May 23, 2002 – In almost every case, the 46 public school teachers and paraprofessionals honored on Wednesday night for outstanding work in the St. Thomas-St. John district this year were praised for the way they inspire students to do their best and be their best.
Among their numbers were English, science and social studies teachers; foreign language, music and art teachers; elementary teachers and those who don't have teaching degrees but assist and support those who do. Across the spectrum, dedication was the common denominator.
Those who teach fourth, fifth and sixth grade were most cited for their ability to make a difference in the lives of primary students.
All of the honorees had been asked in advance to submit brief statements about their secrets of success, and these were shared in the program booklet for the awards dinner hosted by the Education Department at Palms Court Harborview Hotel.
Some said their jobs don't stop at the end of the lesson plan. "A teacher must be able to do more than teach reading, writing and mathematics," Vonna Cheryl David, who teaches sixth grade at Leonard Dober Elementary School, said. "A good teacher must be able to recognize what factors might be influencing a child's progress and try to aid in some way."
Others spoke of motivation. Cira Burke, a science teacher at New Horizons Alternative School, was recognized for meeting two challenges. First, while on pregnancy leave, she went to the school daily to deliver her lesson plans. Second, she challenged the students themselves. "I refuse to have youngsters take their education lightly, so we discuss our ancestors' struggle to obtain an education," she said.
Some paraprofessionals said they are determined to become teachers themselves. Vernarine Ralph at Evelyn Marcelli Elementary School finds time amid work, volunteering and church activities to pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of the Virgin Islands.
Joann Dickenson at Lockhart School said love of children inspired her studies in early childhood education. "My duties are taken beyond that of a paraprofessional. I have become a mentor, a mother and a teacher to my students," she said.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull joined his recently appointed acting Education commissioner, Noreen Michael, in congratulating the honorees. "This profession — our profession — is a noble profession," the governor, a career educator, said. "We are the ones who nurture, cherish and love children; we are surrogate parents."
Certain kinds of teachers create lasting impressions, "and even when they pass, they live on in our memories," Turnbull said. He fondly recalled his first and second grade teachers, both of whom are still alive.
Many in the audience were not so fond of the governor's remarks regarding teacher pay. A murmur arose as he said some of the greatest rewards of teaching may not be found in this life. "No matter how much you are rewarded, you can never pay a teacher enough," he said.
Sen. Norman Jn Baptiste, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, broached another touchy topic in expressing his appreciation to the honorees. He said the value of outstanding teachers can be measured in terms of how their work enhances a school system facing problems that even their gifts and skills cannot fix. "If our schools were to be accredited on the basis of commitment and dedication, all of our schools would receive a resounding accreditation," he said.
It was the loss of accreditation by the territory's three accredited public high schools that put Michael into her new position of leadership. The awards dinner was one of her first public addresses since taking over after Turnbull ousted Ruby Simmonds as commissioner on April 30.
In her brief remarks, Michael skirted controversy, choosing to focus on what she said is working and working well. "You have made a difference in the life of every student you have ever met … and you will continue to do so," she told the honorees.
Tracy Thompson Johnson, Ivanna Eudora Kean High School, Teacher of the Year.
Gayle V. Dancy-Benjamin, Annette Kelly, Cecelia RuthAnn Fahie-Barry, Gale Aikala Passenier, Nereida Ramos and Austin Walters, Charlotte Amalie High School.
Aubrey Harley, Gail Leonard, Liston Sewer and Phebe Schwartz, Bertha C. Boschulte Middle School.
Babara Ann Morrisette Bailey, Loretta T. Brathwaite, Wendy-Ann Diaz and Shamang R. Farrell, Addelita Cancryn Junior High School; Cire E. Burke, Cancryn and New Horizons School.
Trecia A. Berry-Schmitt and Muriel Lewis, Peace Corps School.
Vonna Cheryl David and Lori Anderson, Leonard Dober School.
Lorna A. Callwood, Orilda Dessuit-Herbert, Lorna Fraser and Iona Rosetta Greenaway, Joseph Gomez School.
Janice Gottlieb-Kennings and Julieth Lettsome, J. Antonio Jarvis School.
M. Lisa Etre, Glen Monticeux, Sally F. Petty and Raynise Alicia Smith, Eudora Kean.
Doldria A. Benjamin and Margo Mike, Michael J. Kirwan School.
Symra Dee Brown, Joann Dickenson and Ruth Hodge Todman, Lockhart School.
Irene A. Creque and Vernarine Ralph, Evelyn Marcelli School.
Ellen A. Francois and Louise Thomas Lettsome, Ulla Muller School.
Clifton DeVal Boyd, E. Benjamin Oliver School.
Jascinth A. Bernier and Henrietta L. Warner, Joseph Sibilly School.
Lecia P. Richmond and Rosa Samuel, Julius E. Sprauve School.
Pearl Erminie Hanley, Jane E. Tuitt School.
Anita de la Cruz and Leonice Donovan, Edith Williams School.
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