Fond memories of teacher who died in AirAsia crash: Students

Ms Florentina Maria Widodo was a former Asean scholar.
Ms Florentina Maria Widodo was a former Asean scholar.PHOTO: FLORENTINA WIDODO/FACEBOOK

She would have been proud of us, say students as they collect results

It was a bittersweet day for the former students of Ms Florentina Maria Widodo, a Hwa Chong Institution teacher who died in the Air-Asia plane crash last December.

"We had planned for a class outing after our A levels, and for Ms Tina to come," said Ng Yi Yang, 18. "Of course, that isn't going to happen now."

Ms Florentina, 26, a former Asean scholar, had been teaching at Hwa Chong since she graduated from the National Institute of Education in 2013.

Yi Yang said the students have fond memories of their form teacher, and her affectionate tolerance.

"Once, we tried to greet her in Bahasa Indonesia. She was amused, but she rolled her eyes. She always rolled her eyes when we made silly jokes," said Yi Yang.

His classmate, Felicia Tham, 18, who wrote a lengthy blog post with pictures of Ms Florentina shortly after the plane crash, said: "I still think about her, and I still check the news for updates on the crash."

Felicia said she had blogged about "Ms Tina" as a way to remember her.

Ms Florentina taught the class project work and biology in their two years together, and Felicia had aced both subjects.

For project work, the students had to work in groups to write a proposal on a task.

"Each group had about 16 drafts, and she vetted all of them," said Felicia. "Ms Tina knew how hard we worked for the exams, and regardless of what our results are, I think she would have felt proud of us."

Yi Yang had his own family crisis to deal with when his twin, Ng Yi Pin, was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2013, during his first year of junior college at Hwa Chong.

Yi Pin was out of school for about half a year, undergoing chemotherapy following surgery to remove two-thirds of his colon.

Instead of letting the illness set him back, the student spent his time at home reading lecture notes and attempting exam papers. When he got better, he tutored Yi Yang, who is older by three minutes, in chemistry and mathematics.

Both sons of a housewife and a lecturer at the Institute of Technical Education did well in the A-level examinations.

Yi Pin was one of the school's top scorers, with eight distinctions, including one in pharmaceutical chemistry, a more advanced H3 subject.

To celebrate his achievements, he was called on stage by Hwa Chong principal Hon Chiew Weng, to loud applause from students.

Yi Pin hopes to study chemistry, and has received an offer from Imperial College London.

Yi Yang, who scored As in biology and economics, and Cs in chemistry and mathematics, said he is thankful to his brother for the "huge improvement".

"I was always failing maths and chemistry," said Yi Yang, who plans to study social sciences or art and design at a local university.

"My grades were not so good in the past, and Ms Tina made time to meet me to chat, just to make sure that I was doing fine.

"She really felt like a friend. She really cared about each of us."

leepearl@sph.com.sg