Teachers, I am grateful to have this opportunity to join you all in some down time as we come together as a Ministry, but also as a community to acknowledge the hard work of educators throughout our Territory. Tonight we say thank you for all that you do.
Many of you have found your way to the teaching profession via varying routes. However, I have often heard many educators say that they have been inspired to teach because of the genuine curiosity and practicality of students, especially those that are in the early grades.
For example, one particular student in a class of first grade students who were handed a colouring page to colour. On it was a picture of a frog holding an umbrella. When the class handed their colouring in, one little boy had colored the frog bright purple. The teacher was surprised by this and began to scold him, asking, “How often have you seen a purple frog? With quiet resolve and a straight face, the little boy answered, “The same number of times I've seen a frog holding an umbrella.”
But even as they become more mature, our students at times display genuine candidness that can get a teacher either fired up or appreciative of their forthrightness. A teacher of the earth science class was lecturing on map reading.After explaining about latitude, longitude, degrees and minutes the teacher asked, “Suppose I asked you to meet me for lunch at 23 degrees, 4 minutes north latitude and 45 degrees, 15 minutes east longitude…?”After a confused silence, a voice volunteered, “I guess you’d be eating alone.”
Much like those students, in the classrooms of the Virgin Islands we have bright and sincere students that need you to guide them, lay the right foundation for their education, and help them gather the tools that will build a successful life.
I am certain that each and everyone of us can recall the names of teachers that inspired us to be better than we thought we could ever be. That teacher that helped us find the confidence we needed to master Pythagoras theorem, or the one that helped us remember the names of all the leaders of the Caribbean. Those are the teachers that continue to motivate us both inside the classroom and long after we’ve left their charge.
Teachers I will continue to say, that within your classrooms, you have the power to change a child’s destiny and to even change the destiny of a country. At the Ministry of Education and Culture, we have the task of looking at the big picture as it relates to where the Virgin Islands must go to remain relevant in this world. Teachers, you are the ones that are charged with the heavy lifting that will train the minds that are needed to take us where we must go.
Will our students be timid, or bold? Will they be the ones at the helm of our financial services and tourism industries, or will the Virgin Islands have to look outside for the minds needed to remain a leader in these sectors? Will more of our youth gain careers as entrepreneurs in the technical and trade fields, or will we be forced to continue to import skilled labourers? Will the education we provide our young people give them the confidence to go out into the world and chart their own destiny, or will our schools develop a culture of youth that are complainers and not doers? How even, will the lessons in your classrooms remind our students of the greatness of our ancestry and our heritage, so that they walk upright, with a sense of pride and commitment to this Territory?
As Minister of Education, teachers, I thank you for the hard work that you put in on a daily basis. I will continue to support opportunities for your professional development, opportunities to ensure you are working in a safe environment, opportunities to challenge you to be better than we both think is possible, and of course, opportunities for us to engage each other as policy makers and as the education experts that you all are, so that the plan we are creating to educate our nation is one that we all believe in, and one we all will enthusiastically work towards
The heights that we have reached in these islands can be linked to your profession and the many selfless men and women that have upheld a very high standard of what it means to teach. Tonight our Premier will honour a few of our retired teachers for their service to our community. I congratulate them on this honour and it is my hope that our present generations of educators look at the lives and work or our retirees, and be inspired to serve as you all have.
Let me also express my gratitude to a few leading members of our team in the Ministry. Mrs. Ruth Fraser who has for many years been charged with planning activities for Education Week, which this event was planned for. I also thank Ms Lorna Stevens, who continues to be an exceptional public servant working hard to support our educators. I also thank Mr. Elmore Stoutt for chairing tonight’s event. As a former educator and cultural icon we are more than grateful for his continued service in various forms to our community. There were many other staff members that came together to make this evening possible and I also express thanks to them for their dedication.
While we acknowledge that there is much more work to be done in education, it is good at time, to pause, and raise a glass to the hard work that has been done so far. So tonight, educators of the Virgin Islands, on behalf of the good people throughout this Territory, your past, present and future students, we celebrate you all this evening. Of your profession and your sacrifices, I’m reminded by a quote by Mustafa Ata-turk that says, “A good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others.”
Thank you for your hard work and all the best for the rest of this school year.