By Feona Morrison
Retired Head Teacher, Lynette Stephen has shown outstanding commitment to her pupils, staff, community and her country. Throughout her teaching career, which spanned several decades, helping children to achieve their full potentials; some of whom have gone on to become magistrates, doctors, lawyers, and pilots. Her outstanding leadership has been embraced by all, and even though she is retired, Stephen, at age 70, is still contributing towards the development of her community Mahdia, Region Eight where she was appointed Registration Officer in 2006.
Stephen, a mother of nine, was born on June 15, 1949 at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. At the age of three, she left to go and live with her parents who are both from the island of St. Lucia, before returning home three years later to live at Tumatumari, a community in the Potaro-Siparuni Region, located some 15 km upstream of the confluence of the Potaro and Essequibo Rivers. She began her early education at the All Age School in 1955. She, however, told her parents that she no longer wanted to attend this school since it only had one teacher, who was also the Head Master.
A young Stephen would then relocate to Laing Avenue, Georgetown to live with her godmother, in order to attend the New Preparatory School at D’Urban Street, Georgetown. She wrote what was then called Common Entrance, and completed her secondary education at The Progressive and Preparatory Institute (1960-1964), and was successful upon completing the College of Preceptors Examinations before moving back to Mahdia with her parents.
She said, “After, I left the school, I came back to Mahdia to be with my parents and I was passionate about becoming a nurse or doctor. I was selected to attend a nursing training in Bartica, so I moved there. But after a month or two, I received a letter from my mom saying that she wasn’t feeling well, and I went back home only to find out that it was not true; my mom just wanted me to be with her. So I did not get to complete the training.”
BIRTH OF A FULFILLING CAREER
Eager about earning her own money, Stephen went into sewing with her godmother who was a seamstress. But she would soon quit because of difficulties she experienced with some customers. For instance, she said that her customers were reluctant to pay their debts, so she decided to join the teaching profession. From 1974-1976, she did the Guyana Nursery Education Programme (G.N.E.P), and upon successful completion, she began teaching at the Mahdia Nursery School.
According to her, she also taught at other nursery schools in Bartica, and also spent a short while at the Mahdia Primary School. She expressed, “I prefer teaching the younger children because of the fact that when they come to you, they don’t know anything; so you have to guide them, you have to develop all their skills. You have to teach them to read, write and to speak properly.”
After successfully completing the Teacher Intermediate Examination in 1988, Stephen would once again move to Georgetown, this time to attend the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), from where she graduated two years later as a trained teacher before moving back to Mahdia where she went into retirement. Earlier this month, Minister of State Dawn Hasting commissioned a learning Centre at Mahdia—The Lynette Stephen’s Resource Centre—in honour of our ‘Special Person’s’ contributions towards the town.
The following is an extract from Stephen’s speech at the commissioning: “Today is indeed a special day for the students of Mahdia Secondary School dormitory and Region #8 as a whole. I feel privileged to be a part of this opening ceremony of a (Training) Learning Centre which carries my name… and which was established out of love and generosity of some kind-hearted citizens.”
She continued, “During my years of service to this community, it never crossed my mind that at some time in the future, I might be honoured in such a way. Today, after two decades and retirement of my service, my name is inscribed on a building that will further build on what I started in 1976. Honourable Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to encourage you all to do your best in whatever capacity you are functioning for you never know who is admiring your service and dedication.
I never knew that in doing my duties, a day would come when I would be honoured, and after today, many persons from across the country and the world will know my name through the media. I must express my gratitude to the persons who came up with this great idea. To the students of Mahdia Secondary School Dormitory, you are the beneficiaries of such a great project. Do enjoy the Lynette Stephen’s Resource Centre and treat it with care and love, for it is out of love that the Lynette Stephen’s Resource Centre will be opened today. I feel honoured, appreciated and blessed.”
Her teaching experience includes: Acting Teacher (1976-1989), Trained Class I Grade 1 Teacher (1991), Non-Graduate Head Teacher (1996-2004), Early Childhood Officer (1999-2004), Supervisor/Coordinator – Guyana Basic Education Teacher Training Programme – GBET (1999-2004), she participated in the 4th Caribbean Conference on Early Childhood Development themed: “Nurturing Young Minds to Meet Challenges (July 22nd – 26th, 2002).
“I really enjoyed teaching although I did not like it in the beginning. By being a teacher, I’ve had a lot of job satisfaction. Some of the children who I have taught have become doctors, magistrates and pilots…So, I really enjoyed teaching. It was a really rewarding experience for me,” Stephen said.
Apart from these, her experience with the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) includes: Divisional Registrar, Deputy Registrar (1996-1997, 2000-2001), Distribution Clerk (2004), Registration Officer (2005-Present), Returning Officer (2006), and Deputy Returning Officer (2011). She is also as Ex-Officio Commissioner of Oaths to Affidavits for Region #8 (2006).
But she is so much more. “I am blessed with nine children (five sons and four daughters), eighteen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren. My sons own and manage their own businesses and my daughters are all qualified and employed,” she told this publication in an interview. What is interesting to note is the fact that she was a single parent.
She recounted, “I used the monies I acquired from sewing to support my children, and even after I started teaching, I still continued sewing. But my income from teaching is what I supported my children with”. As a devoted mother, she ensured that all of her children acquired an education. And today, she is reaping the rewards as she is proud of the career paths they have all chosen.
Her sons are all businessmen. One of her daughters, Denise Jourdain, is a Dentist, who was awarded a Chevening Scholarship to pursue her Master’s degree in the United Kingdom. Her other daughter, Natoya Stephen-Jourdain, has completed her PhD, and currently resides in Norway. Shauneilla Jourdain, another one of Stephen’s daughter followed in her footsteps and is currently a graduate Head Mistress. Another daughter, Candeda Jourdain, was also a teacher here in Guyana before she migrated to the United States of America to live with her husband.
Stephen intimated that she ensure all her daughters ventured into academic careers as she did not want them being dependent on their spouses. In her free time, Stephen still enjoys sewing and revealed that she loves travelling.
For her tireless efforts in moulding the minds and characters of the nation’s children and for always being the stalwart of her family, Kaieteur News is honoured to confer Ms Lynette Stephen with our ‘Special Person’ title for this week.
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