All I wanted was to hide my two front gaps

By Celeste Choo

Miss Lee had these black- framed-pointed-at-both-ends spectacles. She was slim, young. She had a face full of pimples. I do not think of her as particularly beautiful or attractive. I recall her as always attired in a white blouse with rolled up sleeves and a black skirt, whereas the other teachers dressed very prettily.

Her favourite students were pretty big-eyed Sariah Cassim and clever Lee Teck Seng. She always praised Sariah and Lee Teck Seng. I was very quiet because I was just learning to understand English, so I was neither called upon nor eager to answer Miss Lee.

Now, every one in the class had to go in front and sing to the whole class in June and grades would be given in our Report Cards. I had just lost my front two milk teeth to make room for my permanent ones. I did not want to open my mouth, much less, to sing!

Miss Lee took me to a corner when she saw how adamant I was not to sing, and she also noticed my tears. She bent down to my level and asked me gently in my mother tongue why I refused to sing, and I burst out in tears! I told her my reason and she told me that I did not need to sing to the class, and that I just needed to sing to her! I sang my favourite ‘My Bonnie lies over the ocean’ (because I liked the word ocean).

That day, I sang to Miss Lee, my sole audience. But because of her kindness and patience and encouragement, I became a singer; may not be famous, but a singer. I also decided I wanted to be a teacher, like her.

It has been 56 years since Sunshine class in Kien Kuo Kindergarten near the EPF building on Jalan Gasing. I still remember Miss Lee and sometimes wonder where she is. I would love to thank her and let her know that I am a kindergarten teacher trainer now because of her.

EPF building before the fire in 2018 and subsequent face-lift

Never underestimate the influence any teacher has over young minds. A kind and loving teacher can alter the course of a life

Celeste is a Christ follower first, and a lifelong learner, second. She enjoys crafts and home-cooked food

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