Mon | Jun 5, 2023

Teaching was never a career choice for new SSTC principal

Published:Thursday | January 19, 2023 | 12:07 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
Ricardo Bennett, newly appointed principal of Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College.
Ricardo Bennett, newly appointed principal of Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College.


AN UNPAID teaching experience at Camperdown High School has transformed and positioned Ricardo Bennett, an Excelsior High School alumnus who wanted nothing to do with the profession, into becoming the fifth principal of the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College (SSTC) in St James.

Bennett’s preferred career was engineering and being good at mathematics and physics placed him in good stead for that. However, like so many students with parents who have had to struggle for survival, the economics of pursuing his dream never matched the situation.

“The original career path was to go into engineering and after A’ levels I was poised for that. But CAST (College of Arts, Science and Technology), which later became the University of Technology (UTech), did not have an engineering programme at the bachelor’s degree level at that time, it was just being offered at the diploma level,” Bennett said.

The educator, who has 20 years under his belt, noted that the popular option was for engineering students to go overseas to the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) St Augustine campus (in Trinidad & Tobago), an opportunity he could not afford.

“For me that was not an option coming from a single-parent home, my mom being the sole breadwinner,” the new principal of Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College shared.

Bennett, who is from the rural community of Thickets in St Ann, became urbanised when he was relocated to Kingston with his mother at six years old, and is now looking forward with zeal and enthusiasm to enhance the impact that Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College has been having in the education sector.

His educational development started at New Providence Primary School in Barbican and after being successful at the Common Entrance Examinations, he moved on to Excelsior High School, and later pursued sixth form at Camperdown High School.

But it was at Camperdown High during his sixth form years that Bennett’s skills and appetite for the propensity to teach was discovered.

“While in upper sixth form we were in a little group seen as math gurus on campus and would explore math questions and assist other students. Then one day I was called by the principal, Mrs Cynthia Cooke, herself a mathematician, and asked if I’d be willing to teach a first-form class for a teacher who was out on maternity leave,” Bennett informed.

A successful interview resulted in him being offered a part-time teaching post without remuneration. For him, “it wasn’t a bad experience”.

“When I realised that the engineering dream was fading, I thought the next best thing was to go to UWI Mona and major in math and physics, still hoping that a path would be found to engineering,” the SSTC principal revealed.

According to Bennett, now equipped with the Camperdown experience, “at UWI I signed up as a math tutor in my second year, assisting first-year math students, gratis”.

Even with all his qualifications, Bennett was still not thinking about teaching as his career because he wanted to do something related to the applied sciences, so he set out job hunting.

Unable to gain employment outside of the teaching profession, frustration set it, compelling him to re-examine his position and his teaching experience while at Camperdown.

“Growing frustrated now, I told myself ‘you’re coming from a poor background, you’ve finished university, you need to start earning now; you’re becoming a man, you need to earn. You can’t be dependent on your mother, you have to find something’,” Bennett recounted.

Responding to a job vacancy for a math teacher at Norman Manley High School in January of 2003, the now chief administrator at SSTC landed the job and was on his way to a career that, like Jonah and the whale, he had been trying his best to escape.


Bennett said that his journey in the field of education has been one of fulfilment, which afforded him several opportunities where he also taught CAPE math at Holy Childhood High School, and in September 2004, relocated to Mandeville to assume teaching responsibilities at Church Teachers’ College.

Building upon his passion for selfless service to education, in 2016 Bennett was asked to serve as interim principal of Eltham High School in Spanish Town and in June 2018 was appointed principal of Lacovia High School in St Elizabeth.

He describes himself as a family man who shares two children with his wife and grew up to be an ardent believer in God, and a people person who enjoys working in the church and with children.

The passion he developed as an educator and his work ethic elevated him to the position of assistant chief examiner for CSEC physics, assistant examiner for CSEC mathematics, board member at Villa Road Primary and Junior High School, and a member of the Mathematics and Science Standard Writing Committee for the Jamaica Teaching Council.

He has lectured at the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean, the Management Institute for National Development, the Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI), and the Institute of Higher Learning. He also served as a practicum supervisor in the Master of Arts (MA) in teaching programme with UWI.

Bennett comes to Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College having also acquired the distinguished certification of Professional Qualification for Principalship (PQP) from the National College for Educational Leadership, a bachelor of science in mathematics (with honours), a postgraduate diploma in education and training from the VTDI and a master of science degree in applied physics, specialising in digital technology, at UWI.

“I believe this is the calling that I was naturally supposed to do,” Bennett admitted. “Over the years I found out that it is important to be obedient to your calling.

“Sometimes what you necessarily want to do may not be the best career because you will excel based on your natural tendency,” he contended. “Teaching has brought a sense of fulfilment and joy seeing the many students I have impacted advancing in their chosen career.