Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Serving Excellence: Words of a Principal

Puan Azizah Yusoff (centre, in green) during her Hari Raya open house

On the 4th of March, 1954, an ordinary soul was born on this earth. There was nothing remarkable about the baby girl when she was first born, but 60 years later, the woman she came to be would shine with her works: for at the time that Puan Azizah Yusoff , principal of SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) will leave her legacy to the school and the teaching profession after more than three decades of service as a teacher.

According to her husband, Dr Nik Isahak Wan Abdullah, heart specialist at the Subang Jaya Medical Centre, they have been married for 35 years! This cardiovascular consultant said, ‘We first met at Universiti Malaya, while we were still studying at Second College; and it went on from there.’ According to him, she would get going to work at 5.45 a.m., since she lives in Subang Jaya, being amongst the first person to arrive in school! ‘Sometimes I ask her, does the security guard open the gates for you, or do you do that for him?’ he joked. Her dedication is proved even further when ‘she is busy on the telephone, resolving school administrative issues’ as he continued. Though she was not well received by the parent-teacher association when she first entered SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) as its newly-appointed principal, but with her hard work, she has made SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) a Cluster School of Excellence in 2013. When her husband asked her to transfer to a school closer to their home in Subang Jaya, the parent-teacher association simply refused to let her go! At home, she likes to cook, an after her retirement, her husband thinks that she would spend most of her time in the kitchen, whipping up culinary delights for her family.

From her eldest son’s perspective, Nik Nadzrul Iskandar, 31, says she is strict when it comes to her children's studies and attitudes towards life. ‘She helps me quite a lot in my studies until I have achieved success, perhaps a little more than I liked,’ he said, ‘but that’s her redeeming quality. She personally tutored us in Malay and History, the two subjects which she specialises in. She always gave more than what we asked for. She would also help my friends in their studies as well, and they might’ve loved her more for that than I did.’ After her retirement, he expects her to ‘still be busy, but whatever she does, she would do her best!’

Through these two perspectives of Puan Azizah Yusoff, it is clearly proven that she has deserved the accolades which she has received, such as the Excellent Principal Award and the school's status as a Cluster School of Excellence. Below are ten questions, which delve in-depth into her own views on herself:

What are your feelings on your retirement?
I have mixed feelings on this. I feel sad about having to leave my career, which I have been in for 35 years. I feel proud that I have upheld the teaching profession to exemplary heights. I feel touched that my dream of making SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) an excellent school in the Petaling Utama district. I feel overwhelmed that I would have to break ties with the teachers and students of SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) that I love as my own family. However, I also feel happy as I don't have to wake up so early in the morning anymore!

What are your achievements you have accomplished in life?
I feel proud as I have succeeded in becoming a dedicated teacher, an excellent principal and also have led the school into being recognised as a Cluster School of Excellence and also the choice of local residents. In terms of family, I have succeeded in raising three children who have graduated from university and have successful careers, such as being a financial executive, marketing executive and doctor. My youngest daughter is a fourth-former in SMK Subang Utama. Apparently, I have also succeeded in becoming a grandmother, with a one-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Mariam. 

What is your greatest achievement, in your opinion? 
SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) that has become the dream school, and the retention of its excellence from year to year; to the extent that it has become a Cluster School of Excellence, and hopefully a High Performance School. Students, parents, and teachers are proud to be a part of SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3). Maintaining the performance of SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) is no easy feat; I am considered an effective guide and leader because I have inculcating an excellent cooperative working culture here. With its niche in basketball and other co-curricular activities, SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) has become a reference until it has succeeded in getting contributions and privileges in related fields.Besides having a conducive atmosphere and an interesting environment that is well-equipped with amenities, I am proud that I have fostered a close bond between the parent-teacher association, the local community, the private sector, private institutes for higher education, non-governmental organisations, the District Education Office and the State Education Department all for my beloved SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3).

Why did you choose to be a teacher?
Actually, I should have been an civil administrative officer due to my scholarship that I was under in Universiti Malaya, but in accordance with my husband's wishes, who was a busy heart specialist, before we got married, I changed my interest to fulfilled my husband's dreams because I had to attend to our family (which was a huge responsibility on my part), even though I was also offered an opportunity to further my studies in obtaining my master's degree in the United Kingdom at the London School of Economics in History. To this day, I believe I have made a precise decision which is compatible to my responsibility as a wife and mother so that I can spend time with my family. This proves my excellence in being both a principal and a mother.

How do you balance your career with your family?
When I was still studying, I was very focussed, just as I am now when I am working. I have made a schedule for myself to take into account my priorities and my time. For me, everything has to be done to its best so that I can overcome it easily. I believe that a little time spent wisely is worth much more that a lot of wasted time. For me, time management is important to balance out my responsibilities as principal, teacher, wife, mother and chairperson of the Council of Secondary School Principals of the Petaling Utama district. I also am active not just in my career, but also in societies, like the district and state Councils of Secondary School Principals.

What are the benefits of becoming a principal?
I am able to guide teachers to become better. I have proven the excellence of the school from many aspects. If possible, I hope my name will go down as the architect that built the school's superiority in the district, the state and the country. This has successfully been achieved in 2013 with the school's recognition as a Cluster School of Excellence. I have also become the chairperson of the Council of Secondary School Principals of the Petaling Utama district and also a committee member of the state Council of Secondary School Principals. I am also considered an expert in the SPM syllabus for History and I share this advantage with secondary schools throughout the district and state.
What is your advice to History students?
Students should follow the format and advice given by teachers, as well as use the Form IV and V History Textbooks [when studying]. Students have to make notes and refer to past year SPM questions. Students are advised to focus when the teacher is teaching so that they can answer SPM History questions in the correct manner. Small groups can be formed to discuss structured questions. Students should also do more exercises with objective questions. The first step in scoring in History is to ace through Paper I and Paper III. Short notes must be made so that facts can be easily remembered.

What is your advice to students who are struggling as they enter adulthood?
Every student should have a vision or an insight to work towards. Students should determine their goals and ways to achieve that goal. Students must be optimistic to try their best, be willing to overcome any hurdles and independent as well as high self-discipline. Students' minds must be open and noble in order for them to become individuals who can be the pride of their parents, their school, and the nation as well. This can be attained through focus, persistence, strong principles and high self-esteem, as well as character.

What are your hopes today?
I hope that students and teachers alike would work hard to preserve the school's status as a Cluster School of Excellence and give full commitment towards shared success. This, I hope, is the legacy which I will leave behind. I also hope that everyone in SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) will work as a team and support my successor in the future. SMK Bandar Utama Damansara (3) surely BOLEH and will always be the BEST!

What are your plans after retirement?
I would like to go travelling as much as I can, as long as I am still able. Besides that, I would also want to involve myself in non-governmental organisations. I want to be closer to God by devoting myself more completely to His works. Since I have a shelf full of unread books, I would also get started on reading them that I have left untouched due to my hectic schedule. I might accompany my youngest daughter as she furthers her studies abroad and help care for my grandchildren, as well as accompany my husband overseas as he attends seminars or courses.

Besides this interview, she has also been featured on 'Malaysia Hari Ini' in its Teacher's Day special.

As we end this blog post here, here are a few snaps back at Puan Azizah's open house during Hari Raya:

Ladies first!

The men get the next shot

Family togetherness

With other guests

All smiles here :)

The ladies get ANOTHER picture.

What a lovely house!

Could you ever get enough of it?

Part of the sumptuous spread

Family portrait

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