We can never forget them, even if we try, because they have left an indelible mark on our young minds. They helped to mold us, much like the famed potters from Seaview Farm would shape a coal pot or an earthen jar, into the men and women that we are today. You can find at least one of them behind every successful man and woman here in our fair state. We looked up to them. We idolized them. We believed in them. And to this day, we recall their names fondly, and in hushed and reverential tones. Yes, we feared and respected them; sometimes even more than our own parents. We wanted to be like them. So much so, we have even adopted some of their mannerisms and sayings as our own. We’re talking about the great teachers from ‘the old school.’
Teaching is a calling – at least, those from ‘the old school’ were called. And they dedicated their lives to nurturing us with blackboard and easel, and chalk and slate, and patience and dedication, and the strap and the cane. They were the best at what they did, and we have a sinking feeling that they are of a breed that is now extinct.
But their memory and legacies live on, for the seeds that they planted have borne much good fruit. So, in honour of their sacrificial effort on our behalf, and with hearts full of much praise and gratitude, we will list the names of those pedagogues who did so much for us. These names were provided by the callers and WhatsAppers to this past Monday’s VOICE OF THE PEOPLE broadcast, and we recall them reverentially, in no particular order:
Mable Francis, Wendell Nicholas and Cedric Beazer from Barbuda, Emma Jacobs, Sybil Forde Ambrose, Dame Bridget Harris, Lesroy Merchant, Natalie Hurst, Irene B. Williams, mother of our Governor General, Sir Rodney Williams, and our recently dearly departed, Iva Williams David, Michael Francis, Edgar Davis, Florence Johnson, Yvette ‘Vettie’ Francis, Hilda Davis (Founder, the Foundation Mixed School aka ‘Miss Davis School’ in 1939. Happy 80th to that venerable institution of learning, and our national treasure!) Miss Swift, Genevieve ‘Teacher Gen’ Smith, Henreitta Henry, Mary Henry, Daisy Pestaina, Charles Leopold Duncan Henry (Founder, the Goodwill Academy aka Henry School), James Sebastian, Campbell Barnes, Joycelyn Williams, Merle Martin, Miss Palmer, Dorilyn White, Augusta ‘Teacher Pepsi’ Hill, Elkanah Lewis, Mrs. King, Teacher Hyacinth, Julia Weston, Rowan Phillip, Henderson Bass, Romeo Challenger, Alrich Looby, Ada Mae Johnson, Beatrice “Teacher Bee” Hampson Owen, Elizabeth Hart Twaithes (Founded first school in Bethesda in 1813), Vincent Benjamin, Ilma James, Yolanda Peters, Dame Eusalyn Lewis, Mr. Pryce, Mr. Morton, Stephen Joseph, Irma Bachelor, Joseph Hampson, Miss Friday, Mr. Hill, Dr. Edris Joseph, Lucinda Payne, Florita Kentish, Princess Skerritt, Jacintha Pringle, Gertrude Spencer, Teacher Daley, Anthony Hampson, Agnes Jeffrey, Dr. Alister Francis, Dr. Edris Bird, Mr. Christopher O’Marde, Mrs Irene Jonas, Headteacher Roberts, Megan Sampson, Charles Sampson, Peter Parker, Joseph Quinn, Rhonis Richardson, Maclean Matthias, George Massiah, Maisie Southwell, Eloise Hamilton, Eustace Hill, Alphonsus Derrick, Edson Buntin, Heather Doram, Father Ralph Brown, Gloria David, Rosemary David Robinson, Millicent David, Miriam Samuel, Charlesworth Samuel, Evelyn Davis Sheppard, Peaches Spencer, Mrs. Byam, and so on and so forth.
Of course, these are but a few of the highly esteemed teachers whose names and classroom exploits will never be forgotten. Whenever we pronounce a particular word, or ponder the spelling of another, or shape a particular letter, or recall a tender assembly hymn, or a great quote, or beautiful poetry or prose, or a funny, or not-so-funny classroom incident, we will remember them fondly. Indeed, the recollections and amusing perspectives of many of our calypsonians have added, and will forever add, to the enormous appreciation that we have for our teachers and our childhood days of wonder and learning. For example, Sparrow takes us back to a time and place of innocence in SCHOOLDAYS. He also takes a swipe, tongue-in-cheek, at the British colonial education syllabus in DAN IS DE MAN. Bill Trotman causes us to wax nostalgic in WANT TO GO BACK TO SCHOOL, and of course, the Mighty Dougla delights us with his take on our innocent schoolboy / schoolgirl crushes on our teachers.
Interestingly, a calypso/reggae wannabe named, the Mighty Quinn, offered his tribute to the great teachers of yore in the form of a dancehall rap called BIG-UP TO DEM TEACHERS! We cite it here to conclude our ‘ode on a blackboard, to teacher, with love’:
“Gimme de great teachers
Mek meh gwaan talk dem bout
And all peon-peon teachers gwaan go cool out
Gimme de great teachers