Teachers advised to prioritise self-care in wake of sudden deaths
Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) President Winston Smith yesterday urged his colleague educators to make taking care of themselves a priority as he led them in a service of prayer and reflection in the wake of the deaths of several persons among their ranks in recent days.
Noting that the pandemic has resulted in teachers working harder than they have ever had to as they adapted to the virtual learning environment, he urged even those educators who were not a part of the JTA to take stock.
“We are joined this afternoon in this fashion to pay homage to our colleagues who have fallen, … teachers who would have given of their lives to the benefit of educating the nation’s children,” Smith said during the virtual event on Friday evening.
“It is important that you recognise that you are only one person. It is important that you recognise that should you die because you have overexerted yourself, somebody else is waiting and will take your place,” he said.
He urged the educators, who he called the bedrock of any society, to support the JTA while it lobbies the Government to ensure that teachers are adequately compensated and given sufficient and timely vacation leave as they need time to relax, rest and recuperate.
The education sector was rocked by news of the deaths of at least seven teachers between May 11 and May 18. Among those who died were Gregory Williams, lecturer at the Portmore Community College (May 11); Antoinette Banton-Ellis, principal of Vere Technical High School (May 12); Ann Marie Johnson Lindo, vice-principal of Duncans All-Age School (May 13); Carlos Gordon, teacher of One Way Preparatory School (May 14); Donnalee Wright of Tarrant High School (May 16); Amory Tomlinson (May 18), teacher at a school in Black River; and Jennifer Gidden, acting principal and vice-principal of Charlemont High School (May 18).
JTA Secretary General Dr Mark Nicely said that the teachers who died recently had given sterling service to the profession, leaving the many persons whose lives they had touched with good memories.
“We acknowledge their work and worth contributing to the lives of students and fellow colleagues alike. We are deeply saddened by their passing … . We want to single out their families. Whenever an individual passes away there are several loved ones left behind,” Nicely said.
He described the late teachers as breadwinners for their families and pledged support towards their welfare beyond the tragedies.
Keynote speaker the Reverend Richard Bowes urged the educators to look to God.
“Whenever death occurs, it leaves the mind not in the best state, and so our contemplation, our computation and calculation are sometimes to do things that are not the most structured,” he said.
Bowes offered blessings on behalf of the Shiloh Apostolic Church to the JTA, the immediate families of those who passed, and the grieving students.