Miss Kwan Yeuk Laan – Beloved Teacher and Role Model

Barbara Ko (’71)

When I was a young Ying Wa student, Miss Kwan was first and foremost a stern and demanding teacher with a deep voice that commanded full attention of every single student in class.  But she was a good teacher.  Her Geography classes inspired my interest in exploring places, and hence my life-long lust for travel.  I credit my pretty good map reading skill to Miss Kwan, with all the drillings that she put us through in Geography lessons.  More importantly, she was one of the earliest “professional women” that I admired in my formative years.  She had a big and important job in school, and she always had a prominent presence within Ying Wa.  She made me, and probably many other Ying Wa girls, recognize, long before I came to understand the feminist movements, that the two roles of career and family could coexist harmoniously.

Miss Kwan’s famous tofu rolls
Miss Kwan and Class of 1971 at an annual alumnae dinner in Toronto

When I met her again in Canada, Miss Kwan had assumed the family matriarch role, with all the sons-in-law and grandchildren under her full command.  She was the glue of the family, the auntie of her daughters’ friends, and the revered former teacher and vice-principal of Ying Wa.  Her tireless effort to help raise funds for Ying Wa’s redevelopment project rallied the alumni in Canada to contribute.  Her presence at the annual alumni dinner was always warmly received.  We loved the tofu rolls (紮蹄) that she made for fund-raising - they were by far the best that I have ever tasted in Canada. 

Miss Kwan’s 98th birthday party in Toronto in August 2018 with Class of 1971
Back row from left: Kit Yu, Barbara, Miss Kwan, Janet Li
Front row from left: Sonja, Irene
Miss Kwan joined by our former teachers at the same birthday party
Front row from left: Miss Anna Lam, Miss Lily Chow, Miss Kwan, Miss Winnie Yau

Miss Kwan organized the absolutely best annual birthday parties.  Who can forget the table games, the bingo, the lucky draws, the many, many finely wrapped gifts, and her different glittery outfits.  For almost thirty years, her birthday party in August was a summer event that my husband and I relished attending.  Her willingness to exercise and slim down in order to stay healthy after her early heart problems was inspiring and instructive.  Miss Kwan showed us how to keep enjoying life regardless of age, how to age gracefully, and how to live life to its fullest.  Miss Kwan was truly “une grande dame”.   

She may be gone from us, but memories of her will stay in our hearts.  She will be missed, and she will always be remembered fondly.