Our Loving Pioneers

The 36th College Day started with a tribute to NYJC’s very own pioneer teachers, who have dedicated many years to teaching and inspiring young minds, and have returned to the classroom despite having retired. Their passion for teaching is admirable and inspirational indeed. In this feature, three pioneer teachers share with us their thoughts and reflections.

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Mdm Loke Yoke Fan, more than 40 years of service

1) What got you into teaching?

 I was taught by many very good teachers when I was a student. They were caring, patient and knowledgeable. They were my role models and motivated me to follow their footsteps.

2) What is the highlight of your teaching career?

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Mdm Loke for CLEP in 2000

I was awarded the Model Chinese Teacher Award in 1999, by Lianhe Zaobao and the Chinese Teachers’ Association. I was involved in the setting up of the college’s Chinese Language Elective Programme (CLEP) in 1999 and 2000.

3) Why did you choose to continue teaching even though you have the choice of enjoying your retirement?

The ability to teach, to interact with young people, and have the opportunity to ‘touch a life’, are forever enjoyable to me. Retirement is only a milestone, an indication that I have less and less time to do what I would like to do. Therefore, I do what I find meaningful, before it’s too late.

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Ms Emily Lim, 40 years of service

1) What got you into teaching?

I had always wanted to be a teacher from the time that I was in school! My father had wanted me to complete my university education, but after my university studies, I decided that I should try other jobs first. After my final exams, I was a Statistical Officer for a few months, but I left to study for my Diploma in Education because I felt that I should end my work day while there is still daylight.

2) What is the highlight of your teaching career?

The main highlight of my teaching career is to see my students carve out successful careers and family life for themselves. I meet some of my former and students and their families regularly over lunch or dinner. My first batch of NYJC students’ children are currently in JCs’. It is also very heartening to meet students doing extremely well in banks, retail sector, medicine, real estate, architectural and building sectors among others.

3) Why did you choose to continue teaching even though you have the choice of enjoying your retirement?

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Left: Ms Lim and students on a school trip; Right: Ms Lim in NYJC

I believe that one should enjoy what one likes doing all the time! One should not start enjoying life only after retirement but should be happy and at peace always! We are responsible for our own happiness and a situation can be seen as delightful or disastrous depending on the chosen perspective. I love teaching and being around 17 and 18-year-olds. I enjoy the looks of achievement on students’ faces when they see the light and most of all, I love the ability to facilitate and empower students in the advancement of Economic knowledge through reasoned and logical development of thoughts as only a teacher can! Can’t do that when I retire, can I? Ha Ha!!

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Mr Gurmit Singh, 44 years of service.

1) What got you into teaching?

This was in 1968. I wanted to be a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. My father wanted me to be an accountant. I ended up being a teacher. How? I really do not know. It could be that my father’s ‘first love’ had been teaching (but he became an accountant), or that two of my maternal uncles (in then Malaya) were teachers – one a technical teacher and the other a school principal, or that my elder sister was a teacher and her husband was a principal. So I became an English and PE teacher. To partly fulfil my dream to be a therapist, I did a sports massage course with the Singapore Sports Council and did my sports injury management course in Nanyang Polytechnic while still teaching.

2) What is the highlight of your teaching career?

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Mr Singh in Yook Kiau Public School, 1974 (First row, third from left)

There are two highlights in my teaching career. I was a teacher teaching English as a Second Language. In those days there were English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil schools in Singapore. On 26 January 1971 I was sent to Yook Kiau Public School, a village school in Tampines.

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Mr Singh with students at the 2010 Youth Olympic Games Cultural Village

The first highlight was when due to certain circumstances in 1982, I was seconded to the Outward Bound School on Pulau Ubin. The second highlight was my posting as a PE teacher to NYJC on 26 January 1984, as they needed an outdoor education teacher.

3) Why did you choose to continue teaching even though you have the choice of enjoying your retirement?

I actually enjoy teaching. Teaching is a ‘three-in-one’ for me – teaching, outdoor education and counselling all in one profession. I am a ‘people person’. I am a volunteer (for juveniles under Ministry of Social and Family Development and in-house at Changi Prison) outside of school. Teaching is an opportunity for me to mix with many different people and is similar to counselling. The teaching profession is like no other job. Here, an individual (the teacher), is constantly learning while teaching. I have always felt that teaching is a challenge. The teacher is faced with many situations. I like teaching because it allows me to be versatile. I have to adapt to the situation, depending on whom I am working with: a colleague, a student, a parent or the administration. And that is what makes an individual a better person, just like counselling.

In 1966, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew said, “If I have to choose one profession in which you give the most for the least it is probably teaching, if you take it seriously. You have to have the temperament for it to coax, to stimulate, to cajole and to discipline a young mind into good habits. You must have an aptitude.”

That is why when I was given the opportunity to continue teaching in NYJC after retiring, I took it up as I want to continue “to coax, to stimulate, to cajole and to discipline a young mind into  good habits”.

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