Going the distance for her students

SINGAPORE - After Harold Ong finished the race, the first thing he did was to hug and thank his teacher-in-charge.

It did not matter whether the team had won the title or not, what mattered was that he completed the race, and finally felt good about himself.

And the one person he wanted to thank most was his school's cross country teacher-coach Sheikha Fadzleen, the only one who believed in him and gave him the opportunity.

Said the 16-year-old student from Victoria School (VS): "I wanted to give up running to focus on my studies as I wasn't doing well in school.

"But Madam Sheikha was very understanding. She gave me the necessary encouragement and support I needed.

"During the race, I told myself that I wanted to make her proud. I couldn't have done well without her."

Sheikha sets the example of a truly inspirational teacher, who shoulders additional responsibilities as both a PE teacher and coach.

Over the years, she has groomed numerous sporting stars from scratch.

But Harold was one of those who truly inspired her. From a student who was viewed as a "slacker" by his peers, Sheikha transformed him into a top runner in VS.

She said: "I invited Harold to join the cross country team towards the end of last year as he didn't have a CCA (Co-Curricular Activity).

"I realised his potential after I saw his NAPFA (National Physical Fitness Assessment) results.

"Initially, I had to call him every day to attend our morning trainings as he couldn't wake up on time.

"His attitude gradually improved, and his efforts paid off when he finished 14th at the nationals (National Inter-School Cross Country Championships).

"After the race, he hugged and thanked me for everything. It's a feeling money cannot buy. To me, this is a defining moment as a teacher."

Last week, despite being more than seven months' pregnant, Sheikha led her charges to yet another National Inter-School B Division Cross Country title.

Since she took over the sport in 2007, VS has won six titles.

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