Back to School: A Tribute to Our Past GT Teachers

Back to School: A Tribute to Our Past GT Teachers

By: Lear Matthews

As another school year commences and we celebrate World Teachers Day on October 5th, memories of our own school days emerge. Drawing from this years’ UN slogan: “Take a stand for Teachers”, our readers were asked to reminisce about former teachers in the home country.  Some Guyanese responses are presented below and we invite others to “reach back”.

CW:  Ms. Doris Williams, who taught me at Dolphin Government School, delivered her lessons with profound passion, an attribute which was passed on to her students.  She influenced my life in that if I am “bright”, she is the person most responsible person for that brilliance and because of her I have carried myself in a professional manner throughout my life.  I still remember and think about her from time to time.  In High School, it was Mr. Knights.  Although he may have had some disability affecting his speech and hearing, he was a terrific teacher.  He made sure that we learned in class with vigor and vitality.  Mr. Knights influenced me because I loved Literature, especially Shakespeare, and History. When I quizzed my female classmates we can always remember the opening verse of Macbeth which he taught us some 40+ years ago.  This eccentric, but brilliant educator still has an impact on my life when I read in church or at work when presenting an article.

LM: Mr. Clifton Adolphus David (“Browsy”) taught at my alma mater, Tutorial High School for over 25 years.  A notable stalwart of traditional education, Mr. David was known to many as committed to the intellectual development of his students, dedicated to the ideals of Tutorial, and a disciplinarian.  He exemplified the consummate educator, a good communicator, ebullient and at times unconventional in manner, but a harbinger of promoted principled values.  To many, he represented one of the pillars of academic foundations that made his students who they are today.  This remarkable teacher pursued his profession with passion and vibrancy that set him apart from other educators of his time. He was part of an able literary team led by the Castelo Brothers, founders of Tutorial High School.  Lasting memories of Mr. David for this writer include a unique and almost amusing tone of voice when communicating with students; the   “benching” of a significant number of students; and meeting him again after two decades at the 8th Triennial THSAA Reunion in Guyana, which was indeed a cherished moment for former students, many of whom had not seen him since leaving school.  Finally, allow me, with the utmost respect and nostalgic yearning to honor the name “Browsy”, a title that is indelibly etched in the memory of a proud cadre of former Tutorialites.

WR:  “Mr. Rudder”, one of the most well-known and respected teachers of the ‘50s – ‘60s era, taught me at Smith Church Congregational School.  He was a strict disciplinarian, who must have administered thousands of “wild cane” lashes to students during his career.   Among my most vivid memories of Mr. Rudder were: He would articulate the words when giving “Dictation” tests by rolling his tongue in pronouncing “Rs”; doubling as teacher and Athletic Couch, his stern method of directing and encouraging athletes, though effective, was often terrifying to some of students;  I realized years after leaving school, that many of us never knew the first name of our teachers, or if we did, we dared not repeat it in the presence of adults, as a sign or respect.  It was always “Sir” or “Miss”.

GM:  Mr. Patrick Fredricks at Queens College. He had the ability to terrify me and simultaneously make me want to run to his class with excitement to see what I would learn from him that day. If you did not like language and literature before you were taught by Mr. Fredricks, you loved and appreciated those subjects after one term with him.  We had an assignment to write a short story, and I wrote a story in which in which I was a writer who had just been told that I had won the Pulitzer Prize.  After reading may story, Mr. Fredricks said to me, “Ms. M, if you continue writing like this you will one day win the Pulitzer Prize”.  I was over the moon.  This praise from a teacher who expected excellence was a dose of confidence that has never worn off, and I would always recall his remarks. His head was always held high, shoulders straight, back straight.  His physical bearing commanded respect and it mirrored exactly what he expected of his students- high standards of work and behavior.

The foundation given by these educators and others of their ilk, helped to establish the life course of many Guyanese at home and abroad.  Many have become successful in various occupational endeavors.   Others have continued their formal education and training, not allowing age to be a deterrent, while doing their utmost to ensure the success of their children.  Below is a comparative look at the educational attainment (specifically College Graduates) of Guyanese immigrants in New York City:

Total Population    % College Graduate

Total                                    8,391,066           34.0
Native-born                       5,406,179           40.2
Foreign-born                     2,984,887           26.7
Jamaica                                171,014           19.2
Guyana                                  130,184           16.1
Trinidad and Tobago             92,637           18.3
Haiti                                         90,365           19.6

US Census Bureau.

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  • Walter Petrie  On October 30, 2012 at 11:18 am

    I don’t know how many people were affected by Mrs. Nathalie Issacs as I was. She taught me in Std. Six at Kingston School and made all the difference in my life with regards to knowing and believing that I had the ability and was capable of ‘Learning.’ I have never and will never forget to give her full credit for all she did for me. I remember when one August leading to ‘School Leaving Exams’ the following year, several of us, namely, Jean Gajraj, Carl Lashley and one of her nieces went to school at her house every day. I did not miss those holidays. Incidentally for those who know Roger & Keith (baddirt?) Issacs…they are her sons.

  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On October 30, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I owe my academic success to the dedicated teachers I’ve had in primary, elementary and secondary schools.

  • Cyril Balkaran  On November 1, 2012 at 11:59 am

    It is fitting to pay tribute to all our teachers who have moulded us in one way or another. The eight hours per day that were spent with our teachers in Primary school have moulded our characters, have given us courage when we needed the same and have left their indelible mark on our lives. I thank them gracoiusly for our morality, our spirituality, our humanity and every thing else that they have given us. Mr. and Ms. Miller the headmaster and his wife of standard two in Campbellville Government School were the pioneers and leaders in sports and Education. Mr Lewis who led the school Singing Boys Quire and taught in form four was a great disciplinarian and a man who was dedicated to his students. Mr Khan who taught us to love Maths and to do handicraft was an excellent soul, and so were many others. We will remain ever indebted to them as our eternal GURUS for indeed they are responsible for who we are today. God Bless their souls wherever they may be at this time!

  • Ron. Persaud  On November 2, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    I was trimming a hibiscus hedge in a city park when this matronly soft-spoken woman asked if she could have one of the yellow blooms.
    “Sure!” I replied. I was going to cut off a lot of them anyway.
    “Could I have a few more?” she continued rather timidly. “They will look very nice on my desk.”.
    Just to make conversation, I asked,”Where do you work?”
    “I am a Catholic nun…..”
    That night I told Rita, “I am fifty years old, dammit! But when that woman said those words, I stiffened my shoulders, mentally checked if my hair was combed and I clenched my fists lest she might see some dirty and unclipped nails.”
    Such is the lasting effect that the Carmelite Sisters of Mercy have had on my life. At Carmel R.C there were Sisters Amadeus (Head teacher), Maureen, Coreen and Laureen. Marine Drill Sergeants could learn from them.
    Then there was the lay staff.
    The “Sirs” of that time were Messrs. Gordon, Straughn and Jeffery Emanuel Laine. The last taught us in the scholarship class. And there was no ambiguousness when he started to remove his wrist watch.
    The Misses were Henry, Stewart, Thomas, Rhodie, Wilson and Gibbons.
    Francis Yhip merits special mention. Young and talented, he was completely at ease with us all. He made a model of the school which fascinated me because every detail was reproduced.
    Tragically, he drowned in lake Ituribisci lake during the August holidays in 1952 or ’53.
    The teachers of that era taught!
    One way or another we were going to learn.
    And we did. Every good thing I know was learned. at home, in school or in church.
    I owe those teachers.

  • Juliet Kissoon- Sowdagar  On November 3, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Tragically, I cannot name any teacher in my primary or secondary school who made an indelible mark in my education culturally or academically. They however made a mark in my social and professional life. I was a poor child of average intellegience. I was almost a piece of furniture who would take home a good report. Teachers paid no attention to me probably because I did not demand attention. I longed for their love and recognition.As I sat in class they provided the bed for me to dream on. “I would pay attention to every child when I became a teacher and show love to all.” Yes I dreamed from an early age and maybe those dreaming time prevented me from being an above average student who knows…
    But those dreams became a reality as an untrained teacher at age 17.
    My life took a 360 degrees turn that year when I was assigned as a nursery school teacher. In that school the principal, Ms. Kasermattie Prashad was a wonderful mentor, educator and humanatarian. She looked within me and extracted what no other educator saw before. She made me love teaching and gave me the skills and love for teaching I did not experience as a child.
    Later, as we were froced to attend professional classes as untrained teachers, I encountered my second heroine, Ms. Lena Rockcliff: The epitome of education. I was registering for the second year in her professional class when she became blue with wrath. She then pressured and threatened me to attend Teachers College. She could not understand why a student with 100% pass on 5 curriculum areas was not at CPCE.
    Enter my third heroine, Ms Florence Rose Sukhdeo. she nurtured me through out my 2 years as a student at CPCE and took me under her wings and kept me ther after graduation. Later she became my mentor and best friend when I became a lecturer at my alma matar and at the University of Guyana, Turkeyen and Berbice Campus. I spent close to 20 years as an educator in Guyana.
    Today, I am still a teacher in a New York Public School, loving what I do and doing what I was taught to love by Kasermattie, Lena and Florence. I am paying my debt to them by loving the kinds in my charge and ensuring that their dreams have a fertile groung to grow. Thank you to all my collegues at Bell Air Nursery School and CPCE. ( names too many to mention here) In many ways you contributed to my professional growth and development. My heart will always sing praises for you.
    Love Juliet

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