Staff Stories: Bernard Quay

MEd (Leadership and Management) (Graduating in 2023), DipEd (Secondary), Bachelor of  Social Sciences

Bernard’s life and career has been nothing short of an adventure... 

Mentone Grammar’s LOTE (Mandarin) Teacher, Bernard Quay, trained and worked in the Singapore Navy, completed a Bachelor's degree in Geography and performed with a crew of dancers, all before changing careers and immigrating to Melbourne to work as our respected LOTE Teacher. He attributes his adventurous life to the philosophy of “focus on your goals and your future will work itself out”.

Bernard was born and raised in Singapore. He grew up in a broken home, where he was primarily raised by his grandma and aunts. “My difficult family life drove me to become independent and mature at a very young age. I was determined to make something out of my life, and not be defined by my parents.” Bernard found his greatest support in his step-mum, who never failed to encourage and love him throughout challenging times. “She was the best thing that ever happened to me. My step-mum guided me through a lot of decisions in my life, and never failed to remind me that I was loved.”

“I firmly believe that anyone can grow into what they want to be, regardless of where their starting line is.”

At school, Bernard was a lively student who frequently managed to get into mischief. “I just wanted my classes to be more fun, so I was always thinking of silly pranks that could make dull lessons more enjoyable. When I had a teacher that was engaging, I truly loved to learn and excelled. My favourite subject was geography because I had a fantastic teacher, who was strict, but extremely interesting.”

Apart from the occasional prank, Bernard immersed himself in every school experience: from joining the cadets, to playing sport, and becoming the Vice President of the drama and debating clubs. His commitment to his education saw him awarded the ‘Republic of Singapore Navy Scholarship,’ which was granted to students who demonstrated academic excellence and a range of co-curricular activities. The scholarship provided him with a free university education after serving five years in the Navy.

Bernard began his training in the Officer Cadet School and learned key military skills in leadership, combat, tactics and navigation. “This experience taught me that mental strength is more important than physical strength; and it’s the good people around you that can be fundamental in your success.” After nine months, Bernard was posted on a landing ship tank, where he developed a love for sailing and being out at sea. “I still love to go out on boats today, and enjoy fishing and kayaking trips. I take great pleasure in being in nature, whether it’s growing my garden, walking in a forest or being out at sea.”

After two years in the navy, Bernard realised he didn’t want to be apart from his family and friends anymore. “I was contracted to the navy for five years, but I missed being with my loved ones so much. With much consideration, I gave up my scholarship and enrolled to complete an undergraduate course in geography. I was fascinated by the world, and how it was formed. Singapore is a large city on a small island, so it didn’t have much nature or landforms. I wanted to explore the world’s landscapes, and study what else was out there.”

After completing his bachelor in geography, Bernard still felt like he hadn’t found his perfect career path. “During university, I was part of a crew that performed salsa and hip hop dancing for private events. Performing made me realise that I really enjoyed engaging people and sharing knowledge.” Before committing to another career change, Bernard decided to trial education as a casual relief teacher for a month.

“I found that teaching young people was so rewarding. I loved the experience.”

Bernard was awarded a scholarship with the Singapore Ministry of Education, which funded his postgraduate in secondary education. His first role after graduating was teaching english and geography at a high school in Singapore. “To be honest, I initially planned on teaching for a few years, then moving onto another career path. Eleven years later, I am still teaching, and I couldn't think of a better way to spend my life.”

In 2017, Bernard and his partner made the best decision of their lives to move to Melbourne, get married and start a family. "With God's blessing, I am now married to the woman I love and have a beautiful baby girl, Riley. We look back at our lives over the past four years in Australia, and it has been nothing short of a miracle." 

One month after arriving in Australia, Bernard applied for a role at Mentone Grammar to teach mandarin. “Mentone Grammar had a fantastic reputation, and I was so honoured to be part of it. Everyone has been nothing but supportive of me. My colleagues and the school community have been a huge blessing in my life - they make work so enjoyable.”
Since joining Mentone Grammar in 2017, Bernard has had some incredible opportunities, such as travelling to Central Australia three times and South China on the Year 8 Learning Journey.

“I love being part of a school that has students from different backgrounds with different stories. The students here are inherently kind, motivated and positive. Everyone has something unique to offer, and we, as teachers, get to help them find their path.”  

Author: Steph Kinnear

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