Passing the baton

Blaze of glory… Mrs Glory Barnabas (competing in lane 3 in the black-and-white photo) won gold for Singapore at the 1973 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games. The national record she set in the 200 metres stood unbroken for 42 years.

SOME know her as Singapore’s sprint queen who won double gold medals in the 200 metres and 4x100 metres relay at the 1973 Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games. But perhaps many more know Mrs Glory Barnabas, 78, as a teacher, mentor or friend. After all, she has a track record of over five decades in the education arena as a Physical Education (PE), English and English Literature teacher.

The I Feel Young SG team met with Mrs Barnabas and found out that her passion for teaching and athletics continues to burn strong. She also let us in on her love for hitting the high notes.

Why did you become a teacher and what are some memorable moments you’ve had from your teaching career?

I was inspired to teach by Mrs Claudette Poulier, my teacher at Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School. She got me interested in track and field and she and her husband would drive me and my schoolmates to national invitational relays. I began teaching in 1961 and enjoy it as I am in the position to educate children.

When I was the Head of Department (HOD) for PE at Tampines Junior College in 1994, I often stretched and warmed up in school early in the morning. A student, Emily Huang, saw me from afar and mistook me for an outsider. She only realised I was one of the teachers after approaching me. We chatted and I sparked her interest in track and field. She was good in long-distance events but was doing some other co-curricular activities (CCAs) at that time. I managed to get her involved in athletics. She did well in national cross-country competitions and later, became a teacher and the HOD for PE at Yishun Town Secondary School. She inspired one of her students at CHIJ Katong Convent, Dinah Chan, to be an athlete and PE teacher too. So you see, our love for teaching was passed down over four generations. Mr Heng Swee Keat (Deputy Prime Minister), who was the Education Minister then, even shared our story at a seminar!

Mrs Glory Barnabas and her students

Touching lives… Mrs Barnabas with a photograph of a netball team she coached at Tampines JC in the mid-2000s.

Are you currently teaching?

I officially retired in 2003. But I continued to teach as an adjunct teacher, helping with teaching and CCA duties for many years. Now I relief teach occasionally; otherwise I would feel bored at home!

My husband, Edwin, is also a retired English teacher. When I ran into problems while teaching, I would seek his advice. He is my main pillar of support. We celebrated 53 years of marriage on 2 July this year.

Mr and Mrs Edwin Barnabas

A common love… Mr and Mrs Barnabas enjoy sports and teaching. Football was Mr Barnabas’ first love!

What do you enjoy besides teaching?

I love athletics and singing! I’ve enjoyed singing since secondary school. I am in the soprano section of my church choir and we practise for two hours every Saturday. I think I’m the oldest member!

I exercise at East Coast Park (ECP) twice a week, using the outdoor fitness stations for 1½ to 2 hours each time. I feel young whenever I train and compete – I hope to compete in the World Masters Athletics Championships for years to come.

As president of the Singapore Masters Athletics (the local governing body for athletes aged 35 and above), my committee and I try to organise more activities, such as a 200-kilometre walk at ECP for Singapore’s bicentennial last December (jointly organised by Geylang Serai Citizens’ Consultative Committee, Singapore Masters Athletics and Geylang Serai Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle). We also organise Kids’ Olympiads to encourage children to choose a sports CCA in future.

What is one piece of advice you would give to fellow seniors?

I encourage seniors to keep active and be an example to the younger ones. Athletics is something you can do with just a pair of shoes; you don’t need much equipment or many people to get started.

Whatever sports you choose, don’t give up. Keep going so you can lead a healthy and active lifestyle, and keep diseases at bay.

Article published on 23/9/2019