I am reminded of the many teachers who have, over the years, contributed to the education of ME. A few I remember with fondness for they were not merely teachers, but also mentors.
Some I remember only fleetingly for they did not make any big impact on my life. They came, they taught, and they went. One in particular I remember with bitterness and distaste, even after all these years, for she killed the learning spirit in me.
There was Cikgu Mustafa who taught Malay Literature. He brought Sastera, difficult to navigate in the best of times, to life. He prodded and cajoled us, literature novices all, into appreciating a subject quite beyond our grasp. The good cikgu is today a leading Opposition MP!
There was Mr Ooi, the diminutive, guitar-strumming History teacher cum Scout Master who shared my passion for singing. Many a times we took to the stage together, with him accompanying me on his guitar.
On one memorable occasion, we performed "Puff The Magic Dragon" during a school concert, only to earn a visit from some local cops concerned that teacher and student might be potheads under the influence of some hallucinogenic substance.
And then there was the repugnant Miss H. I have never met a teacher quite like her and I wouldn't wish her on my greatest enemy. I have often wondered how a person with such an unpleasant disposition got to be a teacher in the first place.
She had a permanent scowl and a tendency to shriek like a banshee. And to my utter dismay, she consistently picked on me because I took longer than anyone else to understand Chemistry, the subject that she taught.
I developed an intense dislike for Chemistry because of her. My stomach churned and my mind went into instant paralysis each time her hour approached. Her hissing and yelling rendered me completely useless in the science lab. And it got so bad that I even forgot the formulas I already knew.
"How did you get to be sooo stupid????" she screeched, poking her finger at my forehead. Her derisive comments chipped away at my self-confidence.
Tilting the scale at the other end was Cik Jawhariah who was so wonderful that the mere thought of her filled my heart with warmth. Her gentle demeanour, her ever-ready smile and her general friendliness made me feel I was worth something.
She taught English, which was my favourite subject, and she made every effort to keep my interest going by lending me her own books to read. She wrote me encouraging notes and kept my journalistic ambition alive by saying she believed in me.
Cik Jawhariah opened her heart to an impressionable young girl with a big dream. More importantly, she was instrumental in restoring the girl's shaky faith in teachers.