Tue | Jun 25, 2019

Six outstanding celebrity high school teachers from the past

Published:Sunday | February 3, 2019 | 12:10 AM
The girls at St Andrew High School adored their English teacher Judy Willoughby who was a former Miss Jamaica.

Teachers can be powerful agents of transformation and many bring life-long knowledge and inspiration to their students. But what happens in the classroom when teachers come to school with that celebrity factor? Does it help and make students more enthusiastic, or does it hurt by being distracting? Based on feedback from students from the 70s and 80s, it helped in a big way, and students loved their celebrity teachers.

The ladies here, taught in Jamaican schools. Some were popular, stylish, engaging and magnetic, and they were all bright, which made them big attractions in their respective schools, and fodder for conversations many years later. Please note that the selections are anecdotal and not based on a scientific survey, so it is entirely possible to add dozens more to the list.

1. Judy Willoughby, was the sister of popular RJR radio personality Neville Willoughby, and she taught English at St Andrew High School for Girls. Who would not want to be taught by a former Miss Jamaica? Judy was Miss Jamaica 1960, and those who were unable to get to her Monday to Friday classes at the gated school with the then red checkered uniform could catch her at Regal Theatre on Saturday mornings in Kingston where she riveted Cross Roads with a talent show for kids .

"We all aspired to be like her when we grew up", Mary Ann Raymond, one of her former students at St Andrew High said.

2. Dr Marlene Hamilton, taught several subjects at Kingston College. Dr Hamilton, eventually rose to become UWI deputy principal after many years of important work in education. But her first wildfire constituency was at KC where this bright and beautiful educator was also an organist, and she played the pipe organ at the school's chapel, much to the delight of the boys. A hall of residence is named in her honor - the Marlene Hamilton Hall at the Mona Campus of the University of the West Indies.

3. Sheila Hill Carter, taught Spanish at Excelsior in the 70s. She was a hot actress, appearing in numerous theatrical productions of the day, and she was able to successfully transfer her passion for the theater into her teaching skills. Sheila was also a hit on JBC TV, where she taught daytime Spanish on television, and she was married to advertising executive, producer and actor Reggie Carter. With her husband, they created Carterhill Production, and her acting credits include 'The Owl and the Pussycat', 'The School for Wives, 'O?' and 'What the Butler Saw'.

4. Dr Petrine Archer (deceased) was an art coach at St Hugh's High School for Girls in early 1980s. If St Hugh's thought they were getting a reclusive and retiring theology honors graduate as art teacher, they were in for the shock of their lives. Archer came to the school with an early vision for art education and a dazzling array of skills that she was not afraid to put to good use, including her impeccable and indigenous sense of style. And long before her UWI graduation, she had already tacked the painting of a mural at the university's Assembly Hall building that became an eye-pleasing attraction in Kingston

5. Award-winning actress Dawn Forrester Pryce, taught English briefly at Ardenne in the 1980s, but she left an impact on her students that lasted a lifetime. The adored and celebrated Dawn Forrester came to teaching with a revolutionary spirit of self awareness and Black pride. With exciting Jamaican current events as her backdrop, she motivated students to write who never would have dreamed about writing before. Two of her proteges is best-selling Jamaican author Colin Channer, and Anthony Turner who now writes for the North American Gleaner/Star. In the world of theatre, Dawn appeared in a number of successful productions including Dry Run, Same Time, Next Year, All That Glitters , The Last 8'O Clock Jamaica Time and Gunfight At The Last Chance Saloon.

6. Amidst a hot career in modelling, Althea Laing, was also an English teacher of distinction at Bishop's High School in Mandeville. Suddenly, in the 80s, she landed on the cover of Essence Magazine, becoming the first Jamaican model to do so. She also won the Miss Jamaica Fashion Model Contest in 1985. Naturally, everything changed. Shows, appearances, ads and even her classes fell in the 'hot demand' category. Decades later, Althea Laing, is still greatly admired as a teacher, coach and an advocate for various causes as she was in the 1980s.