The National Distinguished Teacher Award is more than just a competition.
This was stressed by Chief Judge, Matthew Farley at the Awards Ceremony at the Hilton Barbados.

The Royal Fidelity Awards started in April with nominations in May/June. The 10 teachers awarded were: Edwin Gibson – The Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, Jean Wells-Greaves – Queen’s College, Glendora Best – Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary School, Cheryl Forde – Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary School, Margaret Cumberbatch – Eagle Hall Primary, Karen McGuire – St Gabriel’s Primary School, Valerie Hunte – Metropolitan High School, Nola Cummings-Lewis -Hindsbury Primary School, Lennox Boyce – Ellerslie Secondary School, and Jennifer McDonald Goddard – Christ Church Foundation School.

Mr. Farley noted how Royal Fidelity Merchant Bank and Trust (B’dos Ltd) had established the award with the goal of rewarding outstanding teaching professionals, while encouraging all teachers throughout Barbados to aspire to excellence.

As guests arrived they were serenaded by the likes of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” or Joan Armatrading, once settled they heard from Archie Cuke, Managing Director at RF & former Harrisonian, who sees Education for Language & IT as a way forward for Barbados.

He added that the award mechanism was seen by him “not so much as competition but more as an initiative which has mobilised an assembly of educational practitioners who epitomise excellence and who, with the assessment of their peers, students, parents/guardians and members of the public, are deserving of this recognition”.

The dinner was superb that night, with a choice in Menu fit for a carnivore! One of the hard-working educators receives her Commemorative Portrait from VP Jillian Nunes, looking very Hollywood in blue satin!

The Principal of the Graydon Sealy Secondary School (formerly the Garrison Secondary School) congratulated Royal Fidelity for sponsoring the awards for the second consecutive year despite “a deep economic crisis when companies were downsizing and, in some instance, going under”. And, he said: “The community mindedness of Royal Fidelity is even more commendable and praise worthy.”

In addition to portraits, each Educator was featured in a brilliant profile devised by RussellA Hand Full Of Dirt Watson, who made sure each bio was an adventure in vision – from the roots of a twig to a pupil’s epaulette, all captured at macro and microscopic brilliance!

Over 60 nominations were received from across the educational spectrum from both the public and private sectors and at the level of nursery, primary, secondary, sixth form, special needs and tertiary.

Commenting on the judging process, Mr. Farley said: “In some instances, the judges were almost moved to tears as we encountered the passion, the absolute commitment and the unstinting dedication and love that set the awardees above their peers and the other nominees. In every instance as they spoke, they spoke not of building physical walls, or constructing or designing structures in wood.

But they spoke of their calling to the educational enterprise of molding minds, fashioning character and shaping personalities in ways that no other profession does or ever will. They spoke of loving children, of caring for children. Indeed, by the sheer sense of altruism, they all endorsed the notion, that you cannot teach a child anything until you show him/her that you care.”

“Special” is how 10 teachers who received the National Distinguished Teacher Award have been described by this island’s Chief Education Officer, Laurie King.

In his turn at the lectern, Mr. King told the gathering: “We have approximately 3,200 teachers in the system and the ones who have been chosen tonight to be honoured ought to feel very special because we have some of the best teachers anywhere to be found on this continent. And, to be chosen it says something about your performance… It says that you are very special persons.”

Acknowledging that the ceremony was being held during Education Month, the period in which the Ministry sought to recognise the importance of education, Mr. King commended Royal Fidelity and its associated sponsors for hosting the competition a second consecutive time and seeing “it fit to recognise the sterling efforts of teachers across the system”.

In addition to Mr. Farley, the panel of judges also comprised former tutor at the Barbados Community College, Dr. Sylvia Hackett; publisher Keith Miller; Entertainer, Mac Fingall, and Senior Education Officer, Joy Adamson.

He reminded the gathering that the island was also celebrating 50 years of universal free public education and that this was a significant achievement for a small country with limited natural resources.

The senior official said: “As you are aware in Barbados we don’t have a tremendous amount of natural resources. Our sole natural resource happens to be our people…Our forefathers and successive governments have recognised the importance of education to national development and we have, over the years, been devoting one fifth of our national budget to the development of education in this country.”

As he wished the special 10 awardees the best, Mr. King said: “We look forward to you continuing to make a contribution to national development since the primary objective of education is to ensure that all the students exiting the system do so and are in a position to make a significant contribution to national development.”

Laurie King addressing what is fast becoming a staple part of the Barbados’ educational culture.

Noting that during the Royal Fidelity interviews, a number of teachers had cited the lack of adequate resources as a primary inhibitor to them (teachers) being able to make the kind of impact they would wish, [to make] the Chief Education Officer stated:
Our emphasis, as we go forward, must be on equality and we will do everything humanly possible to ensure that we provide the necessary resources.”

Matthew Farley giving his quotation-laden speech to participants at Needham’s Point.

Reminded that 20 years ago what existed was the mere chalk and blackboard, Mr. King, nonetheless, assured the teachers that the Ministry would continue to do all in its power, working along with the private sector and interest groups to ensure “the adequate provision for you to have access to the resources that would allow you to make the kind of contribution that you would wish to make”. (COLLABORATION WITH – JG/BGIS)

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