Alumni Reflections: A Walk Down Memory Lane!
When I wrote the Principal’s Address in the very first GIS Yearbook in 1988, I spoke of my delight that the Yearbook had become a reality and I expressed the hope that one day, an Old Students Association would be set up.
In 1988, I had no idea how this would be managed because our ex-students were spread around the world. I am delighted that technological developments like mobile phones, the internet and social media – none of which existed in 1988 – have made the GIS Alumni network possible today.
GIS in 1973
I joined Garden School in 1973 and started teaching French in a bungalow in Jalan Yap Kwan Seng. Then I had to teach myself to type because the office staff were not able to type exams in French. In those days, and even after the move to Cheras, exams had to be typed on special stencils and printed on a Gestetner machine which relied on methyl alcohol to create the image on paper. Imagine the smell! The rule was not to use the Gestetner before going to class, or students might suspect you had been drinking!
GIS: A Growing School
As the secondary department grew, it moved from Jalan Yap Kwan Seng into a double storey colonial house in Jalan Pekeliling (Jalan Tun Razak) and then later into another in Jalan Kia Peng. I remember that to move the library it was decided that students and teachers would walk between Pekeliling and Kia Peng carrying a small tied bundle of books under the guidance of Mrs Hazel Taylor!
I also remember a huge Guy Fawkes Day bonfire one year in the Jalan Pekeliling school grounds and the fantastic shows the secondary school staged at the British Council (in particular ‘Cats’, which I thought was spectacular). It was during the mid 1970s that Mrs Mair Enoch suggested having a Garden school version of ‘Eisteddfod’, and the rest is history! I think it was also about this time that Mufti Day was introduced.
The Importance of Connections
Garden School, as it was then known, didn’t have ‘real’ school buildings at that time – but we had a warm, caring environment and a great group of teachers in all departments working as a team. In my first year I also taught in the primary school, and Mrs Carole Ghazali and I have been friends ever since. I also maintain contact with Mrs Hazel Taylor (English) and with Mrs Margaret (Lily) Yoon (Geography) – both teachers from the 1970’s – and with Mrs Helen Lopez (Miss Mukherjee) (Maths) and Mrs Padmini Solomon (History) who, with her husband, recently visited us in Perth. I remember many more great teachers including Mrs Lim (Maths) who I believe is still at GIS, but there are too many to name!
1984-1988: Principal at a Brand-New Campus
By the time I became Principal in January 1984, the school was well settled in its purpose-built campus in Cheras and both student and staff numbers had expanded considerably. In the administration area I was ably assisted by Gladys Tay, Magne Chin and Devi. However, a big challenge at the beginning of each school year was timetabling. There was no computer software to do it at that time. I had a very large sheet of paper and had to laboriously work out the complicated allocation of teachers, classrooms, art rooms, science labs, library and playing fields. It took about a week to do and I was quietly very proud each year when I got it right!
Academic standards at the school were very important, as many parents were aiming to enroll their children into renowned schools in the UK or elsewhere. Thus, my aim as Principal was the achievement of really good examination results and for all students to maximize their potential.
At the same time, I also endeavoured to expand their personal development. With the support of teaching staff in both primary and secondary, the Eisteddfod and Mufti Day events expanded as did Sports Days under Ms Khan (Primary) and Mr Chong (Secondary). With thanks to Mrs Shaik and Mrs Saidin, art exhibitions were arranged to coincide with Parents Day and at the end of term prefects were in charge of arranging a school concert and they always did a fantastic job (one year, the students didn’t want to go home!) Our Managing Director Mrs Amy Chin also introduced Outward Bound School.
Life After GIS
With 2 children studying in Australia and only Serina in GIS, we made the decision to return the family to Perth and I left GIS in October 1988.
From January 1990 to December 1999 I taught at Beaufort College, a private school (set up in what was previously a motel!) for overseas students coming to Australia in Years 10-12 to prepare for university entrance. Most of the students came from Southeast Asia and I taught Business studies, Management and marketing, and Economics. The school closed in Dec 1999 with the opening of the purpose-built Murdoch College in 2000. A similar story to GIS!
In the meantime, I had been studying. Besides adding educational qualifications, I also obtained a Masters in Professional Accounting and made the decision to try and change careers at the age of 53. I quickly obtained employment and became a public practice tax accountant in 2000 and with further studies I obtained CPA status. After 26 years as a teacher, including 5 years as Principal of GIS plus 17 years as an accountant, I retired in December 2016 on my 70th birthday.
I loved teaching and the successes it brought for the students. I loved the challenge of being Principal, of improving academic standards and students’ personal development and of moving GIS into the future. I also loved my accounting career.
Final Thoughts…and Some Sage Advice
My message to you all is to be open to whatever life has to offer, and be prepared to make
changes along the way. When I first graduated many years ago, I initially anticipated a career in banking or statistics – but life takes many twists and turns!
Continue your education, and make sure that you enjoy whatever you do; there is no point in working 8 hours a day for years if you dislike your job! With the rapid changes in computer technology, jobs will come and go so you will need to be flexible. It is said that today’s graduates will change careers many times, so be prepared – and good luck to you all.