“Ms. Williams, Thank you for always pushing me to do my best. I will forever continue to use your words of wisdom to guide me when I’m in college. Je t’aime beaucoup et Je te manquera. Chelsey.” As I read those words, thoughts of the teachers who had really made a difference flooded back to me, and I can’t recall sending them a formal thank you note, as my former student Chelsey did, so here goes, Thank You!
My thoughts wander to my Kindergarten teacher Ms. Adina Connor who was a constant throughout my life, and the lives of so many St. Paulians. My thoughts go back to Ms. Jacqueline Douglas who wrote such glowing remarks on my third grade report sheet. It is brown and tattered but I still have it. My thoughts go on to Ms. Debbie Isaac who was such a quiet and sweet lady. She instilled a passion for learning. My thoughts go back to Ms. Thomas from Newton Ground who was quite stern and kept everyone in check. I secretly loved her style and thought that one day the skills she exhibited may do me some good, and they did. My thoughts go on to Mr. Egbert Freeman who was relentless in sports. My thoughts go back to the legendary Mr. Vincent Hodge who governed, who fathered, and who changed the trajectory of so many lives. He was the “Mr. Clarke” of our day. The stories of him going through the band in his red shorts with his belt are not myths but the truth. My thoughts go back to Ms. Cannonier who I still remember although I was very young. My thoughts go back Ms. De Guire, although she never taught me was a close and darling friend of my mother and who epitomized the teaching profession. My thoughts go on to my Godmother Ms. Pauline Locker, Ms. Lorozine Williams and Mr. Quinton Morton who didn’t leave their professions at school but brought it to church where they served quite ably in nurturing young minds. My thoughts go on to teachers like Ms. Virna Williams who loved children dearly and took in the friends of their children and mothered them.
My thoughts go on to Ms. Patricia Lake my fifth grade home room teacher who was strict but many a lesson did we learn. I loved her devotion to God, her passion for the profession, and her keen way of instilling focus and discipline. At one point even though I wasn’t Catholic, because of Ms. Lake I dreamt of becoming a Nun. My thoughts go on to Sister Genevieve, oh dear Sister Genevieve, need I say more. There was Brother Rich, Father Gerard, Mr. Ron Baccarat and Ms. Weiser. My thoughts go on to Ms. Blondell Franks who instilled a love not only for History but for fashion. She was ever so the fashionista, and as I did my homework I wondered just what Ms. Franks would be wearing to school the next day. Ms. Franks instilled a love for the English language as she had such perfect diction. She taught us what it meant to be and how to be a lady. My thoughts go on to Mr. Gregory Gilbert, you put up with us! We were not an easy bunch. My thoughts go on to Mr. Andrew Weekes. Mr. Weekes was real, fun and cool. We learnt Math but we also got a bonus, lessons in cricket as well. My thoughts go on to Mr. Mike he taught Math, and also entrepreneurship through his pizza making business.
My thoughts go on to Ms. Julie Martin who instilled a love for the Languages. Ms. Martin is just one of those unforgettable teachers. It is hard to find words to describe her. Classy, smart, diva, fashionable, stern, great command, evolving are just some words that came to mind. She did so much more than teach. She cared. Through the art of dance and pageantry she gave so many young girls the much needed self-esteem that they craved. My mind wanders on to Ms. Kate Orchard who ruled her lab with an iron fist. She was a great teacher. I learnt a lot. My mind wanders to Mr. Ron Collins who used unconventional methods of teaching. It is from him that we learned how to stand up for ourselves, to go against the grain, and to swim in uncharted waters. We survived. We didn’t drown. We did well. Mr. Collins was one of those teachers you just can’t put into words. He was a teacher. He was a confidant. He was friend. You could always count on him for a good laugh. He taught us how to live. My mind wanders to Ms. Mills who brought Annie John to life, and how could I forget Ms. Eileen Grey. Ms. Grey, a Principal who knew every student by name. I marveled at this.
My mind wanders to Ms. Rita Cable who reigned supreme over Basseterre Senior High. There were the myths and stories that one would not want to be on the other end of Ms. Cable’s strap because she spent hours in the gym. I always found Ms. Cable to be an affable person. My thoughts go on to Ms. Delores Ward, an unforgettable lady, someone who has always been very dear to my heart, not because she taught English so well, but because she was a sweet, gentle, and dear person. She was one of those teachers who taught me to believe in myself. She was like a mother. There was Mr. Ellis Edwards, calm, cool, and collected. He always had a story to tell. He was your teacher, but he was also relatable and he was your friend. He is one of those teachers who stuck with you throughout the years. He taught Languages, but he also taught us about life, and love of family. He always shared stories of his family with us, and we loved that. He genuinely wanted to know how you were doing, and also had a solution to offer or something uplifting to share. He also encouraged us to shoot for the stars.
There was Mr. Levi Bradshaw. Again, Mr. Bradshaw was one of those unforgettable teachers, who taught Math but told you stories of his Villa in Mansion adequately dubbed “Falcon Crest,” and whenever we drove by we would always wonder where this Falcon Crest actually was. Bradshaw, as we called him, was mysterious, cool, calm, and collected. He was also brilliant, and had an uncanny sense of humor. He cared. Everyone liked him. He would always ask, “Hey gal, what wrong with you and the Math.” My response of, “I just don’t like it,” didn’t cut it. He prodded and prodded. He even threatened to have them take away my Chemistry because the results had proven that once you were failing Math there was no way you were going to pass Chemistry. I remember another conversation where he asked how I was able to understand something as complex as vectors but yet failed the simple stuff. My response was, “I liked vectors so I practice it, I don’t like the other stuff so just don’t practice the other stuff. I don’t understand why you have to do this or that or go all around the place in order to figure out one simple answer, that just takes too much time.” To Mr. Bradshaw I now say that you gave your all and you tried your best. I failed the Math, it was the only subject I failed, and deep down I knew that I failed because I refused to apply myself. This was a valuable life lesson. It was a lesson that taught me to give a 100% to a task whether I liked it or not. And you would be quite pleased to know that when I got an A in my college Math class, my thoughts wandered back to you, and I said, “Boy wouldn’t Bradshaw be proud to see that I finally got it.”
Ms. Sonia Mc Phail or as she was dubbed, “Ms. Must Fail,” did hold true to her name, she was by far the most difficult teacher I have ever come across. Her standards were very, very high. My report would always show nothing beyond the 40% mark in Biology and boy did I feel defeated. There were always the words, “Try Harder,” and I wondered how much harder, did this woman want me to try. The blows she delivered were always softened by those who had passed her through her hands, who said not to worry that she was only preparing us for the dreaded CXC exams which we all passed. For a moment I thought that I was crazy after surviving her to return for more blows when I took A’ Level Biology. Like a badge of honour however I can say I survived Ms. Mc Phail not once but twice, because once again I passed. Ms. Mc Phail, you taught me how to never give up and always try harder.
There were teachers like Dr. Sharon Halliday, Ms. Woodley and Ms. Christmas who instilled a love for Chemistry, and as a young girl knowing that the world of science was dominated by men, it was refreshing that those who stood before us instilling this knowledge were women who had not only survived it but excelled at it. I recall Ms. Woodley as a darling quiet lady who pulled you aside, took the time to explain a Chemistry problem, and also provided that extra nudge of encouragement that you needed. There was Lady Parker as we referred to her. She taught Accounting. She was an elegant lady who chose her words and executed them carefully. The list goes on. I remember Ms. Eunice George. We dubbed her “Classy.” She the quintessential lady, always neat and well put together. She was quiet. I can’t remember Ms. George raising her voice once. There was Mr. Leroy Pemberton; I think it was who taught Literature, oh how I envied my classmates who got to take his class, because he seemed like the gold standard of teachers. He was a gentleman. His English was impeccable. There were teachers like Mr. Paul who were like the Michael Jordan of teaching. He knew his topic like the back of his hand. He came in, and slam dunked it every single time.
My thoughts go on to Mr. Stanley Knight who you could always count on for a bright smile or a good laugh. Mr. Knight you still owe me a trophy! My thoughts go on to Ms. Sant who brought a passion for History to the classroom and who like so many other teachers was quite fashionable. My thoughts go on to Ms. Heather Joseph, “Oh Ms. Joseph!” To this day classmates still refer to me as “Ms. Joseph’s daughter!” It was an interesting ride. Words cannot describe. You taught me many a valuable lessons which at that time I didn’t see, nor could I understand. I was a little chatterbox, with a short attention span, and somewhat questionable tact, and you taught me to curb all that. I thought at first that you didn’t like me but it was just a matter of tough love, and I love you for it and thank you dearly.
There were teachers like Ms. Delcia Bradley-King, again another lady, always prepared, always well put together; a curl was never out of place. Ms. Bradley instilled a love of English. Ms. Bradley like Ms. Ward holds a very special place in my heart because they believed in me and encouraged creativity. Through their efforts they showed me what was possible. To this day I still hold memories of my show, “The Mutryce Van Damme Show,” which Ms. Bradley let me create and host. Through this show I became Oprah. I honed my interviewing skills. I discovered a love for theatrics, journalism, public speaking, and I was able to be creative. I would never forget the composed lady like Ms. Bradley hand over mouth trying to hold back her laughter as I grilled my guests, and they responded. I never forgot the swarms of students from other classes peering in trying to get a glimpse of this “phenomenal show.” It was Ms. Bradley who nominated me to read the Sunday evening news with Mr. Vere Galloway, a moment I would never forget. It was a moment which made my grandmother and neighbour Mr. Smith very proud because they had such great respect for people who read the news. I made them proud and Ms. Bradley made this possible.
My thoughts go on to Mr. Keith Fraser who embraced me when Maxine Stanley dragged me to his extra Geography classes. I wasn’t a student at Sandy Point High, and he was offering extra classes for his students, and I thought well if I pass, this would be a pass for Basseterre Senior High so why would he want me in his class? I would never forget how he made me feel a part of that class, and took an interest wanting to see me succeed. You don’t forget people like this. My thoughts go on to Mr. Mologo Kelly who taught so well, that when I finished my Blue Reading and Sketching course with him at CFBC, I knew that I was going to study Architecture, but it was not to be, I suppose in reflection that is one of the few regrets that I do have, but who knows?
And finally Ms. Ingrid Charles-Gumbs, words cannot describe! Words cannot describe! You saved me. You listened. You loved me. You mothered me. You did not judge. You encouraged me. The words of Josh Groban come to mind when I think of you. “You raised me up!” “You raised me up.” You have always been there. You are always there. You knew me best. You know me best. I modeled you. You are a great person. You were a great role model. My love of and passion for volunteerism and activism I got that from you. You taught that education was not good in and for itself but ought to be used for the advancement of causes and others, and I thank you.
I asked a few classmates of teachers who they remember fondly in addition to those I have mentioned. Mr. Wayland Vaughn, Mr. Osbert De Souza, Mr. Baker, Mr. Livingston Pemberton, Mr. Clyde Richardson, Mr. Gregory Morson, and Mr. Duncan Wattley, Ms. Lorna Callendar, Ms. Supa Harris, Mr. Vernon Harris, Ms. Patricia Martin, Ms. Sharon Rattan, Ms. Morlene Whittaker, Ms. Torfreda Rochester, Ms. Theresa Nisbett, Ms. Jacqueline Armony, Mr. Oaklyn Peets, Ms. Sheila Morris, and Ms. Victoria Richardson your students send a great big hello and say that they remember and treasure you.
Teachers don’t only teach they prepare you for life. They provide you with opportunities. They show you parts of yourselves that you never knew existed. They build your self-esteem. They believe in you and your abilities. It was Hillary Rodham Clinton who said that teachers were necessary to train young citizens and without them you wouldn’t have much of a country. I firmly believe this. To everyone who has ever stepped into a classroom I hope that you know that you were not only there to impart knowledge but you were there to make a difference and you did. To all teachers past, and present, and a special hello to the Teachers at the Cotton-Thomas Comprehensive School, thank you for all that you do! THANK YOU!