“I admired them (teachers) a lot, because they were women who were disciplinarians, they were respected, stern, but at the same time, oh so elegant. I knew that was the person I wanted to become, and I pursued it feverishly.”
By Kiana Wilburg
From a very young age, the life of Mayleen Davis was filled with academic enrichment. Teachers were her superheroes and today, she is still in awe of their life-changing impact, as she was 80 years ago.
When she was first inspired by the art and power of teaching, she confronted various questions such as, “What makes a great teacher?”
Of course credentials, knowledge, critical thinking, and all other faculties of intelligence are important. But when she started this journey, she soon realized that a great teacher should be much more than credentials, experience and intelligence.
Mrs. Davis asserted that a great teacher shows kindness to students, colleagues, parents and those around her/him. She said that a great teacher is also one who is compassionate.
The educator, with some 35 years of experience under her belt, said that a teacher who is compassionate models that characteristic to the students with her/his actions, and as a result, students will be more open to understanding the world around them.
She noted too that a great teacher is also a builder, one who bridges gaps and builds relationships, friendships, and a community.
Mrs. Davis reflected that as an educator, she has learned that teachers must always look to make things better and improve things in and outside of the classroom. Building a community, she emphasised, is something a great teacher seeks to do in the classroom and extends that to the entire school and its community.
She also stressed that while a teacher “can have more degrees than a heatwave”, it would not matter if they don’t seek to inspire through their work.
This outstanding educator said that everyone looks at a great teacher and they want to be a better student or even a better person. She asserts that a great teacher also uncovers hidden treasures, possibilities and magic right before everyone’s eyes.
Demonstrating the aforementioned qualities for almost four decades would convince anyone that teaching has certainly been the food for Mrs. Davis’ still effervescent soul.
But her interests today, which essentially speak to the value of community service and the beauty of kindness, can be traced back to her childhood days among inspiring role models such as teachers and her wonderful parents.
In fact, with her own life as a testimony, she shows the power of service to others, be it to her past students, her family, or those she helped through innumerable charity works.
At age 90, this graceful woman is still passionate about helping others; hence she has been selected to be featured in this week’s ‘Special Person’ edition.
Mayleen Davis was born on November 30, 1925 to Frank and Christina Welcome. She spent part of her childhood in Sisters Village, Berbice.
She said “My childhood in the countryside was beautiful and quiet. I enjoyed it there. But what really left an impact on me was the teachers who surrounded my world at the time. At the time, I was attending the Church of the Scotland School, and that was in Friends Village.”
She continued, “The teachers sometimes came all the way from New Amsterdam and that was seven miles from my home. Because my mother was also an educator, the teachers would stay over at our home and go over to the school which was in Friends Village. They stayed over because travelling from Sisters Village to New Amsterdam everyday was arduous. But having them over was almost surreal.”
The nonagenarian said that having those educators in her circle had an impact on her life.
She added, “Being part of the conversations and the interactions were all too enriching, and it really shaped the woman I wanted to become. I admired them a lot, because they were women who were disciplinarians, they were respected, stern, but at the same time, oh so elegant. I knew that was the person I wanted to become, and I pursued it feverishly.”
But at age 12, Mayleen’s parents relocated to Georgetown and occupied a humble abode in Lacytown.
PURSUE YOUR DREAMS
She was soon enrolled at the Broad Street Government School – now known as Dolphin Secondary. And though she was no longer surrounded on a daily basis by the educators of Berbice, the fire for teaching remained within her soul.
“Joining that school was a whole new experience for me because in Berbice, it was just a classroom with students, while at Broad Street Government School you had lots of classrooms and an entrance for girls and one for boys, but I really blended in. It was a memorable school life,” she recounted with a smile.
By age 15, she signed up for the Pupil Teachers’ Appointment Exam and was successful. She left Broad Street Government School and headed over to Belmont Scots School in Mahaicony where she taught for two years in an apprenticeship position.
“In those days, the Pupil Teachers’ Appointment Exam was being offered and I jumped at the opportunity to do it because I couldn’t wait to teach. And when I passed my exams I moved on to teach in Mahaicony. It was a fulfilling experience. You were a teacher, but you were also a pupil, so it was like you were in the capacity of an apprentice,” explained the educator.
After her two-year stint in Mahaicony, she returned to Broad Street Government School where she served in the same capacity until she was 20 years old. By then, the hardworking woman was promoted to Assistant Teacher. To further hone her skills, she moved on to the Government Teacher’s Training College.
When she graduated, she served for seven years at St. Stephen’s Primary School. She also gave two years of service to Skeldon Scots School before returning to Broad Street Government School, which by that time had been renamed Dolphin Government School.
Davis served Dolphin Government School for 25 years and spent about three of those years as its headmistress.
RETIREMENT AND SOMETHING NEW
After teaching for some 35 years, retiring at the relatively young age of 50 was not an easy decision for her to make.
By this time, she was always already married to the late Chairman of the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GuySuCo), Harold Davis, and had five wonderful children.
But her husband was constantly travelling during her years as headmistress and she felt it inappropriate to be asking for leave frequently, in order to be there to support him.
“My late husband worked at GuySuCo and he was looking over 14 estates. And when he had to do visits I would be by his side, meeting with staff and other things. And so I felt it was not going to leave a good impression if I have to be taking time off constantly to be there for him, and so while I was elated to serve as headmistress, I made the decision to retire early to properly support my husband.”
But given Davis’ love for service and community, she soon joined the Inner Wheel Club of Georgetown (IWCG) which was inaugurated in 1984 but chartered in 1985.
The longstanding educator became the organization’s first Charter President and even at age 90, she remains an active member.
“I became part of this organization because it sought to promote true friendship, encourage the ideals of service and foster international understanding. It also raised money for a lot of charity events, and helping others is what I love to do, I love to be a part of any activity that promotes that. That has been my life.”
Looking back, Davis said that her life has been well spent and she is proud of her accomplishments.
The mother of five said that while she now “takes things a little easy” she finds much comfort in the fact that she has lived her life by the great words of William Penn—”I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.”
Mrs. Davis made it clear that she will continue to serve in every way she can for “it is not how many days you have on this earth, but what you do with the days you have.”
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