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To the Memory of Great Teacher

Posted September. 26, 2001 09:01,   


``The grace of teacher is as infinite as the sky. With more respect, the greater grace is experienced.``

Surrounded by his students, tears fell from a haggard-faced teacher, as `the song for teacher` was sung in the traditional music room at the Chunghyo branch, Kwangju East Elementary School, Chunghyo-Dong, Buk-Gu, Kwangju City.

This small school, comprised of just 36 students and located in the mountain within the city, held an honorary retirement ceremony for a great teacher Moon Kwan-Shik, retiring from teaching while struggling with cancer.

Mr. Moon has awakened the poetic sentiment of the innocent children detached from the metropolitan life for the past two years in this school, and thus enabled 14 students to win prizes in the most prestigious children`s composing contest in May this year. Moreover, he was sent to this school when it was about to close, but he made it the most beautiful school in the nation. (Donga Ilbo page A27 on May 12 and page A31 on June 1)

Mr. Moon`s retirement ceremony was provided by his students and their parents with sincerity in an elegant atmosphere. In spite of the busy farming season, the parents prepared the rice cakes and the fruits on the floor of the traditional music room, and the students were reading the letters to their teacher, sitting abound him.

``It was pleasure to see you again. We have been praying for you to recover from the disease. Don`t worry about us now. And we hope you will get well.`` As a six-grade student Moon Ok-Hyun (12) read `a letter to the teacher`, Mr. Moon caressed Ok-Hyun`s head, saying that a once troublemaker now has become a good girl.

``You are the great teacher who has imbued dream and courage for the parents as well as the students. Praying for your health, we contained our gratitude in this appreciation plaque``.

As soon as a representative of parents presented an appreciation plaque after students` letter reading, Mr. Moon took out an envelope containing 2 million won from his pocket.

``Although I retire from teaching, I dedicate the small portion of my retirement allowance to this school, hoping this school would be the best in the nation.`` Considering Mr. Moon`s difficult situation due to the expensive medical cost, the parents hesitated to receive it. But they could not convince him to give up his will.

The medical examination found out that Mr. Moon could only live for three to six months due to the liver cancer. But he has a ray of hope since the cancer cells have not proliferated as a result of three-month recuperation and one-month radiation treatment.

``During my struggling under the treatment, my students have emailed everyday, and my former students took care of me staying for a few days. So, I have deeply felt an affection between a teacher and students.``

After the retirement ceremony, Mr. Moon looked around the vegetable garden he and his students cultivated together. And he left the school, saying ``I don`t think at all that my 32 years-teaching was worthless.``

Jung Seung-Ho shjung@donga.com