Focus on Principals | Lavern Whyte-Gottshalk: Love for children keeps her going
Lavern Whyte-Gottshalk is the principal of the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School in Brandon Hill, Clarendon. The school was formed by the merging of four basic schools in the area.
Whyte-Gottshalk says that she is driven by the fact that she loves children. "I am fully aware that they must be taught how to think creatively and honestly, and in order to do this, they must be engaged meaningfully. We want a generation of creative thinkers."
Whyte-Gottshalk, who is from Brandon Hill, has been the principal for the last four and a half years. Before this, she taught at the Arthur's Seat Primary and Infant School.
She is also the Sunday School superintendent and youth director of the Brandon Hill New Testament Church of God.
When Whyte-Gottshalk took over the reins of the school, the previous acting principal had crafted the school's vision and mission statement. However, according to her, she inherited an inactive PTA, teacher morale was low, and the school had low literacy levels and low participation by students in various activities.
Whyte-Gottshalk saw the need for more social programmes, more involvement of the PTA, and improvement in numeracy and literacy in order to attain her objectives. She has implemented several initiatives at the school which include:
1. Boys Club, where the boys play football, bake, and paint. In this club, the boys are exposed to various motivational talks from adults from the neighbouring communities.
2. Girls Club, where the girls bake, colour, and paint.
3. Sleep Over time where the boys and girls sleep over at the school and attend tea parties and talent shows.
4. Boys' Day and Girls' Day, where the students are given the opportunity to adorn themselves in the attire of their career choice.
5. Educational trips are arranged for the students to visit historical sites such as Devon House, the Bob Marley Museum, and Port Royal.
6. Spell-off competition for more parent involvement, for example 'Parent Spelling Challenge Quiz', where parents from the various communities compete to select a winning team that will later receive a trophy.
7. Old school uniform day, where, in November, the parents are encouraged to wear their past school uniforms.
8. Spelling Bee competition for students, which is sponsored by the Kiwanis club.
9. Parent of the year competition
10 Training for teachers and staff members in emotional intelligence
Her future plans include:
1. Doing an assessment of the present curriculum to see if it is meeting the standards required for the grade 5 age group.
2. Constructing a ramp for ease of access for the disabled.
3. Organising training for staff in public health precaution.
"I have known Mrs Whyte-Gottshalk for approximately 19 years, and she has always been a good community person and a hard worker," says Leesian Williamson, a former classmate who now teaches at the Brandon Hill Primary School.
According to Trevaughn Williamson, deputy head boy of the school, "she is a good Principal, because she is kind to the children and does things to make us happy."
"She is sociable, always willing to give advice, and offers help where possible while going the extra mile," says Christine Cameron, the PTA representative on the school board.
Whyte-Gottshalk is a graduate of the Bethlehem Moravian Teachers College, where she completed a bachelor of education degree. She went to Walden University, Baltimore, United States and completed her masters' in elementary reading and literacy. She also completed the 'Effective Principals Training Programme' in March 2017.
Whyte-Gottshalk says that she is inspired by American Writer John Locke, who once said: "Children generally hate to be idle. All the care should be that their busy humour should be constantly employed in something that is of use to them.
"I believe goals of yesterday do not define my future. they are important steps to a greater tomorrow," she said.
Serving the school under the motto Striving for Excellence, she said, 'Whatever, I achieve today, I must achieve greater tomorrow.'
- The author is a guidance counsellor at Mona High School, St Andrew.