In the famous memoir, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, the author Mitch Albom writes of the most meaningful lessons he learnt from his mentor and professor Morrie Schwartz. In the final days of his mentor’s life, the student and mentor recollected on the important life lessons learnt during the many years under his professor’s tutorship that has had a long-lasting impact in his own life. In the common education adage that, “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”, is ever so true and alive even in this modern 21st Century despite being inundated with aspects of modern technological living in this Industrial Revolution 4.0.
In Malaysia, teachers are referred to as Sir, Madam, Cikgu, Guru and other terms which reflects upon the esteem placed upon a teacher as a mentor and guide for not only academic pursuits but lessons in life. A master or a Guru is one who enlightens your path though it is well accepted that in all fairness one has to walk the path him or herself which is often shrouded with trials and impediments throughout. Nevertheless, without a teacher or a guide those challenges could be terminal.
Every year, Teachers’ Day is celebrated all over the world in appreciation of teachers as a profession. In fact, the success of any individual in their chosen field often begins with a teacher not only in school but extends further on as what is termed Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for adults also encompasses the role of an instructor or teacher.
A true-life experience was iterated by an Alumnus of Sri Bestari Private School Kuala Lumpur, Mr Steven Tan Kian Yau where he penned that more than 6 years ago he was inspired to embark on the path of sustainability by his teacher Mr Shamsul Mutaza who introduced him to the Eco-Schools Program which incidentally is an international environmental program spearheaded by the Foundation for Environmental Education, Denmark and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – Malaysia carried out at the school. According to Steven Tan, sustainability never crossed his mind as a possible career path until his Tuesdays with Morrie moment occurred. Through the Eco-School Program, it had taught him about the importance and the influence individuals have in doing their part to conserve the environment.
Steven Tan appointed as the Vice Captain for Green Council Malaysia from the Eco Schools Program
Steven Tan receiving his SPM Results (7 A’s)
Steven Tan and the Eco Team at Dentistry Faculty University of Malaya
Upon completing his high school education after the SPM examination, he enrolled to study at University of Manchester, UK specialising in Environmental Management. Steven Tan shared that at first his own family was apprehensive in his choice for a career path as with many traditional minded Asian families in terms of possible job prospects in the future. However, Steven Tan was so adamant that he would pursue a career in sustainability and environmental conservation and explained his passion for sustainability and that he had come to this decision after much thought. Steven Tan’s family thereon gave their consent and full backing to fulfil his dream. This protégé of Mr Shamsul Mutaza always has a burning desire from within to reciprocate the trust his family has in him and his decisions, and would do his best to make them proud. Today, Mr Steven Tan is at ease to say that he is a working professional in the field of sustainability and it is providing him great satisfaction that his day-to-day work is contributing to the betterment of the environment and it all started from some words of inspiration by his teacher-mentor back in school.
Steven Tan was elated in explaining that his alma mater, Sri Bestari Private School KL had achieved their first Green Flag in its history under the Eco-Schools program which is the highest award when he was a student in the school. He went on further to state that one’s teacher has the ability to guide you in the right direction and is glad that his teacher Shamsul Mutaza had done so for him. He cultivated a mindset where you should follow your passion and not the expectations set by people around, as often others will understand and respect your decision if you show how much it means to you.
Teacher Shamsul who is the school counsellor and ECO School program teacher in-charge fondly remembers his protégé in Steven Tan who had kept in close contact with him even after leaving school and quipped that, “As a teacher, I always do my best not only to impart knowledge to students, but most important is to guide them in their own way by giving them new opportunities to explore their potential”.
Another Alumnus of the school and Eco School Team Leader 2019/2020, M. Aleem Amirullah who had just received his SPM 2020 results where he was the Top Student with 10As, shared that a senior had introduced him to the Eco-Schools program where he thought it was just a co-curricular program and a good way for him to relax away from his school books. But he was surprised that the teacher-mentor Mr Shamsul accorded him numerous opportunities in helping him make a virtual 180˚ about turn from a shy introvert boy to a confident and expressive student by the time he completed high school and it was not merely a co-curricular program. He will forever be thankful to his teacher-mentor for guiding him to be what he terms ‘Hati Kental’ today, which literally means a self-assured individual who is not easily put down as compared to his younger days. Aleem, being a Top SPM student at Sri Bestari Private School KL, dispels the notion that sacrificing and investing time into such beneficial activities even on weekends will distract him from his studies where to the contrary he practiced good time management and able to juggle all successfully under the close tutelage of his teacher-mentor Mr Shamsul as with the saying, “Teachers affect eternity”.
Multi-tasking : Aleem taking part in Project Runway Junk Couture Challenge
Learning new skills – Aleem learning the technique of making paper straw during the Say tak Nak straw Campaign.
Handling workshops and exhibitions as part of the training in the Eco Schools Programme to develop their communication skills
Aleem and 2 Eco Schools friends at Turtle Sanctuary Melaka
Workshop at Waste Management (M) Conference
An Alumnus from Class of 2016 and a 9As Top student, Nadia Izzati Binti Zamri, who is currently pursuing a Degree in Pharmacy at Monash University, Australia was also a member of the Eco Team and acknowledges the role of the dedicated teachers that have faithfully led the program and have played a big role in her personal development. After 5 years since leaving school, she shared that it was through this programme that she encountered her life-long mentors and amongst them is Mr Shamsul and Mr Rosli. They were instrumental in instilling in her the will and importance to examine beyond what was and failing which is a transgression against oneself. They helped her develop the mindset of looking at the bigger picture of things, sharpening her critical thinking skills together with curiosity and this has led her in the direction of being a researcher in alkaloids in the field of Pharmacology and natural product chemistry as a career.
Nadia Izzati and Eco Team received the 2nd Silver Award Certificate at the International Eco Schools Conference.
Nadia demonstrated the upcycling activities to the WWF (Singapore) delegation
Nadia Izzati received the Tan Sri Asiah Award during Hari Anugerah Bestari
“This Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown has once again revealed the importance of the role of teachers in a child’s development and life. Teachers’ have sacrificed so much the past 1½ -years in ensuring classes continue albeit Online or any alternative mode where they themselves struggle to find the time and space to continue connecting with their students despite often faced with tight and cloistered homes shared with extended family which is a daily challenge, but they soldier on to provide their students the ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’ moments”, quipped Dr Baptist, the Principal of Sri Bestari Private School Kuala Lumpur.