much time in athletics but still tried his best to catch up with his work.

Leroy Choo (1994-1995): He was in the commerce stream doing double maths, a tough combination for the commerce students as they did not do physics which would have helped them in the mechanics. He was always cheerful and one of those who could follow well.

For Kamel and Jasmine (1988-1989), and Leong Yi-Lin (1992-1993), they were in my lecture group.

lu shang yi

Mr Lu Shang-Yi
RJC, 1999
Teacher, Mathematics, Year 5–6
Taught by: Ms Wang Juat Yong

What was Ms Wang like back then?

What I remembered about Ms Wang was her passion for Mathematics and how she made it elegant and beautiful. She always found the time to tell jokes during class (some of which were quite mathematical in nature!) which I have also incorporated into my own teaching style. Ms Wang still looks the same as she did ten years ago, just that she has less white hair now! (you can guess why)

In fact, when I first came back to RJC (before reintegration), most of my teachers were still around—Mdm Teng, my Civics tutor, who is now retired, Ms Wang, Mrs Tan Woon Ching (Physics) as well as Mrs Lee Chye Keow (GP). I have always addressed them by Ms/Mrs as it is natural to me.

mohamed-kamel

Mr Mohamed Kamel bin Salim
RI, 1987; RJC, 1989
Teacher Mentor, Physics, Year 5–6
Taught by: Ms Wang Juat Yong

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

Foremost, a teacher’s job is to teach the subject. It is also the primary job of a teacher to teach the subject well and to ensure that students under his or her charge progress to the next level by passing or excelling in the subject.

What I find meaningful and rewarding is seeing very weak students, initially endowed with very little aptitude for the subject and seemingly having no interest in it, through my guidance and mentorship, manage to pass or even garner distinctions in the subject.

I also find satisfaction if my lessons enthuse my students to such an extent that they begin to ponder and actively think about the concepts as well as start asking plenty of questions. Then I know that whatever I’ve taught them would have stuck with them.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

I’d ask if he or she has three important character traits: passion, patience and good communication skills.

Clichéd as it may sound, but in order to survive in this line, you do need to be passionate about imparting knowledge and refining your craft. Sometimes, things may not work out between you and your colleagues or even your boss, but what will hold you together and keep you going is passion. If passion is what drives you, then you are headed in the right direction, as you will then be focused on what you are paid to do and you will be able to dispel these other distractions.

Obviously, as a teacher, being in constant contact with young people can be very challenging. One can be at the receiving end of disobedience, outright rudeness, blatant disrespect and indifference despite having good intentions. The challenge is on how to channel these negativities into positive outcomes, so having lots of patience comes in handy.

Communication is one of the core aspects of a teacher. We have to constantly communicate, not only with students but also with colleagues as well as parents, and so one must develop one’s communication skills as one progresses as a teacher. In teaching students, one needs to deliver the content in such a way that it is easily understood and in the most pleasant manner possible, otherwise students will lose interest. It is also imperative that teachers communicate effectively with parents in order to avert any form of misunderstanding.

What was your teacher like back then?

Ms Wang was my Math lecturer some 20-odd years ago, back at the Mt Sinai campus. She has not changed much, in terms of looks. Back then, she must have been very young and relatively new to the teaching profession. Despite that, I remember that she was already very good at teaching us Math. She explained some of the very complicated mathematical concepts in Further Mathematics so easily and efficiently that they turned out to be quite interesting at the end of her lessons. I remembered her very neat mathematical workings written on the blackboard using colored chalks which were akin to impressive works of art (of course I’m exaggerating here, but I hope you get the point).

Best of all, she delivered her lessons with a smile all the time, and she did so despite having to entertain silly questions from students like yours truly. I also admired her dedication in trying to liven up the classroom by telling canned jokes, even though she knew that she herself has no natural talent in telling jokes. We would laugh along to repay her for her tireless efforts.

All in all, Ms Wang was and still is a passionate, patient and very dedicated teacher.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teacher? Do you still call them Mr/Mrs/Ms?

I still do call her Ms Wang because I respect her a lot. Honestly, I can’t recall how I first felt when I started teaching alongside my former teacher. Maybe I was too busy with trying to catch up with the syllabus. Maybe it’s also because we are teaching different subjects and do not have the chance to rekindle old feelings?

ng-yee-ling

Ms Ng Yee Ling
RJC, 1989
Senior Teacher, Chemistry, Year 5–6
Taught by: Ms Wang Juat Yong

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

Being a teacher makes me frontline figure and gives me an opportunity to touch lives and to be a part of another person’s growth. To me, that’s the most rewarding. Having worked in several schools before, I have come to appreciate teaching as a profession that keeps me in touch with the diverse spectrum of our community.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

I would ask them to give the following points a thought:

– What’s your driving force?

– Do you enjoy working with young people who naturally and constantly have that extra dose of energy to embrace their own ideals?

What was your teacher like back then?

Ms Wang was my Math teacher back then, and she is still my teacher now, guiding me along. I remember her as the ever-patient, systematic teacher who never forgets to wear her kind smile to class every day. She had such a systematic way of delivering her lessons that we always felt enriched after her lessons. On occasions when we couldn’t complete our tutorials (not completing one’s tutorials was almost a ‘criminal’ offence back then), we would try our best to avoid eye contact with our teachers. But classrooms were so small and cosy back in Mount Sinai that it was no easy task. The RI boys in my class would always volunteer to divert our teachers’ attention from those who couldn’t complete our tutorials. I often wondered how they managed to do it, when they themselves never completed their tutorials. For Ms Wang’s lessons, we never had such stress because she was reasonable and her voice just had that calming effect anyway. She always emphasised learning, instead of scolding students for not doing their work.

Ms Wang is still the Ms Wang with the supersonic memory. I am amazed that till this day, she still remembers the name of everyone in my class, even though we have left RJC for more than two decades! She still remembers our idiosyncrasies and how we looked like back then (round, lean, loud or restless). In fact, she just corrected me when I recalled the name of a classmate wrongly.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teacher?

It’s a marvellous feeling working alongside Ms Wang. I am fortunate to have my teacher here to help me settle into the school environment. I am ever grateful to Ms Wang for her encouragement. To me, she will always be my teacher, my mentor. Thank you, Ms Wang!

edmund-kwok

Mr Edmund Kwok
RJC, 1997
Senior Teacher, History, Year 5–6
Taught by: Mrs Helen Tan and Ms Wang Juat Yong

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

Being a teacher is a calling, because you need to enjoy interacting with children between the ages of 7 and 18, and you need to love the intellectual and pastoral aspects that come with the job. Teaching is meaningful because it lets me meet so many students—each of them with different needs and characters—and allows me to equip them with useful values. It’s also a great feeling when I’m able to get students excited about History. Being a teacher also spurs me to be passionate in what I do and to be a good role model. It is meaningful because the environment pushes me to constantly acquire knowledge and life-long skills together with my charges (i.e. students).

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Because of my mostly pleasant experiences in teaching, I would always encourage aspiring teachers to enter the profession and try to dissuade those who harbour thoughts of leaving. But I also want them to make an informed decision—I would ask them whether they really like to interact with people of that age group, whether they are in for the money or whether they really fancy the nature of the work. Do not sign on to become a teacher because of the scholarship only to regret it later, especially when you are assigned to teach in certain schools.

What were Ms Wang and Ms Tan like back then?

Miss Wang Juat Yong was my Math teacher, I think, way back in 1982-83. She looks the same and her youth is still all over her. One thing that I remember about Juat Yong is her mild temperament. Like most students in the Humanities and Arts, I was not a very enthusiastic Math student and in my own quiet ways, I resisted the subject. Yet, I remember Juat Yong as someone who had always maintained her cool and she never showed impatience or anger. She would just nag in a rather tactful way. Perhaps that was the reason why I could persist in my own passive resistance to the subject. And it shows in my Math grades—not very good!

Mrs Helen Tan was my Economics teacher, and she stood out as a lady who dressed very stylishly during the early 1980s—her air of elegance when she entered the class added some glamour to the mostly new subject that I took. She was also very concerned about our well-being as students. Yet, ironically, the glamour of the subject did not always translate into my desired grades.

Another thing that I remember is the pastoral side of Helen—her concern for students went beyond getting good grades but in a pastoral way as manner. She was concerned with our well-being, especially our health. Helen has retired, but she is still teaching Economics here as an adjunct teacher. Students—do try to spot her along the walkway one day! Throughout my 20 years in Raffles, I have always been seating one or two seats from her in the staff room. Hence, geographical proximity enables me to cement the decades-old link.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teacher? Do you still call them Mr/Mrs/Ms?

It always feels great teaching alongside former teachers. I will always respect them, but I’m also glad to get to know them better as colleagues. I look up to them in terms of experience and knowledge. Respect goes beyond addressing my ex-teachers with Mr/Ms/Mrs.  It is more than a designation. It is how you conduct yourself before and relate to them.

leroy-choo

Mr Leroy Choo
RI, 1993; RJC, 1995
Teacher, Physical Education, Year 1–4
Taught by: Mrs Helen Tan, Mr Leong Chee Mun, Mr Michael Jeyaseelan, and Ms Wang Juat Yong

Mr Leroy Choo (Teacher, Physical Education, Year 1–4)

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

I find that it is meaningful as we are able to share experiences with our students and allow them to learn from our experiences. It’s meaningful also to let students gain exposure new physical sports that they normally would not try, and to see them start to enjoy it after they become more competent in it. It is also heartwarming to see how our teaching has impacted our students later on in their lives.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

If a student wishes to be a teacher, I would have to ask the student why and what expectations he has—teaching really is a profession that requires a lot of passion. I would then share my experiences to see if it is still what he thinks it to be. If he is still interested, I would welcome him to join the fraternity.

What were your teachers like back then?

Ms Wang was a very sweet Math teacher who was very patient, helpful and kind. Unfortunately, I had a terrible problem of always dozing off in class. I would sit in front of the classroom and try to keep myself awake but would still fall asleep. She would then wake me up and I would apologise profusely. Then she would just smile and reprimand me in a sweet but exasperated manner.

Mrs Helen Tan was a very organised teacher who was very passionate about Economics, and used to make us copy lots of notes during lectures and tutorials. She had a penchant for using many different coloured chalks on the blackboard and the entire board would be filled with stuff for us to copy while she taught. She was also very strict and demanding. We were quite scared of her, but we often felt a sense of satisfaction when we were able to answer her questions correctly.

Mr Leong Chee Mun was my ODAC Teacher in charge, and he was a very funny guy who was very outdoorsy and relaxed. He often seemed nonchalant but he actually cared a lot for the students, and he was my inspiration to be a teacher. He took things in his stride and was very encouraging and made things seem achievable. He was very proficient in outdoor-related stuff and shared his love of nature with us. He led a very simple life and I remember him using mess tins to cook rice and eat it with preserved tofu for some meals while he was in school just for the fun of it.

Mrs Lim Jee Nee did not teach me directly but I remember her as a strict teacher and that she struck fear in all the students. She was very passionate about softball, her CCA. When we went to support the team, it was quite enjoyable as she led the supporters in cheering for them.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teachers?

It felt different and weird to call them by name, especially when I first joined. For Ms Wang and Mrs Tan, I still call them by their surname. Mr Leong always tells me to call him by name but I’m still trying to get used to it.

I don’t really interact much with them, as they are mostly at the Year 5–6 side and I usually meet them only during joint events.

I did work together with Mr Leong and Mrs Lim for some periods of time though, and they are very good mentors. It felt funny initially, but they have been very casual and are always trying to narrow the gap. Mrs Lim is very friendly, and Mr Leong always jokes and makes comments to break the ice.

carlsen-tay

Mr Carlsen Tay
RJC, 1997
Teacher, Physical Education, Year 5–6
Taught by: Mr Michael Jeyaseelan and Ms Wang Juat Yong

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

The thought of teaching as a career never crossed my mind when I was a student. I was working as an engineer but was drawn to teaching after praying to ask God how I could serve Him in my work. Since my passions involved working with youths and sports, I applied to be a PE teacher. I really appreciate the opportunities to impact and influence students under my charge—whether in the classroom or on the basketball courts. The time spent in talking to them, finding out more about their lives, their joys, struggles and figuring out my small role in shaping and moulding their lives with the right values brings much meaning to my work.

I remember the experience of being the form teacher of a Normal Technical class for four years in my previous school. It was a difficult but fulfilling struggle to help these neglected students on a daily basis. Seeing my ex-students going on to do well in their further education at ITE made it truly worth the sacrifice.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

I would ask why and how certain the student is about it, because being a teacher is so demanding. When I joined teaching, I knew the full brunt of the difficulties I would be facing as my wife and sister were teachers. Teachers not only have to teach in the classroom; they must also organise school events, handle projects and deal with dreaded administrative matters. If the student understands all this and still wants to pursue this ambition, I would suggest that he or she go and try out relief teaching to get a good feel of the profession.

What were your teachers like?

One of the teachers I knew very well in RJC is Mr Michael Jeyaseelan. He was our teacher-in-charge and coach of the Track and Field team. He demanded much of the athletics team and sought to bring out the best in us. He is still very much the same as before, passionate about sports and for Raffles to do well. I remember how he and the other teachers used to play football at the Mount Sinai side field with the trackers after each training—it was a great time as there would always be friendly banter among teachers and students.

Ms Wang was my Civics Tutor. She is definitely still the same after all these years! She has always been friendly, kind and understanding. I remember how I would lag behind in my math due to my cross-country and track commitments but she would always understand and allow me the time and space to catch up later in the latter half of the year after the sporting season ended. When I came back to teach after 15 years, I was pleasantly surprised that she remembered me… especially as the student who ran very fast. 🙂

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teachers?

It is a blast coming back to Raffles to teach! Even now, in my second year, I’m still feeling the nostalgia. It was kind of funny having to work with my former teachers who are now my colleagues—I got to see the other fun side of them that they used to shield from us in our student days.

Sometimes I still feel like a student in relating to my former teachers—I often make the mistake of greeting Mr Gary Ortega ‘Sir’ at times and he would then gently remind me not to as I am not his student anymore 🙂 I still greet Ms Wang the same way as I only know her surname! AsWhen I was a student, the track team always greeted Mr Mike J as Mr Michael. We always thought that was his surname. It was only when I came back here to teach that I realised that our error!

chan-ter-yue

Mr Chan Ter Yue
RI, 1981; RJC, 1983
Senior Teacher, Biology, Year 5–6
Taught by: Ms Wang Juat Yong
Taught: Ms Jasline Hong and Ms Tang Mui Kee

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

The opportunity to share with students my subject knowledge and take on life as well as to learn from them too! I have learnt a lot of things from students and this helps to keep me ‘young’! I hope to also contribute, in my own small way, to helping the students to develop and grow in intellect, maturity and a sense of responsibility to themselves and those around them. It is always very heartening when I meet my former students and hear about their how they have progressed since leaving RI.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Be sincere and passionate in what you do, both in the subject you teach and in your role as a teacher! The work of a teacher is not easy—it may be very trying at times, but when you see your students grow and develop later on, it is a very rewarding and heartening feeling!

What was your teacher like back then? Is he/she still the same now?

Take Ms Wang, who was my Mathematics teacher: to me she was really sincere in teaching us and she would take the time and effort to help us improve. She would not hesitate to give us advice when we needed it. Ms Wang is still like that today! She gave me very useful advice when I encountered some challenges in my teaching.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teachers?

It was good to know that a number of my former teachers were still there when I was posted to RJC in 1991.  Ms Wang welcomed me warmly and I know she was very happy that some of her former students had returned to the same school to teach. I know now how she felt then because when my own students returned to teach, I was very heartened and proud too! I think I felt initially a little apprehensive as a beginning teacher, but with the support, guidance and encouragement of teachers like Ms Wang and my former Biology teacher, Ms Linda Leong, my tentative start to teaching was made much easier, and I am very grateful to them.

As I taught Biology, I worked with Ms Linda Leong, who has since retired. I was made to feel right at home actually because Ms Leong was so nurturing and encouraging! She gave advice on teaching to me but always gave me space to work, and she allowed me to try out teaching approaches on my own without imposing her views or methods. That was something I will always cherish because when I meet new teachers, I always try to mentor them in the same way. Ms Leong has taught me many skills as a Biology teacher, especially her awesome experience and knowledge when it came to preparing for practical lessons. She was very good at improvising and trouble-shooting, and it was no surprise that she was called upon to help MOE to prepare for the GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’ Level practical examinations in the days when practical examinations were still conducted. I feel very privileged that she was so willing to impart her skills and knowledge to me!

Could you tell that your students were going to become teachers?

Frankly, I couldn’t tell that Zhenxi and Mui Kee were going to become teachers! But they were personable and could get along with their teachers and peers. I don’t think we had much to complain about them 🙂 They were both patient, had very caring hearts and warm personalities. Perhaps these are traits that we may find in many teachers!

What were they like in class?

I think both of them were very conscientious and motivated students. They were independent in their work and they knew when they needed to consult with their tutors. Both were good role models as in they handed in their work punctually, were well-behaved and got along well with their peers. Basically, they worked hard in lessons and they played hard in their CCAs 🙂

jasline-hong

Ms Jasline Hong
RGS, 2000; RJC, 2002
Assistant Department Head, Physics, Year 5–6
Taught by: Mr Chan Ter Yue 

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

A teacher touches lives and leaves footprints behind in one of the most critical phases of a child’s life. A teacher has the opportunity to inspire, role model and actively participate in molding a society through its younger generation. A teacher can help a society become what it hopes to be, through the lives of the young.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Be a teacher who teaches with sincerity and genuinely cares for her students. Always do your best and what is right, with students as your central focus; not for fame, popularity or fanfare.

What was your teacher like back then?

Mr Chan is a very caring and patient teacher who teaches with a heart. He cares very much for his students and is a teacher not just of the books, but a teacher of life. He is still the same—a value-based educator, doing his best for his students and teaching them both inside and outside of the classroom.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teacher? Do you still call them Mr/Mrs/Ms?

It is a privilege to teach alongside my former teacher, learning from their wealth of experience and seeing things anew from his perspective. He is always eager to share his nuggets of wisdom and inspire me with his passion for educating the younger generation. He holds no account of wrongs, and treats his students with great pride and patience. Yes, I still call Mr Chan Ter Yue ‘Mr Chan’, and Teachers’ Day is still a day on which I would give him a token of appreciation, yet that is a far cry from all the effort he has put into teaching me. Thank you Mr Chan! 🙂

tang-mui-kee

Ms Tang Mui Kee
RJC, 2003
Teacher, Chemistry, Year 5–6
Taught by: Mr Chan Ter Yue

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

I feel happy whenever I see that I have finally made a difference in my students’ learning and character. As a teacher, I help students to gain new insights with increasing interest in a particular subject and most importantly self-discovery through learning, where my students learn more about themselves. Teaching to me is like an act of service to the Singapore community. I am in a position in which I can impact and influence my students’ views and train of thought as well as their understanding of the issues around them. I can help them develop a good character and equip them with useful skills to lead meaningful lives. Moreover, being a teacher allows me to laugh almost every day. Be it the silly jokes that I make up during my lessons or the funny statements my students bring up in class, it is quite difficult for me to find a day of teaching without laughter.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Being a teacher, you will be guaranteed to enjoy a high level of interpersonal interaction with your students. Slowly, your students will become your friend, where you play the role of mentor and a guide to the world for them. Also, you will be treated to a great deal of variety of events and students. You will benefit from learning from the different group of students with unique personalities, and ideas to share with you. You will literally gain a new experience each day with your students, making learning never ending, yet enjoyable for yourself.

What was your teacher like back then?

Mr Chan was a strict teacher, especially with regard to whether we students did our Biology tutorials on time, but he always tried his best to come up with creative ways to get us excited about learning Biology. When we were learning about Food Biotechnology, Mr Chan turned our tutorial into a class party by bringing along many kinds of cheese for us to sample and explaining to us how each type of cheese was made. Moreover, as my Civics Tutor, I feel that he has fully maximised each of our talents, skills and character. Mr Chan is definitely a dedicated teacher that allows each student to grow in terms of their knowledge and character in their own way.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teacher?

I still address him as Mr Chan when I meet him around the school or the Staff Room. As the Chinese saying goes, 一日为师,终身为父 (he who teaches me, even if it is only for one day, is my father for life). I will always respect him as my teacher, for all the care, concern and values that he taught me when I was his student. This applies to all teachers that have taught and guided me before. I felt really happy to be back here and teaching alongside with my former teachers. I felt that it was really great that I can be learning from my teachers again, not about subject knowledge this time, but how to be a good and effective teacher myself!

mr-mag

Mr S Magendiran
Senior Deputy Principal, Student Development
Taught: Mr Eng Han Seng and Mr Michael Jeyaseelan (at Beatty Secondary during his NIE Teaching Practice)

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

It is a privilege for me to engage young people and and instill in them a good set of values and a zest for life. For me, teaching is a symbiotic relationship—not only do you teach, but you also learn from the students as you work closely with them. They shape and inspire you too.

When my former students return to teach, I feel very encouraged and it reaffirms my belief that teaching is rewarding.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Be a teacher because you want to inspire young people. Your motivation is important because it will be your anchor through your teaching career.

Could you tell that Han Seng was going to become a teacher?

I taught him in lower secondary and he showed no disposition then of wanting to be a teacher.

What was he like in class as a student?

He was just like many of his classmates—energetic and full of spirit, proud to be a Rafflesian.

mike-j

Mr Michael Jeyaseelan
Dean, E W Barker Institute of Sports
Taught: Mr Carlsen Tay, Mr Eng Han Seng and Mr Tan Mian Ou

What does it feel like when your students return to the school to teach?

I like to believe that I might have subliminally inspired them (hopefully) to consider the career path of teaching PE. I also hope that I had been a positive role model to them when they were students. I am really proud to see my ex-students becoming my colleagues because it reinforces my belief that, as teachers, we can inspire others.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

I would say, ‘Great!’ It is a wise choice, but remember that teaching is a vocation and you need passion to teach well. Choose teaching not because of pay or promotion, but because you want to make a difference. You have the power to either inspire your students to do great things in life, or to destroy their confidence. Therefore, choose wisely.

What were Han Seng and Mian Ou like as students?

Han Seng was passionate about sports then and now. He was also a leader and wanted to inspire others around him. He was very involved in PE class and in all kinds of Sports from Rugby to Judo. He showed a lot of maturity and commitment as a student.

Mian Ou, like Han Seng, was a leader in the sports field. He had the spark to inspire his peers and was very involved in and passionate about Rugby. He was matured in his thinking and always gave his best. He had the makings of a good leader.

lam-nam-soon

Mr Lam Nam Soon
RI, 1977
HOD, International Students
Taught by: Mr Tan Kim Cheng
Taught: Mr Eng Han Seng

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

Being a teacher is meaningful because I have the opportunity to change lives. Helping students with problems to turn around and achieve their dreams—this has got to be a dream job! My life has also changed as a result and I am very grateful for this opportunity.

What was Han Seng like as a student?

He knew what he wanted for himself and he worked hard for it.  He was a loyal student to his club and especially to the school. I could see some potential in him becoming a teacher because he was a natural leader in the Judo Club and the traits he had shown in the way he guided his peers and juniors were congruent with the traits needed as a teacher.

What was Mr Tan like back then?

Mr Tan Kim Cheng will always be our ‘Captain Tan’. Those who don’t know him well would find him a fierce disciplinarian who allows no nonsense. Those who know him better or who were taught by him would be able to see a fatherly side to him. As a teacher, he was approachable and very rational and to top it off, he was real funny in class and we all enjoyed his lessons very much! To this day, Mr Tan still turns up for literally any school function that we invite him to, and he still shows the intense love that he has had for the school all these years.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teacher?

When he was my colleague, he remained a giant in all aspects! We were in awe of him. We learnt so much just by observing him—how he conducted himself and how he dealt with daily problems.

eng-han-seng

Mr Eng Han Seng
RI, 1989; RJC, 1991
Dean, CCA & Physical Education
Taught by: Mr Lam Nam Soon, Mr S Magendiran, and Mr Michael Jeyaseelan
Taught: Mr Tan Mian Ou

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Really? Sure or not? What is so good about being a teacher? Think about the ordeal you will face when you have a student like you! On a more serious note—make sure it is your calling to teach. Try doing some relief/contract teaching in mainstream schools to have a better idea of what teaching is about before committing.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teachers?

Scary at first… because they used to punish me. Haha…Seriously, I’m honoured to be working side by side with my ‘heroes’.

Could you tell that Mian Ou was going to become a teacher?

I didn’t think he would become a teacher. I didn’t have the chance to teach him, but I saw him in action during rugby games and trainings. He was a good athlete and natural leader (rugby captain). I found out that his results wasn’t very good and I thought with his leadership quality, maybe ), and I thought that maybe he would become a businessman or soldier (no offense to businessmen or men in green… just that those who did well academically would usually become doctors, lawyers or civil servants).

What was he like in class as a student?

I didn’t have the chance to teach him but I saw him in action during rugby games and trainings. Like I said, he possessed good leadership and was able to lead his team well. Seemed to be rather hardworking (in rugby).

How were Mr Mag, Mr Mike J and Mr Lam Nam Soon like back then as teachers?

Mr Mag taught me for a brief period when my class had no literature teacher. He was always cracking jokes and making us laugh. But when we didn’t turn in our homework, he would become very angry and stern. Sometimes he scolded us while putting on a smile and we got very confused about whether he was scolding us or not. He was very approachable then, and he still is now.

When Mike J taught me in RJC, he was very stern-looking and we thought he was rather aloof. His PE lessons were torturous because he would make us do interval training. Once, he made us run intervals of 400m at a pace of under 1.5 minutes for an hour! Quite a number of us puked at the end of the lesson! We didn’t complain cos he did the interval training with us. That lesson actually spurred a number of us (I was in the ‘sports class’) to work harder on our fitness. I am seated opposite Mike now. As a colleague, he is funny and very approachable… very different from when I was his student 😛

Mr Lam is the reason why I wanted to be a teacher. He was my Judo teacher. He was very fierce and had very high expectations on us. We would be punished rather severely (censored cos too severe to be on print :-P) but he would always explain the reason for our punishment. At the end of the day, we realised that he wanted us to be a better judoka, student, and friend… He cares 🙂

He is still the same caring Mr Lam, but I must say that he has mellowed a lot and is not as fiery as before—no more scolding across the parade square or punishing the entire school in the hall 😛

tan-mian-ou

Mr Tan Mian Ou
RI, 1997; RJC, 2000
Teacher, Physical Education, Year 5–6
Taught by: Mr Eng Han Seng, Ms Melissa Lim and Mr Michael Jeyaseelan

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

The opportunity to interact with and make a positive difference to youths’ lives makes teaching meaningful. Having received valuable mentorship myself from my teachers in RI and RJC, I see teaching as exactly that—mentoring students in their formative years to help them achieve their fullest potential.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Teaching as a profession requires deep seated convictions regarding holistic student education and development. Essentially, it is a calling and not just a job. The process is challenging and the rewards may not always be apparent or immediate, but the sense of fulfillment in having helped shape young lives will be beyond measure.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teachers?

It feels surreal to be working alongside the very same teachers who once held sway over me with equal measure of fear and respect. I am immensely thankful for the warm welcome my former teachers have extended to me as a newcomer to the teaching fraternity, and am equally grateful that they seem to have forgiven (or simply forgotten) my past trespasses as a ‘less than model’ student under their charge.

What were Ms Melissa Lim, Mr Mike J and Mr Eng Han Seng like back then as teachers?

Ms Melissa Lim was my GP tutor back at the Mt Sinai campus. Back in 1998, she had noticed that one of my rugby teammates was having issues at training and she took the time to talk to me separately, just to understand his situation. I think that concern about her students outside of the classroom was what struck me the most about her as a teacher.

Mr Mike J was the HOD of PE when I was in RJC, and he was a fun PE Teacher. He was involved in Track & Field CCA, but took the trouble to train the Rugby boys during the December holidays. He was always smiling and cracking jokes with his students, who always had fun in his PE lessons. In that regard, he’s still the same now as he was before—always friendly and always willing to joke with.

Mr Eng Han Seng was a PE teacher and Judo Teacher-in-charge when I was in RI, and he had a mostly serious ‘no-nonsense’ persona. We heard stories about his tough training sessions from our Judokas, but also knew that he cared a lot for his boys. He was quite the disciplinarian though, and was especially tough on shirts that were tucked out (he told me off in the canteen once!). You know what? I do the exact same thing now with my students (‘Eh hello, tuck in your shirt!’).

jamie-reeves

Mr Jamie Reeves
Programme Head, Economics, Year 5–6
Taught: Mr Benjamin Wong, Ms Eunice Low, Ms Lye Su-Lin, Ms Melissa Lim and Ms Teo Siew Kuang

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

I’m at an age when most of my contemporaries are either retired or retiring. Most of them couldn’t/can’t wait to finish work and are now looking for something meaningful to do with their time. I have no intention of retiring, because I already think what I do is meaningful, and I enjoy it enormously. This is the great thing about teaching—it is not simply a way of earning a living, but what we do is of value in itself. I like to feel that we help young people to enjoy better and more fulfilling lives, whether it’s getting into Harvard, acquiring a taste for ballet, starting a life-time of charitable work or even becoming a lawyer and that makes me very happy. The other great thing about teaching is that I spend all my time with young people (except for when I’m with Mr Purvis!). My friends all spend their time with other old people, talking about the old days. That’s no good, we need to look to the future, and that’s what young people want to do—look forward, not backwards!

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Depends very much on the individual. It doesn’t suit everybody, but for some people (like myself) it doesn’t even feel like working, merely an extension of my personality. If the student is sociable, has great energy, likes people (especially kids), wants to communicate and has heart then I think teaching is a great career.

What were Eunice, Melissa, Benjamin and Siew Kuang like as students?

Eunice (class of 1991) was from a convent school, so not one of the Rafflesian types. She was most memorable for her musical prowess. I watched her perform with the Singapore Youth Orchestra and she had a lovely singing voice with an interesting vibrato. Her class recorded me a cassette (shows how old this is) for Teachers’ Day and she sang on that—‘Vincent’ by Don Maclean, as I recall.

Melissa (class of 1992) was the one I would have been most likely to pick as a future school teacher. Economics wasn’t her greatest strength, but she was always extremely diligent and well organised. Retrospectively I think I can see the school ma’am in her, but I’d be lying if I claimed to have really noticed it at the time. Her class was dominated by some strong-minded ladies, and Melissa was an enthusiastic part of the group, emphasis on ‘enthusiastic’.

Ben and Siew Kuang were in the same class and, of the two, Siew Kuang would have been more the one I’d have picked as a future teacher. However, there were some girls with very strong personalities in that group, so they were the main focus (all lawyers now I think!). Ben was very quiet, but given that he was one of only two boys (I think) it was probably a good idea to keep his head down and not upset the ladies.

melissa-lim

Ms Melissa Lim
RGS, 1990; RJC, 1992
Dean, Student Development
Taught by: Mr Jamie Reeves, Mr Leong Chee Mun and Mr Leong Yew Wah
Taught: Mr Benjamin Wong, Mr Tan Mian Ou and Ms Teo Siew Kuang

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

Being able to interact with and influence young people. They are fun and idealistic and see lots of possibilities in life and the world.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Yes, go for it!

What were Benjamin, Siew Kuang and Mian Ou like as students? Could you tell that they were going to become teachers?

For Benjamin, not really as he was very quiet and introverted. Siew Kuang did have some key qualities, like being enthusiastic, empathetic, creative and disciplined. Mian Ou—totally no! Hahaha! He was the cool dude who was good in sports and somehow I didn’t think of teaching as a career for him.

teo-siew-kuang

Ms Teo Siew Kuang
RJC, 2003
Teacher, Aesthetics, Year 1–4
Taught by: Mr Geoffrey Purvis, Ms Melissa Lim, and Mrs Nicola Perry

What do you find meaningful about being a teacher?

I found my mission in life to be a teacher while teaching in the classrooms of a village school in Myanmar, while on a youth and community development project in my second year at NUS. It is hard to describe the immense satisfaction and joy I feel when I am in class. I had already been inspired by my own teachers to teach, but I did not have the conviction to make the commitment until my second youth and community development project in Myanmar, during my second year at NUS. Once I realised that teaching was how I could contribute to the community, I signed on with the Ministry of Education and began my training right after graduation.

I also learnt that in order to contribute more concretely in Singapore and Myanmar, I would need to be a qualified and experienced professional teacher and teacher trainer. For the past five years, I have been juggling my full time job at NIE, then CHIJ Secondary, and now RI, while volunteering to train teachers in Myanmar during the holidays.

Teaching, to me, is not only about educating a student, but also learning about life as we live it. It means making a difference in students’ by doing the simple things like giving him/her respect. It is about experimenting with ways to excite students to explore and make meaning of the world. It is about learning to empathise with others. It is enabling students to realise their own potential and empowering them to make a difference in the lives of others.

What would you say to a student who wants to become a teacher?

Keep your focus on what really matters—your purpose, your passion and your pupils. From the moment you decide you want to teach, there will be countless distractions and deterrents that would cause you to fall and fail. At times like this, I always remember what my mentor in life, Dr Daisaku Ikeda, said, ‘When things get tough, resolve to return to your starting point and recall the original purpose. When you do so, your heart will be rejuvenated.’

In the working world, there will also be pressure to compete with colleagues to perform. I take to heart my NIE tutor, Ms Caroline Chan’s advice: ‘Work for your students, not your performance grade. Enlightened management will see your passion and efforts. At the end of the day, it is neither your students’ grades nor your performance grade that truly reflect how good or successful a teacher you are. Only you and your students will know.’

What were your teachers like back then?

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been taught by Mr Purvis, Mr Reeves, Mrs Perry and Ms Melissa when I was a student in the Humanities programme. I also had a fantastic dedicated Art teacher, Mr David Liew. They were the main motivation for me to choose to be one of the few Dunman High students to go RJC. They are also my motivation to come back to RI to serve when the opportunity came knocking two years ago. My junior college years were the darkest years of my student life—my father was struggling with diabetes, kidney failure and peritoneal dialysis before he passed on, and my housewife mother became the sole bread winner for my family of five. I myself had to take a part-time job while keeping up an active CCA involvement, and I struggled with meeting my academic demands. The faith that these teachers had in me was the beacon that shone through the darkness and guided me through.

Ms Melissa Lim was my civics tutor and Literature tutor. I don’t remember what exactly went on during the Civics or Literature classes anymore, but, and I remember her smiles and the times she sat with me on the bench along the corridor, patiently listening to my struggles and encouraging me. My class had the privilege to be invited to her wedding and all of us dressed in yellow and purple, according to the theme. For our last lesson with her, she got us all tangled up with a ball of red string and cut us each a section of the string. Then, we were each given a piece of a puzzle to keep. I can’t remember exactly what she said, but to me, it was a way of remembering how our paths had crossed in that particular time and place and each of us made the class what it was. I still have the string and puzzle.

She also had a knack of writing testimonials that really put into words all the beautiful things she saw in us. I have sent in many applications and been for many interviews since I graduated from RJC, and I have always been successful. I believe her testimonial made the difference because all the other applicants had the same or even better qualifications than I do.

I had Mr Purvis for Hard Times and Mayor of Casterbridge. He once said that he would have failed as a teacher, if we did not read any more fiction after we are done with the A-levels. Sometimes, when I sit with a book in my hands, I think about what he said and about what a wonderful teacher he was and, I believe, still is. I remember how he liked to annotate his books with a pencil and unconsciously I picked up the habit from him.

In those days, we had to take the S-paper in at least one subject to be considered for a scholarship, and given my family’s financial situation, I was under great pressure to get a scholarship, but I was not doing well enough academically to qualify. However, I was given the chance to take Literature S-paper and I only found out later that Mr Purvis had spoken to the principal and said he would take me, when no other teachers would. It was a real struggle, in Lit-S classes, with the extra workload and I was very disheartened by the fact that I received an ‘Ungraded’ for all my Lit-S essays, but what kept me going was the fact that I didn’t want to disappoint Mr Purvis, because he believed in me. I received a ‘Merit’ for Lit-S in the final battle and the first person I went to thank was Mr Purvis.

I wouldn’t say that Ms Lim and Mr Purvis are exactly the same now—we have all changed, and grown wiser and more worn in our own ways. However, what has not changed is the connection that we had ten years ago, and I can still feel it when I speak to them now. The other thing that has not changed is my respect and gratitude for these wonderful teachers who took the time, the leap of faith and made all the difference.

What did it feel like to come back and teach alongside your former teachers?

It has been an amazing and eventful two years here. Unexpectedly, Ms Lim took over my English class last year when I was re-deployed to teach Art. For six months, we worked together as English teachers for the two classes. It was a slightly strange feeling to be teaching alongside Ms Lim, but at the same time, I felt so thankful for the opportunity to re-connect with her, and to not just receive as a student but to also give, together with her. I had a lot of trouble calling her ‘Melissa’, it took quite a few reminders from her and slips on my part. I will always see her as a mentor, always so patient and encouraging. She still has the knack for writing wonderful testimonials. As for Mr Purvis, he will always be Mr Purvis, my favourite Literature teacher.

I want to take this opportunity to put on paper my gratitude towards all the teachers who have taught me in RJC. Thank you for believing in me. Those RJ years made me a Rafflesian and shaped me to be who I am today. I am extremely thankful to have been able to serve here as a teacher, and to repay and pay forward what RI has given me. Let us continue to advance with courage and joy, in our endeavours to nurture the youths and inspire hope for a better age!

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