Sat | Oct 21, 2017

From student to teacher to principal

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey
Alexander Bourne, past student, former teacher and now principal of Knox College in Spaldings, Clarendon.
Support from his school family is of utmost importance to Bourne who believes in an inclusive leadership style. Here he is photographed with his personal secretary Fayholme Samuels.
Principal of Knox College Alexander Bourne with the school’s top achiever in the Caribbean for CSEC social studies 2014, lower sixth-form student Tashari Palmer, in the institution’s trophy room.
From left: Vice-principals Omar Smith and Maxine Josephs-Platt with principal Alexander Bourne.
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Spaldings, Clarendon:

As a child, aspirations of becoming a pilot were deeply embedded in the mind of Alexander Bourne. But when he faced financial hurdles, he explored other avenues. He had no idea that one day he would wear the hat of an educator, nor did he expect to surpass his own expectations and become the principal of his alma mater - but he did it!

The youngest of three children from a single-parent home, 38-year-old Bourne transitioned from being a student of Knox College to becoming a math teacher at the institution, and now proudly, the highest administrator.

"I would never have predicted, five years ago, that this is what I would be doing, but I believe the will of the Lord, through the events of my life, has led me to where I am, and I have no regrets," he told Outlook.

After completing his studies at Knox College and Knox Community College, Bourne took advantage of bursaries and scholarships that led him to pursuing undergraduate studies at the University of Sunderland (UK) in financial management. He later began working in the financial sector, but was plagued with feelings of emptiness and a yearning to find true professional satisfaction.

"I was afraid to think it, but could not escape it - I did not want to do accounts. After analysing my situation, and reflecting on the kindness of teachers and how they motivated me, I decided to teach for a while. Two years was the initial plan. I thought this would make me happy, and it did. Soon, two years became five, and five years became 10."

 

GREAT IMPACT

 

The young man who had entered the classroom with much trepidation - not even knowing what a lesson plan was - and scaring students half to death as a nervous wreck, moved on from just teaching math to becoming a senior teacher, head of the Math Department, writer of the curriculum for the subject area, coordinator of the institution's sixth-form programme, and moving the school's pass average from 45 per cent to 85 per cent.

Bourne later acquired a Master of Education from St Mary's University and taught math, statistics and business-related courses at Knox College, Management Institute of National Development, and Church Teachers' College, part-time.

"When I returned to the institution after my study leave, I became the vice-principal, and when the former principal, Dr Cowan, became principal for the community college, I was among the list of persons who applied for the position. It was a long process, but here I am today."

He added: "Since becoming principal, I have felt very blessed. I have received support from many, including my family and friends, colleagues, students, the school board, the church, parents and alumni. It is an honour to work with the team at Knox College; I consider them family. The staff at Knox, I believe, is one of the best staffs anywhere. They not only teach minds, they also touch hearts and enliven spirits. They go beyond the call of duty to awaken the potential in their students."

Described as predominantly calm, fiercely loyal, very private, with an inquisitive mind and humility, Bourne has always been a workaholic, but has been learning to establish and maintain a social life.

"I remember in my 20s I burnt myself out and ended up in the hospital, so I had to learn how to take a break Ö . I may not be the most outgoing person, but I will go to events. I spend time with family and friends, and I even joined Facebook three weeks ago and WhatsApp, so I'm getting there," said a jocund Bourne.

Currently studying at the Temple University for his doctoral degree, Bourne believes his accomplishments, in part, are as a result of his absentee father.

"My mother always told me that a man is as good as his work, and I keep that with me to this very day ... . I have been working since the age of 18, taking on serious responsibilities and working to be the man my father wasn't - not to abandon family, not to mistreat others."

Though not yet married and without children, Bourne says his status is about to be changed - maybe in less than a year.

"I believe in being in love and following it through ... . My life has been carved out by the Lord and I have no regrets. I don't believe in rushing into things, but waiting on the Lord."

 

SEVERAL AWARDS

 

Bourne has so far received several awards from Knox College for outstanding performance in preparing students for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate math examinations; from the Knox past students' association for contribution to education at Knox College; an award for outstanding research paper while pursuing his master's studies, and the creation of 'Geogebra', an app that helps students understand geometry and algebra differently.

In seeking to build on the foundation of the noble institution, Bourne plans to place emphasis on improving the technical and vocational programmes, increase IT capacity, deepen the integration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics into the curriculum, improve sporting programmes, and build a sixth-form block.

"I have a passion for helping youth excel and being the best they can be, and I will continue to do just that," he ended.