Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
OCHO RIOS, St Ann:A TRIO of teachers who combined for 100 years of service to Jamaica's education system were honoured earlier this week by the Ocho Rios Primary School for their contribution to that institution.
Acting principal Gertrude McFarlane and board chairman Frank Beecher and several teachers were among those who turned out at the appreciation function at Ocho Rios Church of Christ at which the ladies were presented with citations.
Verona Small, Eugenie Earle, and Patricia Mitchell contributed a total of 91 years to the Ocho Rios Primary School and were elated that they were honoured for their years of service to the school.
Small is enjoying her retirement, while for Earle, the journey continues as she now teaches at Mount Zion Preparatory School in Buckfield, St Ann.
For Mitchell, however, she is happy to take on a new vocation - that of farming.
Mitchell described her years in the classroom as being good, initially, but a breakdown in discipline over the years served to drive her away from the classroom. She spent 30 of her 31 years in the classroom at Ocho Rios Primary School before retiring in June of this year. Now, she is a farmer on a two-and-a-half-acre property.
She recalled her time in the classroom.
"Initially, they were great years," Mitchell began. "Then, children were eager to learn because there was no cable - it was just TV; it was just JBC - and so what you found is that parents were more protective of their children and there was better parental guidance. But I noticed after the VCR came into being there was a downward trend, then cable, and it was worse!"
Mitchell said despite the deteriorating situation, there were still "a few children who were eager to learn because of the home from which they came".
"But after a while, the indiscipline and the lack of interest really started to turn me off," she went on to say.
"But you know, I feel good now when I see some of the past students and their family and they tell their children about you and what you did for them. You know, it's a sense of achievement and satisfaction, but I'm happy to be out of the classroom. And as I said to some people, I don't want to have anything to do with the classroom anymore. I'm a full time farmer."
Mitchell rears goats and grows several crops, including sweet peppers, in a greenhouse.
"Even yesterday, I got orders for sweet peppers, a couple hundred pounds. People also order goats from me, especially during the holidays."
Earle said she was pleased to be recognised.
"I feel quite honoured to be honoured," Earle said in good humour as she spoke to Rural Xpress shortly before the ceremony.
Earle spent 33 years at Ocho Rios Primary School, and according to her, the time spent in the classroom was worth it.
"The first part was really good, and meeting the students on the streets nowadays and they telling me thanks, I feel really good."
Now teaching at Mount Zion prep, Earle was asked why she has returned to the classroom.
"Maybe it's the love for children, I don't know," she stated.
As for Small, she was in the classroom for 36 years, 28 of them at Ocho Rios Primary School.
She told Rural Xpress: "I consider the years rewarding for both me and the students, especially when I see how much I helped them to achieve and when the child comes back, even with the parents, to say thanks for helping them to reach so far."
"I miss the children," she went on, "but the discipline was getting out of hand. But I still think had it not been for illness, I think I would still be helping them."