‘Savanna-la-Mar Primary has lost a gem’
Students, staff mourn teacher’s death
It was a sombre morning at the Savanna-la-Mar Primary School in Westmoreland as the school held a special devotion to pay tribute to former grade two teacher Daneille Blake, who died tragically in a car accident on the Font Hill main road in St Elizabeth last week.
Members of the Savanna-la-Mar Wesleyan Holiness Church visited the school on Monday and prayed with, and encouraged the students.
Reports from the Black River police are that about 11:05 a.m. on Friday, a white Mitsubishi L200 motor truck and a white Toyota Corolla motor car were travelling in opposite directions when the driver of the truck failed to keep left and collided with the car. The driver and passengers aboard the motor car sustained injuries and were taken to the hospital, where Blake was pronounced dead and the driver was admitted in critical condition. The other passengers were treated and released.
In an interview with The Gleaner, principal of the institution Meghan Berry Scott said the 31-year-old educator’s passing is a big loss to the institution.
“Savanna-la-Mar Primary has lost a gem. She was vibrant, full of life and pleasant. Everything about Daneille Blake was just different. People are very sad here, everyone one of us. There is hardly anybody who is untouched by Daneille’s passing. It’s a great loss and [a] very painful one and it’s going to take us time to heal,” she said.
When The Gleaner news team visited the school on Monday, staff and students fought to hold back their tears as they mourned their colleague and teacher’s untimely exit.
Berry Scott shared that Blake, who is from Sandy Ground in St Elizabeth, joined the institution just three weeks ago.
“She was the type of teacher we’ve been looking for. Daneille had an impact on the lives of all of us who she would have interacted with closely”, Berry Scott told The Gleaner. She noted that Blake was a gem who connected instantly with her students.
“Immediately upon being presented to the class, Daneille took charge. She was really a great teacher and I can say that because we would have observed her teaching,” the principal said.
“I remember on Wednesday of last week as I sat working, I heard her teaching … Her voice drew me straight to her classroom and I sat and I observed her lesson. I realised that Daneille engaged the students well. She was in command of her class, and her students felt comfortable with her,” Berry Scott recalled.
“My plan was to give Daneille her feedback on Friday (the day she died), but if I were to speak to Daneille and to give her my feedback, I would want to say to her, ‘great engagement with your students, great interaction with your students. You knew your content well, overall you executed yourself, as a teacher should’,” she said.
Blake’s mother Karlene Nelson-Blake, who is also a teacher at an institution in Black River, St Elizabeth, says her family is still trying to come to terms with the reality that her daughter is dead.
“We are very distraught. Her dad is a strong person and he can’t stop crying,” Nelson Blake said.
She says Thursday was the last time that she spoke with her daughter, who she describes as a very dramatic, charismatic and joyful individual.
She recalled that she was alerted to the news of the accident that claimed her daughter’s life as she sat at her desk marking books.
“Someone called me from a number I didn’t recognise. It would appear that they opened her handbag where they found COVID-19 vaccination card with my number as emergency contact. I was frightened when the person informed me about the accident,” she added.
Meanwhile, principal Berry Scott says the school has committed to providing support to Blake’s family.
“We would have been reaching out to her family and we really want to be there to continue to support them. A team would have visited with them on Saturday and another team would be visiting today (Monday). And we are praying that as time goes by our family will heal, also our school family,” she said. Blake is the second teacher to die suddenly this month.
Tisha Patrick-Rowe, principal of Fullerswood Primary School in St Elizabeth, died earlier this month after falling at school.
Patrick-Rowe was said to have been recuperating at home.
She was an educator for approximately 24 years, was a graduate of the Bethlehem Moravian College and served as a classroom teacher at Fullerswood Primary before being appointed as its principal.