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Old Harbour’s Weir rises from ‘accidental’ teacher to Principal of the Year

Published:Tuesday | December 3, 2019 | 12:00 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Lascelles Chin (centre), founder and executive chairman of LASCO Affiliated Companies, poses with Teacher of the Year, Immaculate Conception High’s Bhagya Malladi (left), and Principal of the Year, Linton Weir of Old Harbour High, at yesterday’s awards luncheon at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Monday, December 2, 2019.
Herbert Morrison Technical High’s Kevin Coke (centre) accepts the TVET Teacher of the Year Awards from Lascelles Chin, founder and executive chairman of LASCO Affiliated Companies, and Dr Grace McLean, acting permanent secretary in the Ministry of Education.

“I entered teaching by accident.”

It’s not quite the revelation you would expect from a LASCO-Ministry of Education Principal of the Year, but yesterday Linton Weir bagged top honours after the former agriculturist traded his fork for chalk and headed into the classroom 23 years ago.

“Teaching was never my pathway,” Weir continued as he and two other educators came out tops in the three-section annual competition.

After completing secondary studies, Weir initially had his eyes set on joining the army, but that dream was shattered when he broke a limb which was not properly reset.

He then became a trained agriculturist, paving the way for destiny’s call.

“It was not until my former principal, Joycelin Clarke, called and asked me if I would give her some time at the school to transform her agricultural science programme. I told her I would give her two years.”

Those two years blossomed into decades as he moved up the ranks before becoming principal 10 years ago at his alma mater, Old Harbour High School in St Catherine.

“Once you are able to motivate your students, I think more than 90 per cent of your work is finished,” said Weir, who also secured the sectional prize for the most popular principal in a social media competition.

Claris Brown was Weir’s principal while he was a student at Marlie Mount Primary. She beamed with pride when he saluted her in his speech.

Describing Weir as a ‘transformational leader”, she said watching him grow “has been like metamorphosis”.

Second place in the Principal of the Year category went to Aretha Willie of George Headley Primary in St Andrew, who was followed by Dameian Elvin from Hague Primary in Trelawny.

Teacher of the Year a staple at Immaculate

Immaculate Conception High’s Bhagya Malladi found the right formula to secure the Teacher of the Year title.

The Indian native had her feet wet in the profession from as early as 12, when she began tutoring a three-year-old with poliomyelitis.

“She couldn’t really write and she wanted admission in her dream school, which was the same school I was studying at. Her mother asked me to teach her how to write because we had to hold her hand and write; so that child actually taught me to be very patient,” said Malladi, who migrated to Jamaica with her family in 2002.

A year later, she began teaching at the Manning’s School in Westmoreland before heading to Immaculate Conception High in 2004.

Sixth-former Cezanne Chin says the award reaffirms what the school community thinks of the dedicated science teacher.

“She is a staple at Immaculate. She taught me biology and chemistry and she pushed me to do human and social biology. I am now a humanities student, and I still have those principles she instilled in me,” Chin said.

Rohan Walcott of deCarteret College in Manchester and Marsha Russell of Porus High in Manchester were first and second runners-up, respectively.

The teacher and principal of the year each received a cash prize of $250,000 and an all-expense-paid trip to attend a conference in Los Angeles next March.

TVET Teacher of the year

The Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Teacher of the Year award was incorporated in the ceremony for the first time this year. Herbert Morrison Technical High School’s Kevin Coke emerged as the winner.

He has been a TVET teacher for more than eight years and currently teaches electrical technology and technical drawing at the CSEC level.

Coke received a scholarship to the Vocational Training Development Institute and $100,000 in school laboratory equipment.

Founder and executive chairman of LASCO Affiliated Companies, Lascelles Chin, said that good teachers should have three loves – the love of learning, love of learners and the love of bringing the first two loves together.

He charged the finalists to leave the ceremony “determined to bring these loves together in your respective classrooms or workshops across the country”.

Chin added: Excite your learners to want to learn.”