Thu | Jan 20, 2022

Joyce Gray: A lifetime dedicated to education

Published:Monday | November 22, 2021 | 12:06 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Carlton Kelly (left) and Pastor Phillip Smith assist Joyce Gray, a veteran educator, to her seat. Gray, who retired in 2008, taught for 56 years. An appreciation service for her was held at Church of God of Prophecy, Mount Salus Road.
Carlton Kelly (left) and Pastor Phillip Smith assist Joyce Gray, a veteran educator, to her seat. Gray, who retired in 2008, taught for 56 years. An appreciation service for her was held at Church of God of Prophecy, Mount Salus Road.
Left: Joyce Gray, a veteran educator, at a community thanksgiving and appreciation service held in her honour at the Church of God of Prophecy, Mount Salus Road.
Left: Joyce Gray, a veteran educator, at a community thanksgiving and appreciation service held in her honour at the Church of God of Prophecy, Mount Salus Road.
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An established dressmaker with no formal training in education, Joyce Gray started Miss One’s Basic School on the grounds of her home in 1952.

It was made from bamboo and thatch and when it rained, classes continued in her one-bedroom home. In the early 1970s, she joined the staff at Evans Basic School until her retirement in 2008.

While there, she attended monthly teacher-training workshops geared at improving teaching techniques and the academic success of students.

The dedicated educator for 56 years was showered with appreciation from the Mannings Hill community on Saturday.

Gray, now 91, smiled from ear to ear as past students, former colleagues and residents shared their recollections and detailed how she impacted their lives.

Vice-principal of St Hugh’s High School Alicia Francis, who was taught by Gray over three decades ago, expressed gratitude for the values she instilled in her.

“You have served this community well. You may have retired, but your standards and your principles still reside within me, and I am proud to stand here and say I am a product of Evans Basic School, one who was moulded under your wings,” Francis said.

DISCIPLINARIAN

The vice-principal added that she was a disciplinarian, and recalled that the entire class was punished one day as someone had stolen Gray’s ‘stinking toe’ fruit from her desk.

“We each got one slap in the right hand and one in the left ... . I still want to know today who stole Miss Gray’s stinking toe. After we all received our beating, Miss Gray spoke to us about the need to be honest,” Francis recounted.

Eric Smith, a member of the school board, argued that efforts must be made to honour Gray by renaming the school to reflect her contribution, as well as that of the founder.

“You have inspired me. It wasn’t class one, two and three. It was one class a pickney – everybody was in one room, no matter their age, and you got the job done,” he recalled of Gray’s early years at Miss One’s Basic School.

For Gloria Rochester, the words of the retired teacher to her when she was three years old has stuck with her all her life – “Likkle girl, yuh have a lot of promise.”

Rochester asserted that her journey would not have been successful if it were not for the positive influence of Gray.

“You not only taught me how to count, but you taught me what counts. You have poured into the lives of hundreds of others. This is the legacy you decided on in 1952 from Pinto Hill, Mr Sullivan’s church, Kingswood, Mannings Hill; and today, 69 years in 2021, a true legacy. Thank you for mentoring all of us without a script or a syllabus, and shaping our character with values, interpersonal skills, discipline, which was number one, and nurturing our faith by teaching us the Scriptures,” Rochester said.

The appreciation service was also attended by Member of Parliament for West Rural St Andrew Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn and members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com