Mount Alvernia Prep and Therisa Cherian a merger of excellence - Part I
Academically, Mount Alvernia Prep School (MAPS), located along Queen's Drive in Montego Bay, St James, is arguably one of the best preparatory schools in all of Jamaica, what with its consistent excellent Common Entrance/GSAT results.
So, what is driving the continuous success of this small school on "Prospect Hill", overlooking the serene Montego Bay Harbour and founded as St James Academy by the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, New York, in 1925?
Arts and Education recently spoke with the current principal, Therisa Cherian, to find out why MAPS is forever going in the right direction. She described the institution once called Mount Alvernia Academy as a high-performance institution. Students are expected to do well and are pushed to do well.
The standard GSAT pass at MAPS is expected to be 90 per cent and above. This year, it was 92.83 per cent. Thirty-one students sat the exam, and 26 got averages of 90 and above.
One student, Girdhar Chuganey, who got 99 per cent, won a government scholarship and is on his way to Campion College in St Andrew. He is also the reigning Spelling Bee champion boy for St James.
From day one, Cherian said, preparation for external exams start, thus, MAPS, not a place for slow learners, and children who are not of a certain standard, are not admitted as Cherian said that this private school does not have the resources to attend to the needs of slow learners. Special attention, however, is given to weaker students. The focus is on them. They are given the extra push.
At MAPS, there is one class for each of grades 1-6. The class size should not exceed 35, and each class has two teachers who are in the room at the same time. While one teaches in her strong area, the other makes sure that there are no distractions. Cherian described her teachers as trained and committed educators who want excellent results. The turnover rate for teachers is very low, so the ones who are there are constantly improving themselves.
Parental supervision and home involvement in the students' learning are strongly encouraged. The parents of children who are performing below par are called in. And as a parent of two sons who attended MAPS, Cherian knows very well about the importance of the involvement of parents in the education of their children.
Her sons, Cherian Cherian and Christopher Cherian, were Spelling Bee champions for St James. Christopher got a GSAT scholarship, while Cherian got a government scholarship based on his CAPE results. They are now both doctors.
Outside of the formal scholastic programmes and curricula, over the years, MAPS has done exceptionally well at quizzes and Spelling Bee, excelling at the parish and national levels. They have JCDC festival medals galore. Swimming is another of their strong areas, likewise debates. For three of the past four years, they have won the Junior International Debates for three consecutive years.
While attaining academic excellence is paramount, and students are encouraged to participate in co-curricular activities, the softer skills are also not ignored. Cherian said that there is a strong emphasis on having good manners. Thus, for two years, the "driving theme" for the school is "respect". People having no manners is her pet peeve she said.
"There is no point in having an education if you don't have respect for people ... What are you going to be?" she asked. She is worried about the very bright kids who have no manners. And her face lit up when she spoke about the humility and excellent soft skills that Chuganey possesses.