Peter Tan

Teacher & HOD English
Senior Assistant [Vice-Principal] 1957-2001

 

As a Discipline Master and teacher for the less academically inclined students, I had the wonderful opportunity to form and shape my charges in the manner I thought would make them kind, generous, self-giving, simple, modest, persevering and resilient persons who have a good esteem of themselves and who are respectful and useful members of their families, the community and the nation. Indeed, I have succeeded to a certain extent for among the large number of students I have mentored, guided and become friends with, are many past pupils whom I am immensely proud of and who have become good parents, useful and successful men of God and our nation.

I had wanted to leave teaching to venture into the world of business after a decade of teaching and had successfully applied for the post of sales manager at IBM but my appointment could only be secured if I could obtain a testimonial from my principal, Bro Noel. Feeling a little apprehensive I requested Bro Noel, the principal then, to put in a good word for me. He surprised me and asked me to write a great testimonial for myself and he would sign for it. Of course, I wrote many good things about myself and when I handed the testimonial to him, he lit his pipe and moved to sit opposite me. He read the document, nodded and then to my consternation, he tore it up and knocked the bulb of his pipe empty before speaking to me.

 

He began by saying, “A teacher can never be rich in the world, but can be richer in the Kingdom of God.” At that time, I was not a particularly fervent Catholic and felt put off by his references to God’s Kingdom. For the next hour, with his eyes fixed on mine, he talked and talked until tears fell from my eyes. I had never heard such inspiring words that lifted my spirit, motivated and challenged me. He was telling me the truth that would make me rich, richer than the wealthiest man I might meet. His big hands palmed mine and he said, “As a teacher, you live in the vocation of Jesus – to teach, to form, to shape, to change, to make things and people beautiful.”

You can tell your students, “Today, you come into my life but once but I want to touch you now for an eternity.”

That evening, when I left Bro Noel’s office, my head was a lot lighter, my steps a lot firmer and my vision a lot brighter. I did not leave teaching for the rest of my life. I had a vision with many teachers and a mission to help change the world I live with my students and others.

Yes, I have had the honor and privilege of teaching and serving under many great and charismatic principals with such inimitable qualities like the wisdom of Bro Louis Gonzaga, the piety of Bro Camillius, the imposing, noble personality of Bro Noel, the effervescent humor and altruism of Bro Emmanuel, the boyish spirit of Bro Edmund, the modesty and gentleness of Mr. Harold Mattieu, the modesty and gentlemanliness and dedication of Mr. Andrew Ng and the drive of Mr. Winston Hodge.

Indeed, I have had the pleasure and privilege of sharing many precious moments of camaraderie, joy and success with my colleagues whose professionalism, dedication, creativity and team spirit have helped me in my becoming and growing as a person and a teacher.

Yes, memories are intangibles but they are made of these. Thanks for the memories! 


Adapted from message in SGS School Annual, 2013.

© 2019 by Saint Gabriel's Old Boys' Association

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