Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Saluting outstanding teachers

Published:Sunday | May 10, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Sharon Clarke
Heather Spence
Francine Brown-Thompson




Hooked on teaching

Francine Brown-Thompson got hooked on teaching at the age of 16, after her first job at a local basic school. She believes that this was the genesis of her development as an empathetic teacher, putting the needs and concerns of her students at the forefront.

"The children were receptive to the many stories read to them each day," Brown-Thompson said smiling. "Just holding their little hands to form letters and then having them do it on their own was rewarding."

Now a grade-six teacher at the Cross Primary and Junior High, Brown-Thompson continues to showcase care and diligence in her approach to developing young minds. In 2010, she was appointed grade-six coordinator at the institution and was tasked with improving the performances of students sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) that academic year. With the help of two team members, she was able to develop strategies to enhance teaching and learning techniques, which led to the cohort exceeding expectations and achieving one of the best GSAT results in the country.




Her commitment to cater to the holistic development of her students propelled her to become a teacher in the Junior Achievement (JA) BizTown programme during this school year.

"Having recently completed financial courses at Northern Caribbean University, I saw the JA BizTown programme as an opportunity to teach children how to be young, self-reliant entrepreneurs," she said.

Brown-Thompson expressed that she particularly enjoys watching her students carrying out their roles as employees of the mock business city at the JA BizTown facility located in Kingston. She notes that the programme has been adding value to students at Cross Primary.

"The students now have a better understanding of everyday terms related to business and economics. They now know that the subjects learnt in regular class have become real," she noted.


Sharon Clarke

The teaching genes

Sharon Clarke has teaching in her blood. Coming from a family of teachers, including her mother and two older sisters, she was convinced from a tender age to enter the profession. With her passion rooted in empowering the nation's youth through teaching, Clarke completed a Diploma in Teaching from St Joseph's College, a Bachelor of Arts in Guidance and Counselling from the International Theological and Leadership Development (from the International University of the Caribbean - IUC) and a master's in counselling from the IUC.

Now in her 16th year in the classroom, Clarke shared that her most rewarding experience as a teacher is maintaining and improving the performances of grade-four students in their annual Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy Tests.

"It motivates me and acts as a reminder that I am contributing to the growth and development of not just my students, but also the society at large," a proud Clarke explained.

Clarke related with great enthusiasm the plethora of activities in which she is involved to help her students. In addition to her regular duties as a counsellor, she goes outside of the regular teaching hours to host evening and weekend classes. She also has special sessions on encouraging healthier lifestyles by promoting better food choices for breakfast and lunch, and provides incentives for her students to do well.




She leads the Junior Achievement (JA) BizTown programme at Holy Rosary Primary. This is where grade-five students get a hands-on knowledge of scores of professions and get a better understanding of the world of work and how they can function more efficiently in the economy, now and in the future.

"I have always yearned for a programme which offers hands-on experience for children, because my experience has taught me that children learn more when they are applying the knowledge proactively," she noted. "The programme also offers a real-life experience for students at the JA BizTown facility, where they actually run businesses at companies like First Global Bank, Jamaica International Insurance Company, Caribbean Broilers, Guardsman, Jamaica Public Service Company, Jamaica Yellow Pages, Texaco, The Spanish Court Hotel, EY, and LIME."

She explained that her students have been motivated to continue their education and now have a better appreciation and understanding of what some of their career options could be.

"JA BizTown was truly an invaluable experience that will last a lifetime. I love this programme," she added.


Heather Spence

Consistent commitment

Heather Spence is no stranger to Junior Achievement, having received the Junior Achievement Teacher Champion for Youth Award for the parish of Westmoreland in 2014. For the past three years, Spence has been committed to helping the students at The Manning's School to maximise their potential by taking on the task of leading them in the Financial Literacy Programme, a joint programme between Junior Achievement Jamaica (JAJ) and the Financial Services Commission (FSC). This year, she went beyond the call of duty and taught the Junior Achievement Company of Entrepreneurs programme as well.

"My motivation to deliver the Junior Achievement programmes comes from my belief in its role in helping students develop good work ethics needed for the world of work," she said.

She added that her students acquired "lifelong financial education" from the programmes, and she is confident that it will assist them as they take on roles in their families and places of work.

Spence is grateful for her students who continue to reward her hard work with exceptional results in their Caribbean Examinations Council examinations.

"It is a great feeling when they do well, especially the ones who lacked the motivation," she expressed.




Having spent more than 15 years in the classroom, Spence is keen on what it takes to foster the holistic development of Jamaica's youth. She believes a "sound education" will foster economic growth and development and is critical to youth being self-empowered to own their economic success.

"Education is the instrument/tool that will enable youths to advance in society. It will foster economic growth and development that will allow them to live, do business and to raise their families in a crime-free society."

JAJ is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation, partnering with the Ministry of Education, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the private sector to deliver practical programmes aimed at preparing students, ages

5-24, for the global economy. JAJ will honour 14 teachers as part of its 3rd Annual Champions for Youth Awards Banquet and Silent Auction on May 27. JAJ thanks its sponsors and supporters for this event, including USAID, Scotiabank, EY, FedEx, Jamaica Public Service Company, JN Fund Managers, Knutsford Court Hotel and The Gleaner Company. For more information, please contact JAJ at 632-3572 or email: