ANYONE at SMK Sri Utama, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, can tell you how much their principal loves singing. So for Rita Shanthini D Jayaratnam’s retirement, students, as well as teachers, went all out to prepare an amazing array of songs and performances.
“I find singing encourages you when you are feeling sad or demotivated. So I taught them many patriotic songs.
“I don’t think the boys liked singing but after four years, they have gotten used to it, ” said the principal, also known as Rita Chay.
Her ambition when she was younger was to become a singer, air stewardess or hairdresser.
“But my father asked me to become a teacher as I have a very loud voice and I can speak very clearly. He said I would make a good teacher! But I have no regrets, ” said Rita, who received the Super Principal Award in 2010.
However, it wasn’t all roses for Rita as she had to take a break for a year to undergo cancer treatment. Even so, she has remained positive and is a source of motivation for her students.
“I survived cancer but I didn’t take early retirement. I came back and worked for another four years.
“So I always tell my students, what’s your excuse? Because we always give up easily. We tend to have a defeatist attitude, and we say that we are not good enough. That itself is the thing that prevents us from going far.”
Form Five student Sharon Pillai Prakash Pillai said that the principal gives them words of encouragement every morning.
“I feel that my day is good after that. Every time I face a problem, I will remember what she said.
“She is a loving person and motivational teacher. I will always remember her, ” she added.
Teng Kai Deng, who is also in Form Five, said that the principal is always cheerful.
“The school has changed for the better since she came in. She likes to sing and gets us involved in singing patriotic songs, ” he said.
Another fifth former Arman Izzat Adelishah agreed, saying that even the school looks better now.
“She is a very supportive teacher. She tells us about her life experiences, which are valuable.”
Form Five student Sebastian Stephen Edwin recalled the time he was transferred to SMK Sri Utama when he was in Form Two.
“I was a problem student but when I came to this school, Puan Rita told me that she knew I could change. She gave me a chance and I am now a better person because of her. She is the one who changed my attitude.
“So I would like to thank Puan Rita for believing in me. Thank you for all that you’ve done for this school and we will miss you, ” he said.
Ex-colleagues from SMK Assunta, Petaling Jaya, were also at the celebration.
One of them, teacher Tan Lee Lee, said that Rita was a caring principal.
“Many principals are more focused on examination results and the ranking of the school.
“Rita is more into wholesome education and character building, ” she said.
Agreeing, SMK Sri Utama head of language studies Anne Jayaselvi D Devasagayam said that she was very motherly.
“I recently had a major operation. Every day, without fail, she would wish me good morning and ask me how I’m doing.
“What I like about her is that she is a great inspiration to many. She encourages people based on her life experiences, and she has gone through so much. She is like a rock.
“She is a stage four cancer survivor, but it has not stopped her. We will miss her, ” she said.
Parent-Teacher Association chairperson Ian Tan Kheng Heang recalled the first time he met the principal.
“I remember she was in her office, and I could sense that she is warm and approachable. It has been a joy working with her,
“This is a small school with limited funds, so we do what we can. We are very blessed to have dedicated teachers, ” he said about the school, which has an enrolment of 315 students.
A bookmark was made for the event. It had a quote that Rita always believes in: “The heart of education is the education of the heart.”
“If there’s one thing I want people to always remember, it’s this, ” she said.
“I enjoyed this wonderful 36-year-and-three-month journey.
“After this, I look forward to serving the church full-time, ” she added.