Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
ABOVE ROCKS, St Catherine:IT WAS an evening of nostalgia complemented by amazing performances in dance, song and dub poetry in honour of Audrey Wallace and Florence Smith-Raymond, retired teachers of St Mary's All-Age School in Above Rocks, St Catherine. They were lauded recently for their contribution to that institution.
Those who attended the appreciation banquet themed 'Always Guiding, Encouraging and Imparting the Values of Life' at the Terra Nova Hotel in New Kingston listened in awe as the citations highlighted the awardees' commitment to moulding the lives of hundreds of the nation's children for a combined period of 74 years.
Wallace, a Miconian, entered the profession through the doors of Sargeantville All-Age School in St Catherine in 1967. The holder of a bachelor's degree in education, Wallace taught at Tulloch Primary School and Rock Hall All-Age. In 1974, she started a 36-year union with St Mary's All-Age and was appointed principal in 2000 until her retirement in 2010.
"We at St Mary's All-Age are fortunate to have had the opportunity and privilege of sharing her commitment, expertise, work ethic and her friendship," teacher Bervette Duncombe read from Wallace's citation.
During her tenure in the profession Smith-Raymond, an alumnus of St Joseph's Teachers' College, served Lawrence Tavern Primary, Cavaliers, Hall's Delight and St Mary's all-age schools.
"She was a dedicated and conscientious teacher who unreservedly gave of her time and talent not only to those under her tutelage, but to the school and community at large," cited Jacquelin Brown-Hope, one of Smith-Raymond's past students, now a teacher.
Natalie Neita-Headley, member of parliament, north central St Catherine, the constituency in which St Mary's All-Age is located, said the educators' years of yeoman service epitomise two of Jamaica's real heroines.
"Sometimes we have persons who win one race and become a hero, and you have one person who discovers one thing and go down in the Guinness Book of Records, and we have some people who make just one song and is a celebrity for life, and then we have teachers who would have laboured for 30, 40 years and never get the recognition," said Neita-Headley.
She commended the organisers of the function for lauding the stalwarts for their invaluable contribution to the field of education.
"What it takes to mentor a child, the patience that is required, the consistent commitment that teachers have over many years ..." remarked Neita-Headley. "I raise my hats to those who can because the world needs more teachers who are committed to the process of ensuring that our children learn what is in the books, what is not in the books and how to prepare them for the world," she continued.
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, in delivering the keynote address, described Wallace and Smith-Raymond as two exemplary educators deserving of the accolades bestowed on them.
"These are the kinds of teachers we want, we need; and it is only appropriate that their prowess and their character should be a source for their celebration," Thwaites said. "We are filled with gratitude for what they have given. We hope that others will follow their footsteps."