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Celebrating an education heroine – Gralden Pommells

Published:Sunday | December 19, 2021 | 12:05 AMGreg-Louis Austin - Contributor
Gralden Pommells.
Gralden Pommells.

For some persons, teaching is an opportunity. For others, it is a job. But, for Gralden Pommells, it is a lifestyle; lived with great passion and joy. Her teaching career has impacted the lives of hundreds of children across four parishes: Clarendon, St James, Westmoreland and St Elizabeth. Predominantly a grades one and two master teacher for 40 years, Pommells has been moulding the very young minds; in many cases teaching not only through the formal curriculum but also inculcating social and moral values as well. Her commitment was also visible outside the classroom, evidenced by her involvement in feeding programmes, sports competitions and general upkeep of the schools’ environs. She proudly admits that “teaching is my passion; students’ achievements give me joy and happiness”.

FOUR DECADES OF TEACHING

The long and eventful career of this master teacher started with her being a pre-trained educator in January 1969 at Morgan’s Forest All-Age in Clarendon teaching grades one and two. She then moved to the John’s Hall All-Age School at Grade One and also acted as principal for one term. While there, she developed, implemented and supervised a feeding programme to cater to the dietary needs of the students. Her next stint was at Beulah All-Age School as a teacher of Grade One. In order to attain certification in what would become her lifelong career, she left Clarendon to go to St James to attend the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College. There, though challenged by the passing of her first husband and with four young children, she persevered and graduated with a teacher’s certificate. As she pointed out, those were the good days when teachers had a mandatory one-year internship, which she excelled in at the Bethel Town All-Age School in Westmoreland. Not surprising to anyone, she was hired full-time immediately after graduation and she taught Grade One.

Consequent on her second marriage to Wilton, a primary education teacher also, she relocated to St Elizabeth and was employed at the Glen Stuart Primary School in the parish, where she spent 25 years, leading to her retirement. She spent one term at Grade Four and, for the remainder of her tenure (you guessed it correctly), she taught Grade One. With a smile, a little broader than the one on the photo, she beamed with pride in stating “that’s where my joy and passion were”. As a senior teacher at Glen Stuart, she held responsibility for supervising grades one and two, conducting lesson-planning sessions, implementing teaching strategies and vetting lesson plans and the delivery of lessons. Additionally, she made time to engage in and lead extra- curricular activities.

COMPLEMENTARY SKILL SETS

This teacher extraordinaire was head of sewing periods, doing needlework with grades five and six girls for the school’s open day and fair. Using her proficient sewing skills, along with another teacher, she made the first set of graduation gowns for the school, which they later transformed into a fundraising activity for the school by renting them to other schools in the parish. There were instances where she saw students in worn and shabby uniforms and would stop in the town (Santa Cruz) on her way home, buy uniform material, sew them overnight and present them to the grateful children the next day. She also made crochet pieces and sold them to raise funds to improve the lives of the children at the school.

Pommells is also as proficient in the kitchen and found time, not sure how, to bake a variety of pastries to support the many school activities, and even wedding cakes for staff and past students.

DESERVING OF NATIONAL RECOGNITION

Education heroine, Gralden Pommells was awarded the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service to the Education Sector on National Heroes Day 2021, among the many well-deserving Jamaicans who have given selflessly to the development of this nation. This follows on the previous recognition she has of her 40 years of invaluable service at the Glen Stuart Primary School and other places.

Her former colleagues and graduates praise the integral role she has played in their development, and laud the unwavering support she has made through her consistent excellence in teaching. She continues to enjoy her ‘re-tyre-ment’ in moulding the teaching careers of many of her relatives and friends through volunteered ‘consultancies’, whether for formal classroom or Sunday school. Pommells, an active member of the Grace Baptist Church, is thankful to God for His guidance, and testifies of His providence and strength which have enabled her to make this positive contribution to her country.

Well deserved, our ‘Nanny’ of the education sector! We celebrate your award.

Greg-Louis Austin is associate vice-president, quality assurance (acting) at University of Technology, Jamaica. Send feedback to glaustin@utech.edu.jm