Outgoing union leader plans to return to her first love of teaching

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Former General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers Annetta Alexander-Hunte (Photo contributed)
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By Theresa Goodwin

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There is a popular saying that you never forget your true love, no matter where you go or what you do in life.

That certainly strikes a chord with outgoing General Secretary of the Antigua and Barbuda Union of Teachers Union (A&BUT) Annetta Alexander-Hunte, who has decided to hang up that hat figuratively, and return to the classroom where she first fell in love with the profession in early 2000.

Alexander-Hunte raised a few eyebrows in April when she opted not to put forward a bid for the post she had held for nine years.

In a sit-down interview Sunday morning, Alexander-Hunte told Observer she had done what was required, which was to work with her team to raise the standards of the organisation that represents over 1,500 teachers.

“I think I have completed what I needed to do here and it is time to move on to something else. Nine years here, nine is completion.

“I think I have done what I needed to do, I think I have made my mark; we have moved the organisation to a new level,” Alexander-Hunte said, underscoring that it was a team effort and there is no ‘I in team’.

“I came in as one person and I am leaving as somebody else; I have grown so much. The organisation has taught me so much; no university could teach me what I have learned here – none whatsoever,” she added.

Alexander-Hunte first joined the union when she worked as an educator at the Greenbay Primary School.

She explained that back then it was a prerequisite for teachers to be a part of the body. After joining she became very active and eventually ran for a position on the A&BUT executive but was unsuccessful.

A self-described private person, Alexander-Hunte contested that election without informing her school colleagues. On her second attempt, she secured their full support and was elected member-at-large in 2002.

“I felt as if it was my calling and I have something to do, so I told myself if I am to serve, I am going to do it to the best of my ability and that’s exactly what I did,” she said.

Determined to make a difference in the lives of those who are dependent on the organisation, Alexander-Hunte carried on and later contested the post of Deputy General Secretary and – after some coaxing from others – General Secretary in 2013.

As General Secretary, the union official has worked with various presidents including Ashworth Azille who resigned in April 2020.

Together the team worked to finalise the process of the full reclassification of teachers, upgrades for educators, and transforming the union’s headquarters into a place where professional development can thrive.

The position of the General Secretary and its associated responsibilities do mean much sacrifice and, according to Alexander-Hunte, this included personal time and also time with family.

She credits her strong superbase at home and her extended family for helping to fill the void over the years.

“If you are working for the A&BUT the work is not as easy as one may think; you have to sacrifice your family,” she said.

She explained that the decision not to contest the seat also came as a shock to her family who had grown accustomed to sharing her with the entire education sector.

Moving forward she intends to slow down and make up for lost time. Her desire now is to return to the classroom, specifically the primary setting, to continue making a difference.

“I just want a nice little class and I can imagine the kind of work we can put out because school sometimes is considered boring. Covid has taught us that change is dynamic and I can go back to my classroom and have some fun,” Alexander-Hunte said.

She added that she is grateful for the support of the incoming and outgoing executive and others who have worked with her over the years.

 Sharon Kelsick is the union’s new General Secretary and was sworn in along with other members of the new executive at the union’s Annual Delegates Conference last Thursday.

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