JTA honours 177 educators with Golden Torch Awards
After falling in love with her teacher’s command of the classroom, Angela McKenzie knew from she was in grade five that she, too, wanted to become a teacher.
The Manchester resident’s passion resulted in her dedicating 34 years of her life to teaching, and despite retiring last year, McKenzie said she has no plans to stop educating young minds any time soon. Since retiring, the Sunday school teacher has resorted to hosting private classes for children in her community.
“All my life I have been a teacher, and I don’t plan to stop,” she told The Gleaner after copping the prestigious Golden Torch Award on Thursday at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston.
The former Devon Town Primary School senior teacher was among 177 educators islandwide who were honoured.
The award, established by the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) in 1991, salutes teachers who have given 34 years or more of service to the profession.
McKenzie, who made the effort to attend the ceremony despite being unable to walk on her own, said she was very elated to have been honoured by the association.
According to her, while growing up she had aspired to be a secretary, but at around age 10, she came to the realisation that teaching was her destiny.
“I remember sitting in my class when I was in grade five and looking at my teacher. I saw how she commanded the class and everybody obeyed her, and I said to myself, ‘When I grow up I want to be like her,’” she recalled.
The veteran teacher, who had also served as the acting vice-principal, said she has no regret about her choice despite the challenges that the classroom presents.
“The most challenging is the discipline, of course, and getting the children reading at their grade level. Sometimes they come to you and they are not at the specific grade level, so getting them up there has been challenging. But it is a challenge that I took up and I conquered, and I am happy that I was able to touch so many lives,” McKenzie said.
She added that seeing her students excelling in different areas has also been most rewarding.
Her advice to the present crop of teachers is, “Be patient; it’s hard, but be patient. You’ll reap rewards and look back and see the successes that you’ve had.”
McKenzie advised that teachers must also be cognisant that “it’s not all about academics, it’s about developing a child’s entire life, character, career, and person. The child’s emotional, mental and spiritual needs are also just as important, and everything must be catered to.”’
Another honouree who was equally elated about his recognition was Lenford Myers, a senior teacher at Knockalva Technical High School.
The mechanical engineer and industrial arts teacher, who is on his final lap in the classroom before retirement next year, said, “I have been in the classroom for 35 years and I am not in there for financial gain. It’s my passion for teaching ... I love teaching”.
The 62-year-old educator said he had traded in his lucrative-paying corporate job in the mechanical engineering field for a teaching job because of his passion, but has since set up his own shop.
“I love to pass on my skills to the students. A number of times I go on the streets and I see some of my past students, and when you and them sit down and talk, you realise that in the classroom it must be for the passion, because what I earn per year is what they are earning a week or per month, and I trained them.”
The track and field starter, who described himself as a firm disciplinarian, said he also has a deep love for children and they know that they can approach him any time.
Myers, who has acted five times as vice-principal, is advising teachers who can afford to remain in the system to do so and not be daunted.
“The monetary gains may not be as good as you want it to be, but you are helping the students. I have students in my classroom who the administration couldn’t believe was my most outstanding student, because they were the worst students to teach in the school.
“So, I would encourage anybody to get in the classroom. You are helping Jamaica’s children; and if you allow them to go astray, Jamaica is going to get even worse ... crime and violence is going to get worse.
“Keep them in the classroom and try to get something out of them. It will be beneficial to everybody, not just to them alone,” he said.