“I had always emphasized becoming a valuable person to my students for the last 22 years,” Lee said. “However, after a terrible accident took my eyesight away, I felt like I had become a useless person, often thinking of death at the time.”
Noticing Lee’s frustration, her husband, who is also a teacher, started collecting various educational materials. These materials, which came from all over the country, had been trivialized and abandoned in the course of the rapid economic growth of Korea. He wanted to prove to her that Lee is not only well loved, but also a great teacher.
“I found his plan quite absurd at first,” Lee recalled. “However, I could not stop him from doing it, as I knew that he was doing it so that our descendants could remember our history. His efforts to convince me to think of myself as a valuable person changed my mind eventually.”
Lee confesses that the innocence of children captivated her to dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. Believing that primary education is the root, spirit and foundation of our country, Lee was a one-of-a-kind teacher that emphasized character education, teaching students to know, acknowledge, and ultimately love themselves.
Her passion for character education shows no sign of slowing down in Deokpojin Museum of Education. As a director and a guide, Lee teaches visitors the importance of Liberal Arts in our lives. Also, Lee’s class in the museum is always full of children’s songs and poems accompanied by the old organ from Grade 3 Class 2.
“Many historical figures, including Helen Keller and Tolstoy emphasized the importance of being a warm-hearted person,” Lee said. “After I overcame my disabilities, I figured out that my own secret to opening my soul lies in singing songs and reciting poems, which I cannot let go of even at this age.”
Lee’s enthusiasm for songs is also well known at Ewha. When Lee visited Ewha as the winner of the 10th Ewhaian Award and the speaker at the chapels, she sang several children’s songs in front of Ewha students and faculty.
Lee said that her visits to Ewha reminded her of the phrase “Altruistic behaviors are self-interested,” as Lee could learn unexpected lessons from Ewha students and faculties.
After Lee finished her speech at the chapels, several professors held her hands and confessed that they had been moved to tears. Lee also met one student who wept uncontrollably in front of her after the chapel. The student said that Lee’s words had emboldened her to move forward despite hardships.
“I visited Ewha to give people courage, but I am the one who was infused by Ewha students and professors with courage, love and gratefulness,” Lee recalled.
Over the past 10 years, a lot of Ewha alumni have visited the museum, for which Lee feels very grateful. However, the number of visitors has dwindled recently. As a result, the lessons are held for only a small number of visitors.
Also, the decreased number of visitors makes it difficult to manage the museum, as sufficient funds cannot be secured to keep the display in its finest shape. As a one-of-a-kind museum that has collected educational materials since 1995, Deokpojin Museum of Education has been working on both the display and public relations on its own, which is not an easy task for a private museum.
In spite of these challenges, Lee still wants to manage the museum, especially the Grade 3 Class 2, by herself as long as she can.
“Rousseau said, ‘Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet,’” Lee quoted. “Keeping the museum at its finest is very demanding, especially for an old lady like me. However, I am sure that all the work I do is worthwhile and rewarding.”
Lee’s aspirations never cease within the museum, and is stretched worldwide.
“I wish I could play my organ and sing songs in front of Koreans who live in foreign countries one day,” Lee said. “My organ is not just an ordinary organ. It is one that echoes within our soul and can make our grandparents’ generation be flooded with old memories.”