St Ann teacher dies days before exam
Staff and students at Ocho Rios Primary School received grief counselling earlier this week after a grade six teacher, 47-year-old Donald Rowe, died suddenly on Sunday.
Rowe, of Hartland in Priory, St Ann, had visited doctors up to Friday to check on a medical issue.
His death, however, still came as a shock to many.
And with the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) ability test set for next week Tuesday, the school community is in mourning, forcing principal Suzette Barnes-Wilson to make adjustments in order to continue the smooth flow of preparation for the exams.
“It is a sombre mood and children are still weeping. Teachers still shaken. We have someone who just came back from leave, so we have pulled her, so we have persons already in place to carry on with the grade six,” Barnes-Wilson told The Gleaner on Wednesday.
She said that part of the preparation now has to do with lending moral support to the students.
“We are motivating the students, encouraging them to carry on as this is what Mr Rowe would have wanted. We’ve said to them, do it for Mr Rowe and give it your best shot.”
Rowe had been at the school for 21 years.
The counselling team from the Ministry of Education has been offering support, the principal said.
“The counselling team for Region Three came in and they really supported us. Parents came in and assisted. Past principals and retired teachers came in on Monday and supported us,” Barnes-Wilson said.
Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) President Owen Speid; chairman of the school board, Michael Belnavis; and Ministry of Education representatives also visited the school.
Rowe was also the school’s sports coordinator. The grade one sports day has been cancelled as a result. However, sports for the other classes will go ahead at a later date.
Barnes-Wilson said that Rowe was loved and respected by everyone she has come across.
“We have missed a service-oriented individual. He served everybody, not only the school, and he served with a smile. He was a very humble person, and he has left something with everybody,” she said.
The school is planning to have a candlelight vigil for the late teacher next Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile, Rowe’s body was found at his home on Sunday morning at around 7 o'clock.
“It really is a great loss. He was a humanitarian at heart,” neighbour Carole Davis-Cunningham told The Gleaner.
“He was the consummate professional who went above and beyond duty. There was nothing too much for him to do. Of course, his students were of paramount importance. He made so many sacrifices.”
Davis-Cunningham said that the outpouring of love for Rowe was evidence of his commitment to community.
“It speaks to the fact that he was everything to everybody. I don’t know how he was able to manage giving a little piece of his heart to everybody. Around him, everybody felt special.”
An ardent JTA member, Rowe was a returning officer for the teachers’ union's Ocho Rios district.
He was also a volleyball player, representing St Ann parish in earlier years.