Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Tragic death

Today, I received the shocking and troubling news that Mr. Pang, who had lectured me in Maths and Physics had just passed away, at age 35. He had been stabbed to death in his apartment.

I have just returned from attending his funeral. His poor mother (seen above), who found his body, was weeping inconsolably. Many of his former students had turned up and his colleagues and faculty members from my college as well.

I was asked by the Principal of the College to appear before the media to talk about my memories of and experiences with Mr. Pang, but unfortunately, due to my work, I could not make it and had to decline.

But as I was standing there while Buddhist rites were performed, I could not help but reminisce about my college days. Mr. Pang taught the first lecture I took when I started college. At first, he came across as a stern, no nonsense person, conducting his class with military precision and discipline. God help the person who came to class late or came back late from a break. He also was not very fond of people who looked weird, such as having coloured streaks in their hair or body piercings. We would be extra strict with these people. But for those who could handle the maths and physics, we found out that he was rather kind and tolerant.

I was not very good at physics and maths when I was in secondary school but I have to confess that Mr. Pang's notes and teaching style was excellent. Very soon, even I had grasped what he was trying to convey. On the first day of class, a friend found some difficulty with the lesson and I helped him out during the break. Mr. Pang saw me do it and he remembered.

The following semester, he had appointed me a tutor in the peer tutoring programme he was in charge of. Soon, I coordinated the program which matched the good students as tutors to those who were less mathematically inclined.

My experience in the tutoring programmed helped me to mature as a teacher, help me to put my thoughts in simple terms and boil down complex concepts and distil its essence. It also taught me to handle a class on unruly students, some of whom were there to test my knowledge while others were merely there to test my patience =) That process gave me a huge and sympathetic understanding of the problems a teacher has. Those who know me now may think of me as a good teacher. All this I owe to the tutoring programme and Mr. Pang, who had given me my break.

I also remember him as being quite tolerant, although the students who he had failed for 6 consecutive semesters in a prerequisite subject might beg to differ. I was always falling asleep in class, whilst sitting in the front row and he was always kind enough not to kick me out =) I shall always be grateful and thankful for that. It was also through his influence that I loss some of my natural aversion to mathematics (although I soon regained it after a few lectures by some other fellows who were not so astute in their teaching methods).

He also struck me as a person who cared deeply about his job and took it seriously. His notes were very meticulous and well planned and his examples and questions were designed to make sure that the student understood the underlying concepts. Even to this day, I still use his notes when called upon to tutor someone on any topic mathematical.

I also remember that he gave me his first A in Physical Science which he had taught for a number of semesters but had never given out an A before. That was cool!

He is the embodiment of a lecturer for me, dedicated and knowledgeable. Whenever I think of mathematics and maths lecturers, Mr. Pang will surely come to mind. I am sure this will prove true for many of his former students as well. For good or for ill, he will surely be remembered.

He was a good and committed lecturer and teacher and his passing is a great loss.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual Light shine upon him.
May his soul rest in peace.

May the Good Lord console his grieving mother as well.
Holy Mary, you know what it was like to lose a son, be with his mother and console her as she grieves for his death.


Dennis Jacobsmeyer said...

I would like to extend my sympathy to you on the death of your teacher. May the Lord comfort his family at this difficult time & may he rest in peace. Amen.

Rita said...

Your teacher, his family and you all are in my thoughts and prayers. I too am a physics teacher and whilst I'm halfway across the world, my family come from Penang, so this seems very close to me.

I pray also for a merciful judgement on his murderer.

Quia apud Dominum misericordia: et copiosa apud eum redemptio.

Andrew said...

Thank you, Dennis and Rita, for your kind comments and for your care and concern.