Jan 25, 2009 News
“Teachers need to stop focusing on the small salaries and let teaching and assisting children become priority. They need to develop a love for their job and build a desire inside to be patient with, and ready to help their students.”
A retired headmistress at age 62, Joan James a/ka Teacher Patsy has contributed significantly to the education sector of Region #5 and presently spearheads several social and academic projects.
‘Teacher Patsy’ as she his fondly referred to by many, resides at Lot 42 Ferguson Street, Hopetown Village, West Coast Berbice, and although she has resigned from her post, says she still ‘cannot rest’. As such, she engages in several programmes geared at helping the youths in her area and also improving literacy among young Berbicians.
Teacher Patsy is currently the Lay Minister of the St. Michael’s Mothers’ Union in her village, as well as Regional Officer for the West Berbice Mothers’ Union.
She is also a committee member of the Executives of the Diocesan Mothers’ Union.
The energetic educator also finds time to conduct a literacy programme, funded by the Ministry of Education, in her village, which is geared at assisting adults and school dropouts.
On this project she works two hours daily helping slow learners on a reading programme which she opined has benefited many greatly. While the first phase of the project started in May 2007 and concluded in January of this year, she has signed another contract that will last until December of this year.
Commenting on the literacy programme, she noted that it has impacted positively on youths and adults who now have new hope and can read and spell fluently.
Her groups are instructed in the subject areas of Reading, Comprehension, Oral Discussions, HIV/AIDS, Domestic Abuse, Teenage Pregnancy, Substance Abuse and other related issues.
‘Teacher Patsy’ also holds the position of warden for the Parish of the St. Michael’s Churches.
Intent on ‘giving back to the village’ and not only helping its inhabitants, ‘Teacher Patsy’ is presently in feverish negotiations with the UK-based ‘Caring and Sharing Organisation’ as she attempts to have them embark on funding a cleaning programme that will entail refurbishing the Hopetown Cemetery and other sites in the village that need urgent attention.
She indicated that so far she is getting positive responses from the entity and has already sent to them the names of several villagers who will be assisting in the cleaning up and refurbishing campaign.
Asked how she manages to execute her many duties, she proudly indicated that she is a person who is always on the go and finds the challenge of tackling so many jobs ‘truly inspiring.’
Being retired, one would expect her to be relaxing at home, but not this energetic retiree. She is always up and about making sure all her projects are running smoothly, deadlines are met, and will not cease working until she is satisfied that her duties are satisfactorily completed and the desired results are attained.
‘Teacher Patsy’ joined the teaching profession in 1963 and started at the then Hopetown Congregational School as a ‘pupil teacher’, teaching students of level two. She noted that eventually attaining the post of headteacher in September 1992, while at the No. 29 Primary School, was no easy feat, since they were required to write end of year exams which were critical to any desired promotion.
In 1962 she passed her Pupil Teachers’ Appointment Examination then later wrote the College of Precept Examination and passed eight subjects, excelling with distinction in Algebra and Arithmetic. This was followed some time later by the GCE exams in 1996 at which she excelled also.
She subsequently trained at the Government Training College for Teachers from 1969 to 1971 when it was situated close to what is now Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel.
After teaching as a pupil teacher at the Hopetown Congregational School, ‘Teacher Patsy’ was transferred to the Belladrum Primary School in 1988 as Deputy Headmistress. In 1992, she was called upon to function as Headmistress at the No. 29 Primary School and there she remained until she retired in 2002. ‘Teacher Patsy’ later returned to do a voluntarily two-year stint.
In her early teens, she won a scholarship to the Berbice High School but since her dad died leaving her mother to fend for seven children, the young girl was forced to remain as a student at the Hopetown Congregational School. She related that her mom could not afford to send her to high school so she was forced to remain at the Hopetown Congregational and later enhance her curriculum vitae. As a pupil she excelled at every examination and was fondly called ‘Teach’ by her teachers who also encouraged her to join that profession when she attained the required age.
Most of her elder relatives during her teenage years were employed in the teaching profession and as such it was a natural decision for her to follow suit which she did at age sixteen. Even during the time when she had just embarked on her teaching career, her home was flocked by persons wanting her to write recommendations, applications, fill out visa application forms and other tasks, something she selflessly continues to do today for free.
Intent on making education and the art of teaching competitive to obtain the best results from her students, she implemented special programmes at her school which included lucrative incentives as encouragement for students to develop a zest to learn. She also gave extra lessons free of charge since having her students obtain a sound education was among her primary interests.
She was quite a stern teacher and can be remembered in the village of Hopetown for her ‘teach, talk, and discipline’ method which she said managed to help groom her students so well that many eventually thanked her. A fair number of her students are now doctors, immigration officers, soldiers, nurses and also occupy other meaningful professions.
‘Teacher Patsy’ explained that ever so often she is at a loss to place the many faces who acknowledge her on the street, indicating that they were her students. Many of these students stop and thank her for enabling them to acquire the prestigious jobs in which they now function.
She earned a meager $60 per month as her salary when she joined the profession but that did not discourage her since she adored the job and loved helping people, particularly children.
Of course she enjoyed her exploits as a teacher but reflected on the sometimes frustrating challenges she faced having to deal with inadequate furniture, funding and resources for students to learn. The irresponsibility of many parents towards their children’s educative welfare was also of great concern to this teacher. She noted that when some parents brought their children to school at the Prep ‘A’ level they (the parents) were never again seen until the children were ready to take the Common Entrance exams.
Teacher Patsy opined that parents must play an active role in the education of their children and should be active in the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) bodies in the respective institutions.
She also noted that teachers need to be more dedicated since it is critical to their production and the intellectual status a child eventually obtains on leaving school.
“Teachers need to stop focusing on the small salaries and let teaching and assisting that child become priority. They need to develop a love for their job and build that desire inside to be patient with, and ready to help their students. This of course will help the children greatly who also craves for love, affection and security, not only in their homes but at school. “
Though she was very stern, this retired headmistress has never been involved in any altercation with parents since while disciplining a child she explained clearly the reason for her actions and the importance of the child learning.
One may never believe it but this truly sedate and ambitious lady was a true ‘fireball’ as a young girl. She reflected amusingly on the fact that her older sister possessed a speech impediment and as such was mocked and laughed at by her peers. While the sister would customarily retreat in tears, she (Teacher Patsy) came to the rescue raining blows on her sister’s tormentors. Shockingly before she arrived home, the very sister would often inform their mother that (Teacher Patsy) was in a fight which heralded a sound whipping for the poor girl. Still the very next day she would be at it again, defending her weaker sibling.
Even as our reporter interviewed ‘Teacher Patsy’ at her home, the phone rang often, with villagers who begged educative errands, special favours or implored her to take in their children for some ‘extra intellectual brushing up.’
Teacher Patsy now lives with her twenty- four year- old son Rawle and her grandson Fonsie who is fourteen years old. The three of course spend quality times together when they can since the energetic and vibrant ‘Teacher Patsy’ is always up and about tending to the needs and wants of her villagers.
She told this newspaper that she will not cease working to help the youths since many adults tend to misunderstand them. “The youths of today need our guidance and respect if they are to be molded as excellent citizens. They are growing up and are entitled to their own ideas, opinions and as such we must exercise patience and reservations when dealing with issues surrounding their welfare.” Teacher Patsy is contemplating the start of an extensive project which will benefit young girls from troubled homes in the near future.
Listen to a real fighter
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