Garth Anderson - Driven by passion and purpose
High in the hills of Manchester stands a man of gratitude, pride and purpose. Garth Anderson, principal of Church Teachers' College in Mandeville, is driven by the need to make a positive impact on the Jamaican education system.
In photo: Like a proud father, Anderson often walks the campus to check on his students-Gladstone Taylor.
From an early age, Anderson realised that education was the only means of elevation from his deep state of poverty. "I remember the days of eating dumpling with fried-up scallion and tomatoes, or no dinner at all," he shared with Outlook.
Anderson recalls the days at all-age school, where he honed his entrepreneurial skills as he became a vendor selling Ringo sweets and 'donkey corn'. From his earnings, he would restock, but was able to sustain himself weekly.
A GOOD SAMARITAN
When he reached the age to transition to high school, his parents were worried as they had no idea how they would fund his education.
Beaming with pride, he shared the story of how his mannerism and eloquence earned him a full scholarship through high school. Similar to the Bible's version of the Good Samaritan, Anderson's high-school education was funded by a complete stranger. "Missionaries visited my school and were impressed by my level of intelligence, and were aware of my poor background. They decided to assist," he shared. All his high-school expenses were taken care of, an act for which he is eternally grateful. He attended May Pen High School, where he did exceptionally well.
In photo: Anderson believes that engaging the students is key to having a successful institution.
His grades and hunger to succeed earned him a space at Ebony Grove as a pretrained teacher. He moved on to teach at May Pen Preparatory. In 1997, he enrolled at Church Teachers' College where he pursued a diploma in teaching, specialising in geography and history. Quite comfortable in his classroom at Bellefield High in Mandeville, Anderson was summoned by his mentor Jean Ramsay, vice-principal of Church Teachers' College at the time, who informed him that he would be going to university. He was at a loss for words as he had no idea how this would be financed. It was done through a full scholarship.
SITTING IN THE PRINCIPAL'S CHAIR
In photo: A very passionate Anderson says, " A teacher should be a good person."-Gladston Taylor
Exiting the University of the West Indies with a Bachelors of Education in geography, he returned to Bellefield High. Again, while in his comfort zone, Ramsay again informed him of a position for school principal in Montego Bay. Anderson was elated but nervous, as he did not think he was ready to take on such a challenge at 26. He became the principal of Muschett High, an institution with 1,800 students and a staff complement of more than 100. At the time it was a daunting task. Breathing heavily, Anderson told Outlook he had the job of dealing with gangs within the school. He realised that it was very important for him to be seen as a role model and he became a father figure for many.
In just a short period, he started to make some changes in the institution. "I got serious about rules. I showed tough love, getting the staff to do the job that they were there to do. I engaged the students and formed a partnership." Anderson boasts that attitude, grades and the entire moral of the institution changed.
Like the prodigal son, Anderson returned to his alma mater, Church Teachers' College, in the highest post - principal, in 2010.
Not perturbed by the fact that he would now be the leader of persons who had taught him, he returned with plans of making a good institution great. He admits that in general, attitudes and values have fallen, but he is adamant that at Church Teachers' College, the standards will not be lowered to meet the students, but the students will have to improve to meet the institutions' standards. "I am very result-oriented. I will get frustrated if I am not seeing results, so I will do whatever is necessary to get positive and effective results," Anderson stated with conviction.
Over the six years at 'Church', with the help and corporation of his staff and students, he has improved the overall aesthetics of the school, and has equipped all the classrooms, which he now calls lecture rooms, with multimedia equipment. All lecture rooms as well as halls of residence now have Wi-Fi service.
He boasts that there are now offerings of a pharmacy technician course, as well as a Master of Science in the teaching of mathematics - in collaboration with the University of Technology. Already built is a diagnostic centre to provide assessment and intervention for students with various exceptionalities. The college also enjoys a collaborative relationship with Temple University in the United States, through which it offers the Bachelor of Science degree in primary and early childhood education, Masters in Education in educational administration with a concentration in instructional leadership, and a Doctor in Education in education administration. Having been a teacher, he knows what the work demand and in the future hopes to help improve their conditions.
In terms of student development, Anderson notes, "A teacher should be a good person." As a result, along with the academic programmes, Church Teachers' College also offers courses in social graces as well as moral education, in an effort to help students find their social and spiritual centre. Anderson insists that a positive change in the education system will effect change in the wider society, and as a result, his aim is to send out the best into the world. "The best teacher is not necessarily one with first-class honours," he points out.
In photo: Family is of utmost importance. Garth Anderson enjoys a happy family moment-Gladston Taylor
After what is by no means an easy task, when Anderson leaves work he has to continue being a pillar of strength at home to his two boys, Jaydon, nine, Johari, five and his wife Tracey.
He admits that he does not get to spend as much time with them as he would want. "Sometimes when I get home at night, I just look in on them." With a twinkle in his eyes, he admits that there are weekends when he just shuts down and focuses on the family, as he is fearful that they will feel neglected - after all, they are the reason he does what he does.