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Student surprises sick teacher with holiday at North Coast hotel

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarl Gilchrist/ Gleaner Writer
Jheanell Forbes Braham and her five-year-old niece Maria, enjoying the kid’s playroom at Moon Palace Jamaica Resort and Spa.

It was coming on to crunch time and visual arts students in upper-sixth form at St George's College in Kingston were busily preparing their school based assessments (SBA). Unfortunately for them and for her, tragedy struck as class teacher Jheanell Forbes Braham took ill, suffering from Bell's palsy.

But, being the good teacher that she was, Forbes Braham cut short her sick leave and returned to work early in order to ensure her students did well in their work.

The students were touched, but hardly anyone said anything to the teacher.

And then, one day, "I was pleasantly surprised when Miss Boreland (Natalie Boreland, manager, Moon Palace Foundation) turned up at my workplace looking for me," Forbes Braham told The Gleaner.

"My HOD (head of department) just came to my office and said I'm to come now. I kept asking, 'What is it? Am I trouble?' She just kept saying, 'Come, come, you have to come to the principal's office.'"

Once there, Boreland presented her with a complimentary four-day stay at Moon Palace Resort in Ocho Rios.


Moved by dedication


Unknown to Forbes Braham, one of her students, Okeen Wallace, who was moved by her dedication to her students, had written to Moon Palace Foundation asking for a holiday for her as a Teacher's Day surprise.

"Ms Forbes Braham has been more than a teacher to many," Wallace wrote in part. "Over the years, I have seen both past and present students affectionately refer to her as their 'mother' or 'Aunty Forbes.' She loves her job and gives her all for her students. She's always encouraging us, assisting needy students, and staying back after work to help students complete their assignments.

"This school year has been very rough for her, as she lost her grandmother last September after battling cancer for two years. Shortly after, she got very ill and was rushed to the Andrews Hospital emergency room.

"On the day she returned to work, she realised she was having difficulty moving the right side of her face and she was once again taken to hospital, where she was diagnosed with Bell's palsy. A few weeks later, she returned to work in spite of her face being swollen, her speech sounding slightly different, or being able to give her signature laugh or smile. I was very shocked to see her in this condition, as her face looked as if she had a stroke.

"My classmates and I would really appreciate if you would be able to surprise our teacher with a four-day stay for two at your prestigious resort."

Upon receipt of the letter, Boreland said the foundation immediately approved the holiday for the teacher.

"I was humbled by Okeen's action," Forbes Braham admitted.

"I came back to work way before my medical leave was up because I wanted to ensure they did well for their SBA, so he wrote that letter saying that in spite of me not feeling well, I still came back to ensure that they were OK."


Excellent student-teacher relationship


She shares a fantastic relationship with all her students, she explained.

"Oh my gosh, Okeen? He's my son! His mother ordained me his second mother," she laughed. "He calls me mom. I became his teacher in fourth form and I realise he was very talented, so practically everything I know I imparted on him and he just caught on to it like that. My other boys, the sixth-formers, the teachers complain that I spoil them, but I just love them, they're good boys."

In the end, her dedication to her students bore fruit.

"When they got the results they were just telling me 'Thank you so much, miss!' There were tears of joy and a lot of 'thank you, thank you, thank you!'"

The surprise holiday turned out to be a so-long gift for the teacher. Wallace completed upper-sixth form at St George's and has moved on. Forbes Braham has also moved on after nine years at the school, it being her first job after college.