WHEN Northland Secondary School teacher Allan Yeong was told that his cancer-stricken wife was dying, it was days before he was to accompany the school's Boys' Brigade pipe band to Jakarta for a regional competition.
By Matthias Chew
The 52-year-old wanted out, but his wife insisted that he go. 'She said it was not on, and that I had to go because I couldn't let the children down. It was their dream to take part in the competition,' he told The Straits Times yesterday.
On the day of the competition, he received a call informing him that his wife was about to die. He rushed back to Singapore that afternoon, just in time to see her before she fell into a coma. She died that day, in June 2007.
'I was called a tyrant in Secondary 2, and parents kept their children away from me. But Mr Yeong saw the good in me and made me pipe major. It allowed me to channel my passion for good.'
Former pipe band member D. Prakash, 24, on Mr Yeong
For his dedication to his students, Mr Yeong was one of this year's three winners of the Caring Teacher Awards. He was seen holding back his tears as he dedicated the award to his wife at the award ceremony yesterday at the Nanyang Technological University Alumni Club.
General Paper teacher Ng Hong Peng, 30, of Anderson Junior College, and Madam Valerie Chee, 41, of Xinghua Primary School, were the other two recipients of the biennial prize given out jointly by the National Institute of Education and energy firm ExxonMobil Asia Pacific.
Together with 12 other teachers given commendation awards, they were chosen from more than 2,000 nominees from 208 schools.
Addressing an audience of teachers and students at the ceremony, Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong listed what he considered to be the most important lessons teachers could give to students. 'Many years later, your students may not remember the exact facts, figures and problems you set for them. But they will remember the resilience, critical thinking, problem-solving and life skills.'
For Madam Chee, who teaches the academically weakest Primary 6 pupils at her school in Hougang, showing care for her pupils is the first and necessary step to being an effective teacher.
Noting that many of her pupils faced poverty, abuse and dysfunctional families at home, she said: 'They are quite cynical and don't trust people easily because they have that huge emotional baggage. But once I can reach their heart, I can teach them.'
Yesterday, a former student of Mr Yeong's said he remembered his teacher's positive influence.
Former pipe band member D. Prakash, now 24 and a teaching associate at the Institute of Technical Education, said: 'I was called a tyrant in Secondary 2, and parents kept their children away from me. But Mr Yeong saw the good in me and made me pipe major. It allowed me to channel my passion for good.'