An exceptional and treasured tutor…Patricia Holford is a ‘Special Person’
Pull Quote: “Tools which lie idle will become rusty. You have to keep yourself busy otherwise there will be room for your abilities to become tarnished.”
By Sharmain Grainger
The notion that a good teacher is like a candle which consumes itself to light the way for others has resonated well with the teaching career of Mrs Patricia Holford. In fact, this month marks 13 years since she has been so dedicating herself to young girls – most of whom are dropouts – attending the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA). Twenty-four years prior, she was dedicated to similar undertakings at the Clerical Commercial Institute (CCI) which was then situated at the junction of Waterloo and Quamina Streets, Georgetown.
As a teacher of both English and Typewriting at various levels, Mrs Holford was over the years able to significantly impact the lives of a number of individuals, primarily young women, by instilling values that ranged from good mannerisms to even a belief in God. Many of her students have since grown into principled adults who have assumed prestigious positions in public offices.
Mrs Holford revealed that teaching is not merely a profession to her, but has been a way of life, since it has helped her to redefine the role of motherhood, not only to her own children, but also to those who were entrusted into her teaching care. She warned, though, that the teaching career is certainly not for the fickle-minded, but for those fit to endure sessions with students, some of whom are tough and wayward, with a view of instilling lessons that will have a lasting impression.
At the age of 78, Mrs Holford still has the stamina to attend to two classes simultaneously at the YWCA but, as of last week, is prepared to put an end to her “talk and chalk” profession at the behest of her children and the guidance of the Almighty.
She intimated during her interview that her life’s path for the past years has been nothing short of a manifestation of divine guidance.
Reflecting on her stint at the YWCA, which commenced on September 13, 1999, Mrs Holford recounted that just as suddenly as she was ejected from what she thought was a secure job at CCI, she was thrust into another. It was certainly not anticipated that she would have ended up at the YWCA which is known to cater to girls who do not have the ability or sometimes opportunity, for one reason or another, to complete their schooling in the mainstream education system.
Her move to the YWCA occurred during a time when she was struggling to make ends meet for her family of seven children having lost her husband, the main breadwinner, a few years before.
“CCI had decided to close its doors. And though they were claiming they would later rehire staff I was going to be out of a job. I had a family to take care of and I didn’t know what I was going to do. A friend even asked me what I would do and all I could say at that point was that God would take care of me since He (God) said He would take care of the widow and the orphans.”
She was at the time referring to the biblical book of Psalm 146 which speaks to the notion that God will sustain the fatherless and the widow.
It was a matter of days after being laid off from CCI that Mrs Holford was before an interview panel at the YWCA, which would eventually become her place of employment and an avenue for her to really exercise her teaching skills.
Born on April 23, 1934, Mrs Holford was raised a devoted Catholic, but would eventually trade in those beliefs for that obtained at the Kitty Assemblies of God Church where she remains a Sunday School teacher even today. The sacred wisdom she obtained in church was somehow transmitted to her classroom.
Her dedication to the profession ensured that she knew each child in the classroom which allowed her to classify them according to their capabilities. She developed a rigid and passionate programme which has seen her working over the years diligently with individuals assigned to her, with the aim of ensuring that their best is obtained in and out of the classroom.
“Although most of the girls that I have dealt with at the YWCA were dropouts, some of them were very good and cooperative, and so I found it interesting dealing with them. I would always urge them to aim for the sky…and you could easily recognise those who would shine and I realised that I couldn’t pull them down to meet the in-between students, otherwise they wouldn’t be interested in the work anymore. Those at the bottom of the ladder I encouraged to run, but that didn’t mean I didn’t walk with them until they were able to run on their own and reach to the higher heights of learning,” Mrs Holford reflected.
She recalled teaching beginners and advanced students at the same time, all the while catering to their individual needs and concerns. According to Mrs Holford, she always found it a great importance to keep her students occupied, since overtime she has recognised that “tools which lie idle will become rusty. You have to keep yourself busy otherwise there will be room for your abilities to become tarnished”.
As teacher to her own children, all of whom are working adults today, Mrs Holford was certainly not lenient, as she understood the need for them to be respectful to their teachers and to complete the various tasks assigned to them.
“I never had to visit a school for my children because I always warned them that I had a job and they also had a job to do as they are told. When I sent them to school it was for them to learn not to cause problems, but to learn, and they understood that.”
However, this did not mean that the use of the wild-cane was not employed from time to time as the need arose. With a sly smile on her face she reminisced on what she termed “advance whipping” just to ensure that no slip-ups would occur.
Whether it was teaching in the classroom, at church or at her home, Mrs Holford recalled that it was always her passion to take extra care and time to explain even the simplest of things to others. Even as a little girl her favourite pastime was pretending to be a teacher to her toys, so it was almost inevitable that she would become one that took pride in the quality of students she produced.
As a young child she resided at Sandy Babb Street, Kitty, with her mother, and attended the St Angela’s and then St Barnabas Primary Schools. At the latter mentioned institution she was among eight students who undertook the School Leaving Examination. She was the only one who was successful at that examination thus making her mother, who had raised her single-handedly following the death of her father, very proud. The young Patricia’s next step in life was not immediately defined after examination which saw her being sent to learn sewing under the guidance of a relative.
However, she would soon be diverted to the Jane Sergeant Commercial School at Fourth Street Alberttown, Georgetown, where she received formal shorthand training which she learnt with much ease.
“I caught on very quickly and after awhile I was able to write 80 words per minute. To me it wasn’t as difficult as what I’d heard some people say and within a year I did the first two exams – Theory One and Theory Two – and before I knew it they were offering me a job to teach a beginners class,” she recounted.
She mastered elementary typing and went on to do higher levels and surpassed all expectations, which was indeed instrumental in her gaining a position at CCI. It was during this period, Mrs Holford remembered, that she was betrothed to Special Branch Police Detective, Charles Holford. He had requested her hand in marriage in the most old-fashion of ways.
“I had never met him before, but one day a letter came to my mother…He had written to my mother asking for permission to visit the home and my hand in marriage, but I really wasn’t ready for that at that time.”
The two eventually recognised that they had some common interests, among them the art of typewriting, an area in which she was well advanced by then. They would eventually tie the wedding knot on February 27, 1960. Their union produced seven children – two girls: Faye and Michelle, and five boys: David, Gordon, Mark, Owen, and Devon. A total of 11 grandchildren have since resulted. Despite the passing of her husband who had over the years supported her every endeavour, the family has remained close-knit, residing at a house he left them at Lot 12 D Shell Road, Kitty, Georgetown.
With no particular plan on the horizon, Mrs Holford is convinced that she still has some teaching skills left in her but she concluded “I will do nothing for now because I am waiting on the Lord to make the next move.”