Dave Lindo, Gleaner Writer
MARCIA CHAI has devoted her life to the education sector. She sees teaching as her special calling and has no regrets as she approaches her thirty-second year in the classroom, all of which has been spent at one school, Bishop Gibson High.
Chai was born in Kingston to parents Franklyn and Etta Downie. She moved to Manchester when she was eight years old because her father relocated to the parish to work at the then Alcan Kirkvine bauxite plant.
She attended Knox College in the cool hills of Spalding. Remembering her high school days she said, "It was very good, I had a lot of friends. We maintained a close relationship, even after leaving school. We have a lot of Knox past students who live in Mandeville and we are still close."
After leaving Knox in the late 1970s, she enrolled at the University of The West Indies (UWI) when she was 19 and pursued a general arts degree.
"I had a few friends at UWI. I was always lonely, so I spent a lot of time in the library," Chai said. "My cousin Patrick Foster used to wait for me as we did some similar courses together. He studied law. I lived off campus in Liguanea."
After leaving UWI in 1980, Chai went to work at the all-girls school, Bishop Gibson High, in Mandeville. Prior to that, she got married to the love of her life, Charles, who was an engineer at Alpart bauxite company.
In explaining why she chose teaching, she said, "Up to the time of going to university, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. At first I wanted to do nursing, but my mother discouraged me because I am a hard worker and she said they would kill me with work. After finishing university, because my husband was working at Alpart, I said I had to find something to do in Mandeville. I didn't like banking, so I chose teaching."
She taught Spanish and English language at Bishop Gibson High, School. Those are the subjects she still teaches and has worked hard to be one of the best teachers in her field.
Chai has also balanced her teaching career with family life, being a good wife to her husband and a good mother to her two daughters, Shana-lee, who is an environmental researcher, and Danielle, a lawyer.
She has lots of fond teaching memories. "It gives me a good feeling when my students show me love, for example, like on Teachers' Day, or any form of appreciation," she said. "Recently, a past student who lives in England came back and carried a huge basket. She told me thank you because she said she was very poor in school and I used to give her lunch money and bus fare. I was really blown away by this."
Commenting on what has kept her in teaching so long she said, "My love for young people. I Iove to relate to them. They keep me young and fresh. They teach me all the dance moves, and all those things. I want to make a positive impact on their lives."