In his own words…

When my ex-student, Soon Yiew, had gone back to Singapore, he wrote something so very nice and touching and shared it on Facebook. I am going to include a copy in my blog because usually, on Facebook, I would delegate everything to trash eventually and it may or may not reappear after many years via its MEMORIES section.

I did not remember the first time we met but he remembered it well, to my slight embarrassment. He told me that I made a good impression, much to my surprise.

I was at our sister school next door for a competition, the English Language debate between our school team and SMK Kapit. There was an empty seat beside me but no, none of my students, for reasons unknown, would ever dare to go and sit beside me, never mind that I had always been so nice, so kind, so fatherly, so everything!

Suddenly, out of nowhere came this little boy…who plonked himself in the chair, looking so interested and engrossed in everything going on. I guessed he must be Alvin, the son of my good friend from the 60’s and 70’s and he probably did not think much about sitting there since his father and I were good friends. “Are you Alvin?” I asked. “No,” he replied and he promptly told me his name.

His class teacher had sent him and other potentials in Form 3 that year over to watch as they might be taking part the following year when they entered Form 4. I told her and she found it all so amusing.

Mr. Arthur Wee was one of those who made a difference in my early formative years, growing up in a sluggish town in Sarawak. He was my secondary school English teacher. I had always enjoyed his lessons and still carry fond memories of being in his class.

He spoke really well, very eloquent with his own very pleasant accent. They joined the debate the following year under another teacher but did not get very far. Of course, I roped him in for my public speaking competitions…

…ferrying him from his house and the competition venues and sending him home and probably because of the amount of time we spent together, training, practicing and what not, we became very close, much closer than with my regular students.

Learning English in a non-English environment was challenging. It was frightening and most of the time, I felt lost. There were many seniors who spoke the language well, exuded much confidence and at times, portrayed an attitude of flamboyance that made me roll my eyes, flaunting words as though English was a status symbol.

Yes, I remember them all, my debaters and my public speakers. One of them eventually became a friar/priest…

– he certainly will be doing a lot of public speaking in his life, eh?

Mr. Wee was never such a person. He spoke immaculate English, did not mangle the language just to make it easier for the listener, yet when I talked to him, I felt like he was not speaking down to me; instead, he was lifting me up like a sparring coach, egging me on to throw punches above my weight.

Seeing him again after so many years brought back sweet memories. He was a huge influence, literally and figuratively. Without him, my journey of learning English, and by extension, the learning of everything else, would have come to an abrupt halt. For many, including myself, English felt like an ill-fitting attire. For him, I always got a sense that English was tailor-made for him. He did not so much teach as live the language.

I remember once he printed copies of an article from Her World magazine, probably pilfered from his wife’s collection (LOL!) and went through the entire essay with us, explaining the meaning of words, pointing out sentence structures and grammatical nuances, offering anecdotes along the way. That was especially memorable because I felt a sense of accomplishment at the end of the exercise, having read and understood a lengthy English article. My love for reading had been kindled.

Yes, I never depended on the prescribed textbooks. I would take articles from here, there and everywhere – the short stories from Her World were excellent. There were those written by well-known prolific Malaysian writers like the late Ridzuan Chesterfield for instance, poems, songs, newspaper reports and so on and so forth. The beauty of the language cannot be found in those deadpan, obsolete textbooks – the teacher will have to look for these to share with his students. Eventually, I wrote my own workbooks

…so I would not have to spend so much time looking for excellent pieces of writing to share with my students. Of course, if I came across anything good, I would not hesitate to use that in the classroom.

The secret to learning English is simple. One needs to have these:
1. Access to high quality material (books, TV shows etc)
2. Constant practice in speaking, listening and writing
and lastly, perhaps the most important thing:
3. Arthur Wee.

I was among the fortunate ones to have had all three.

I could not remember my parting gift to him before I left for further studies – a key badge with “Arthur” emblazoned on it…

…which he uses to this day. But I do remember his parting gift to me – a lifelong love for the English language.

Thank you, sir.

I wasted no time in sharing this on Facebook and got a total of 125 LIKEs and 33 comments within a day. I must say that I am indeed grateful for his kind words – they have made all the blood sweat and tears over my years of teaching worth every second, every minute of it.

Thank you, Soon Yiew.

Author: suituapui

Ancient relic but very young at heart. Enjoys food and cooking...and travelling and being with friends.

16 thoughts on “In his own words…”

  1. Uncle Arthur, how I wish I had you for a teacher as well. Good, inspiring and passionate teachers like you are very hard to come by. Beautiful dedication and tribute for an amazing teacher indeed and such a heartfelt read indeed

    1. Beautiful, indeed!
      Personally, I believe it takes two hands to clap. To be a good teacher, one would need good students with the love and passion in learning. Some have these traits naturally, others have to be nurtured and inspired. I am sure with students like you, I would have been able to do wonders.

  2. It’s heartwarming to read how your passion for the English language inspired him and how your dedication to finding high-quality material for your students made a difference in his learning. I completely agree that having access to excellent resources, constant practice, and a great teacher like yourself is essential for learning English. Your commitment to your students is truly admirable.

    1. Teaching is a work of heart, that is why it is a profession, a vocation…not just a job. Everyone can teach but without the love, the passion, they can never be a teacher.

  3. What a well-spoken young man; his writing is beautiful. I’m not surprised that he speaks so highly of you. You are such a kind and thoughtful person. You’re the perfect example of a good teacher. You deserve his praise and much more. I had one of those in my life. My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Kyte.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. Yes, there are such teachers. It has been said that students do not remember what the teachers tell them but they will remember how they make them feel. Those would be the ones who touch their hearts along the way.

  4. Very heart touching testimonial. A big salute to an inspiring and passionate teacher. God Bless you, Arthur.

  5. What a beautiful tribute to an amazing teacher! We all remember that one special teacher that made an impact on our lives.

    Yes, I was touched, it made me so very happy.

  6. Aaaww. Well written tribute and truly speak from his heart. Good command of English. I am impressed. You did well in inspiring someone in his/her life.

    I bought Her World magazine but not on monthly basis when I used to work. I like reading those short stories too .

    Yes, they were very well-known writers from their time. Some wrote plays for RM Playhouse (me too – but only for our Kuching station – RM30.00 a play). My missus would buy a copy every month. I contributed an article for THE WRITE STUFF once and got RM50.00. That was quite a lot of money at the time. LOL!!!

  7. Awww, that is so sweet. I reunited with a former student and his family yesterday and delighted in all of the things he recalled from my first-grade classroom.

    It sure makes it worth while, all the blood, sweat and tears.

All opinions expressed in my blog are solely my own, that is my prerogative - you may or may not agree, that is yours. To each his/her own. For food and other reviews, you may email me at

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