Right from the start, Vincent Quek made it explicitly clear that he was a teacher-coach.
The leading man of Raffles Institution's (RI) track & field and cross-country teams views himself as a teacher first, and a coach second.
The 40-year-old, who teaches Physical Education (PE) at the school, said: "As a teacher-coach, I have the opportunity to see the students in school all the time, that's an advantage over normal coaches who only see them during training.
"Because of this, when they have issues like academics and emotional problems, they will have no qualms about approaching me, because they see me mainly as a teacher."
Quek, who represented Henderson Secondary School in athletics as a student, graduated from the University of Birmingham with an engineering degree, but quickly realised that it just wasn't his cup of tea.
"When I left university, I thought to myself: 'Engineering just isn't for me'," he said.
"So I went to the National Institute of Education and applied to be a teacher, and I've been teaching PE ever since. It's more rewarding to work with people, particularly school students."
Quek arrived in RI in 2005, after leaving National Junior College (NJC), where he had been coaching athletics. It was the prospect of developing younger students that was most attractive to him.
"The difference between coaching in a junior college and here is the amount of influence that I can have on the students' development," he said.
"In a junior college, you only have one or two years with the students, and even if they're good or not, it won't make much of a difference. At their age, 17 or 18, there's less room for improvement."
"But when you start from Secondary One, like down here, those are the formative years of their life. That's when you can really develop them, and watch them grow from just another student to an outstanding athlete."
His enthusiasm paid off when RI's cross-country team brought home a grand slam of titles to become champions in the A, B and C Divisions this year - a first for the school, while the C Division track & field boys have been finalists for the past two years.
Quek's work is also widely recognised and respected among RI's student community. One of them is hurdler Damien Kee.
The 17-year-old said: "Mr Quek regularly goes the extra mile for us students. What I feel distinguishes him from other teacher-coaches is the fact that he goes beyond his working hours and does things beyond his job description for our sake.
"He always teaches us the importance of giving our best every step of the way, and he always expresses how he feels after every competition, win or lose. It is a value that many people preach, but only a few practise."
This article was first published on Nov 15, 2014.
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