Teacher pushes to be agent of change
Although the citizens of St Mary often lament a lack of income-generating and employment opportunities, they can take pride in the fact that in 2014, their parish has been recognised as trailblazer in the fields of law enforcement and education.
In February, St Mary-based police Sergeant Hodel Harris won the Cop of the Year award and at a prestigious ceremony held earlier this month in New Kingston, another of the parish's civil servants, Anieta Bailey, was named Lasco Teacher of the Year.
Bailey, who teaches at Marymount High School in Highgate, outshone competition from five other finalists to collect the coveted prize, after a colleague secretly nominated her.
The 31-year-old English language specialist told Rural Xpress: "The fact that somebody saw that I was putting in the work and felt I was a good candidate means a lot to me. I was surprised, but happy and excited.
"It was a very rigorous process because the Lasco team makes you jump through hoops of fire and walk on shards of glass (laughs). The staff are absolutely wonderful and really great people, but on the day of the final, they tortured me.
"They kept saying: 'Just enjoy yourself,' but you can't. It was nerve-racking for all six of us because you really don't know if you've won until the end. It was great to be there and see such a display of confidence in the education sector, and it was a very proud moment when they called my name.
"I don't think it has quite sunk in yet, because the opportunities and scope for personal and professional development is so wide, I can only think about them in chunks."
Bailey received $250,000, a vacation to a Sandals resort and the winners' trophy, but claims she is most excited about travelling to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum (ASCD)'s educational conference in Houston, Texas.
She explains: "The best prize is the trip to the conference next year, because that's where educators from all over the world gather to share ideas and I will be able to see what other people are doing and explore how that could work in Jamaica."
Another benefit is that all the publicity will help raise the profile of Bailey's CSEC English A Writing Workshop, which she organises annually to prepare students across the Ministry of Education (MOE)'s Region Two (St Mary, Portland and St Thomas) for their exams.
She said: "The workshops normally take place over the Easter break and are designed to share information with students, because on this end of the island, they don't have access to all the wonderful stuff that goes on in Kingston.
"We're not operating under the assumption that our teachers are failing, but simply trying to cement what they've been doing with their students throughout the year. It's a great event and the only one of its kind on this side of the island."
Over the next year, Bailey will work alongside Lasco to deliver a unique project, 'Teachers Engaged in Active Change', which aims to bring English and maths educators together to exchange ideas.
If all goes well, the plan is to take the scheme, which the MOE has agreed to implement throughout Region Two, national.
Bailey explained: "I love sharing and disseminating information and this project gives me the chance to interact with schools in the region and Corporate Area and partner with some luminaries in education, which I'm very excited about because we need education to move forward."