Many students over past decades still remember the impact Sr Agatha Tan IJ made in their lives. From feeding and clothing poor students, to offering a hug to a student in her desparate moments, Sr Agatha has truly been more than a teacher. She shares more about her life and work as an educator.
What are your roles and responsibilities as a religious involved in education?
A teacher, counsellor, adviser, friend, nurse – all in one! My main responsibility is to mould and help pupils to grow in grace and wisdom. To instil in them the important values like integrity, freedom and love. To help them accept themselves and others as they are. To enable them to be people of dignity and love.
What are some of the difficulties in your area of work with schools and education?
More time is allotted to teaching of academic subjects as society nowadays aim for academic excellence rather than values in life and faith formation.
How do you overcome them?
With the constant help of God and faith conviction, together with RE lessons and daily reflection in the morning. Of course, not forgetting prayer and communication with the pupils and staff.
What is the fondest memory of your time working in the education sector?
To meet past pupils who bring back such pleasant memories like, “Sister, what you taught us have a great impact in our lives”. Others remember captions like “self last, others first”, “think before you speak”.
When you are faced with difficult students, what is one thing you tell yourself?
I always treat these students with love and tender care as they are God’s gift to me. As such, I treat each one of these students with patience, showing them great care and concern. The more difficult they are, the more I love them.
What does being a Catholic educator mean to you?
It means a lot to and for me. As far as possible, I have tried my best to create a Christ-like environment, making Jesus known and loved to those I live and work with.
Why is education an important aspect of the IJ Sisters?
It is the charism of our founder, Blessed Nicholas Barre. He started educating the poor girls in his time. He was the one who founded the Infant Jesus congregation. Our order is a teaching order. Blessed Barre’s dedication and commitment inspires me. I feel deep within me that I ought to emulate his example.
Has a student or a teacher ever inspired you or taught you something valuable?
Yes, one student inspired me by the way she accepted suffering cheerfully and yet still studied conscientiously to make the grade. There is also one particular teacher who is really admirable. She is very calm. She is talented and never says “no” to anyone who needs help. She is a true “person for others”.
What is one aspect or character of a Catholic school that you appreciate the most?
That God is our number one. We always begin the day with a prayer and morning reflection. A Catholic treats every student with love. A Catholic school not only sees to the academic studies of students but instills in them moral values that will prepare them for society living.
What is one advice you would give to teachers today?
Teaching is a noble profession. We must embrace it with dedication and love because we are moulding and preparing the young of tomorrow.