This article pays tribute to the early Stti lecturers who made the difference by inclucating in their students a deep understanding of a subject that was given scant attention before.
IT WILL be remiss on my part not to mention the three men and a lady (for that would be a more gracious way to describe the only woman), who managed Specialist Teachers Training Institute’s (STTI) Physical Education Department in 1962, which is the subject of this article.
The defining factor in the success of any course is much determined by the quality of its staff. The initial appointments of the staff in STTI consisted of Teoh Teik Lee (Now Datuk) and Lim Hock Han; the first year (1960) of its operation being confined to men teachers.
In 1962, we had Dennis D’Silva who was transferred from MTC Penang and Mohd Nor Che Noh and Mary Ghouse to join the teaching staff.
Lim was later transferred to head the PE department at MTC, in Kuala Lumpur and eventually left to join the Ministry of Education, Singapore.
These were lecturers who made a great impact in our lives.
They were the epitome of men with values of discipline, commitment, proper work ethics and passion for hard work. It was indeed our good fortune to have studied under such dedicated teachers.
They had remained faithful to their calling until their retirement from teaching. Even after retirement, they remained our firm friends.
Today, Teoh continues to remind his former charges the benefits of a healthy body through the sound practice of physical education in life, as epitomised by the well-defined body of an octogenarian. Sadly the others have passed on.
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An exemplary teacher
Teoh Teik Lee (now Datuk) was appointed senior lecturer to head the Physical Education (PE) Department when STTI opened its doors to its first intake of students – qualified teachers – for specialist training in a number of subjects. Before assuming the post, he was assistant superintendent of PE and had been organising in-service courses for teachers throughout the country.
Thus, he had come to the institute well-informed of the needs of the physical education programmes in schools as well as that of the teachers.
Placed in such a position, he was able to plan wide-ranging programmes of training for PE teachers in schools.
A man of a few words with a rather reticent nature; initially, it did not help to ease an apparent serious atmosphere between lecturer and student.
However, as the months passed by, we realised the value of his firm, yet fair way of doing things. The “serious” atmosphere soon gave way to a friendlier one which contributed to a happier working condition. And, more importantly, we came to understand him better.
In time, he was soon to join us in a number of games – hockey, volleyball, badminton and softball - against visiting sides and in away matches. His participation in our activities and inter-club matches helped to break the ice and endeared us to him especially since he was a player of strength in our teams.
He had earned his colours, so to say, for he was in the teams on merit. And, I think he enjoyed playing with us — and winning!
The PE department seemed to be his second home. He was always seen at the Institute, on week-days often till late at night when there was an inter-club match. Except for the occasional Sunday, week-ends would see him and his two sons and daughter swimming in the pool and the two boys would put us to shame as they lapped the pool. His presence was ever pervasive and it was difficult not to notice his love for his work at the institute.
It can truly be said that through his exemplary ways in running the department, Teoh had imbued in us the values of belief in the subject, commitment and good work ethics which were to be a feature of our career. In his lessons, particularly in swimming and gymnastics, he was ever vigilant with safety foremost in his mind.
Teoh certainly brought out in us the spirit of working together and enjoying the camaraderie of friends.
He was seen as a man of principle, to the point of being rigid which often prevented us from asking a favour of him. To dare was sometimes to be rewarded. Although he said, “No”, to an assignment to be handed up a day later, he did permit us to attend a cricket game in which the world-renowned Gary Sobers and his side played a Malayan team at the Selangor Padang. (now Dataran Merdeka).
Perhaps, it is this ability of seeing things in perspective that he was made, twice, acting principal of the Institute when the principal was on leave prior to retirement.
Teoh is also the founding president of two national organisations. In 1961 he formed the Physical Education Association of Malaya, a professional body, aimed at promoting physical education and sports in the country.
In 1964, at the request of Lord Mountbatten, he established the Life Saving Society of Malaysia to promote water safety and life saving. He has served in these two community-oriented organisations for decades; the former for 15 years and the latter for nearly 50 years.
Even in retirement, his former charges continue to seek him out for advice and to chat over old times.
A natural sportsman
The late Dennis D’Silva, was in his late twenties and closer to our age, had a better lecturer-student relationship with us as he regarded us as his friends. However, we still respected him as our lecturer.
Simply, his demeanour was friendlier, less intimidating and more approachable to our queries in or out of lectures.
He proceeded to Laborough College of Physical Education after completing his teacher training course at Kirkby, England. He began his career as a PE lecturer in MTC before being transferred to STTI in 1962 as one of the three lecturers under whom we were tutored. He was later transferred to MTC, Johor Baru where he retired as the senior lecturer of the PE department there.
D’Silva was a successful sportsman, cricket being his forte, and having represented the country in that sport. He was also strong in hockey and rugger, the two games he enjoyed playing with the STTI college teams.
Likewise, we welcomed him into our teams; with his robust physique he was a great asset, in particular rugger. With his sinewy arm muscles, one could understand his interest in javelin throwing and the crack of the hockey stick as he sent the hockey ball down the line.
He was fond of the out-of-door life in the wilds and was much inclined to hunting.
The PE ‘historian’
Mohd Nor Mod Noh who has since passed on, was definitely ‘one of us’.
Although about half a dozen years older than us, he had started his teaching career late and was in the first batch of STTI students. He, too, was a product of the MTC, Kirkby, and was known to a number of us before coming to the Institute.
Rather gregarious and with his affable and carefree mannerism, Mohd Nor was accepted as one of “us”. He was our friend.
However, it was different when it came to lectures. He was able to command our respect with his lively delivery and, putting aside friendship, we had great admiration for his efforts especially in leading us in the study of the history of physical education.
Well built and active, he had played rugger for his state and naturally became a valuable player in the STTI team which at that time was of some repute. He was quite adept at shot putt and the discus throw and lectured us in Athletics as well.
All credit to Mohd Nor for his determination in bettering himself in the field. After finishing at STTI, he took it upon himself to secure his PhD in a local university and for a time, even extended his services to Brunei. He was one of the earlier pioneers in blazing the trail for a degree programme in PE.
The ‘lady lecturer’
The late Mrs Mary Ghouse was much involved with the women in their activities such as dance and educational gymnastics in which the men were not involved.
Her only contact with us was by way of activities for the whole class during our camping trips where both the men and women worked together.
Although Ghouse did not conduct any lectures for the men, she was always friendly towards us and we found in her a sincere and helpful person whenever we were in need of assistance.
We were fortunate to have lecturers who were par excellence in their work, imparting in us a deep knowledge of the subject, and we left the institute with much hope and vision for the future of physical education in our schools.