LEE Wai Leng's colourful teaching career started and ended in the same school -- SMK Rantau in Seremban.
The cheerful English teacher recently bade farewell to the school where she had been teaching since 1980.
She was the head of the English panel from 1980-1993 and head of the languages department from 1994-2012.
She is from Sungai Siput, Perak. Her late father was a shopkeeper while her mother was a housewife.
Lee remembers how her late mother, who survived the Japanese Occupation, used to lament her missed chances of becoming a teacher. She believes her mother, who loved children, would have made an excellent educator with her patient, caring and gentle ways. "My mother inspired me to fulfil her ambition," says Lee.
She received her early education at the primary and secondary Methodist schools in her hometown.
She pursued Form Six at Clifford Secondary School in Kuala Kangsar, Perak and graduated from University of Malaya with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in English and a Diploma in Education.
She is married to Chow Kim Sing and they have three sons and a daughter.
Her two elder sons are working in Yahoo and Genting, while the youngest son is in his fourth year of dentistry studies at Penang Dental College. Her daughter is studying Mass Communication at SEGi University.
Lee had a challenging experience teaching English in a rural environment where the language is not used outside the classroom.
The main obstacle was the students' reluctance to stop using their mother tongue to communicate during English lessons.
She needed to be resourceful and think of creative ways to arouse and sustain students' interest in learning the language.
Some simply did not care for the subject. For example, in the past, a few claimed that they did not want to learn the "colonial language".
Many students nowadays are not particularly fond of completing homework. Lee said: "They need to shed the fear of making errors, participate more actively in English language activities and read more.
"They need to realise the importance of mastering the English language to succeed in this era of globalisation. Teachers need to make learning more fun and interesting."
Lee is proud she taught two generations in the school, namely the parents and now their children.
"My most memorable moment is when the debate team, which I coached, beat one of the premier schools in Seremban in the zone semi-finals in the 1990s.
"One team member was named Best Speaker for a few rounds but finally lost to Tunku Kurshiah College in the finals.
"The same year, we lost by merely one point to the same premier school in the English quiz."
Lee achieved a high note in her career when 18 students from her class scored As in SPM English last year -- a record and "befitting farewell gift".
"I would consider it my greatest achievement if students turn out to be respectful and responsible beings who always acknowledge their parents, teachers and elders.
"My advice to young aspiring teachers -- have the passion for teaching and teach from the heart. Students respond better when they know you are passionate about what you are doing, so always be prepared when you enter class.
"Do not short-change your students as they will know it. Be proud of your profession as it is a noble one.
"Remember 'we are the only profession who teaches all other professions'."
As for her retirement plans, she wants to give tuition.
"I also want to attend to neglected matters, catch up with my reading, put my house back in order and travel.
"I want to spend more time with family and friends."