What are your responsibilities at CEBM?
My responsibilities at CEBM are multifaceted, but I can break them down into five key areas:
Human Resource Management – From recruitment of entry level teachers to facilitating transfers or installing Principals and Vice Principals. There is also the softer side which involves encouraging principals and teachers on their respective journeys of personal or spiritual development and motivating them to provide and participate in coaching or training initiatives to enhance their faith formation.
Quality Assurance – I must ensure that the schools follow through with implementation of the Quality Assurance System for Catholic Education.
Facilities Management – I visit the schools regularly and function as a liaison between them and the Facilities Management Officer at CEBM.
CEBM Representation – During official functions like retirement or graduation ceremonies or sporting events, I would often bring greetings on behalf of the Board. I also attend meetings at the Ministry of Education or those hosted by international organisations.
Administrative duties – This includes being available on my office days, facilitating communication among all stakeholders, submitting timely reports, or participating in training activities and other ad hoc duties.
When did you know you wanted to be an educator? Was it a calling? How did your career journey lead you to the CEBM?
I do believe that I was called to be a teacher yes, but more than that, being a pedagogical professional is ingrained in the essence of who I am. Straight out of secondary school, I went into teaching. I taught at both primary and secondary levels, at Government and Catholic schools and spent several years in the Curriculum Division of the Ministry of Education before retirement. I also lectured at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine in Social Studies.
I’ve been in education all my life and continue to serve in this field as a Vicariate Manager with CEBM. But I didn’t do all that on my own as I had several mentors during my journey who guided and encouraged me. I must mention the late Fr Cyril Ross, Sr Aloysius Ashby SJC, Dr Mervyn Sandy, and my very dear friend, Ms Claudette Ible (deceased)
Tell us about your involvement in the education sector
I’d like to share this anecdote about my time at Tranquillity Government Secondary School. Under the astute leadership of Dr Mervyn Sandy, a Sixth Form level was introduced, and he challenged the teachers to perform at that level. I was assigned to teach Sociology which I had never done before. My anxiety was exacerbated when other teachers shared that normally students in T&T did not get As in Sociology. That last part activated my students, and they were determined to fix this anomaly. So, I sat in lessons classes right next to my students and we took on the challenge together. I must give credit to Mr Anthony Williams (deceased), a former teacher of Aranguez Government Secondary who taught me the techniques of how to transmit the information to the students as well as how to keep them motivated. Not only did we achieve that goal, but the entire school was also given a principal’s holiday to celebrate this achievement! The experience of those students rising to the challenge and performing at the top of their game is something I will cherish forever.
What were some of your learnings as a teacher that helped your present portfolio?
As a teacher I always had a clear vision of what I would like to accomplish. It was important to set S.M.A.R.T goals and not allow any obstacles to prevent progress. This thinking is beneficial to actualising the Work Programme that was created for Vicariate Managers within CEBM. It keeps us focused on the tasks at hand. Throughout my career, I held the firm belief that every child can learn and as such I have the responsibility to help each child reach his/her full potential and, I had faith in the students whom I taught. This is in keeping with Howard Gardner’s theory on Multiple Intelligences which I fully affirm. It states that children learn differently and as such it is important to vary the strategies which are used in the classroom. It is important to remember that all our schools have children of mixed abilities, and we must vary what we do. Similarly, all the schools which I manage are different and each one has a unique way of espousing our Catholic ethos to the
students in their care. As a teacher, passion and enthusiasm for the job is extremely important. This helps one to stay the course even when the going gets tough. This was evident during the pandemic. It was extremely difficult for teachers and administrators to navigate fully online or hybrid models. Nevertheless, I encouraged them to see these new challenges as opportunities! But above everything else there was/is the knowledge that Christ is at the centre of everything we do. “For in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) Whether teaching in a classroom or managing several schools on behalf of CEBM, my mission has always been to demonstrate the love of Christ in everything that I do.
Catholic education has a mission to prepare persons to be disciples of Christ and well-developed citizens of the state. Can you state how the activities of the CEBM seek to align with this mission and foster faith formation?
The CEBM endeavours to select teachers who are practising Catholics. Recently we have implemented an accompaniment programme so that we walk together with new teachers as they develop in their faith and in their profession. Principals and teachers are supported in their faith and profession through monitoring, counselling (where needed) and by providing spiritual and professional development opportunities, such as retreats and lectures or workshops e.g., Legal Framework of Education (Duty of Care), Conflict resolution etc. The CEBM continues to work towards reconnecting the parishes and the schools and on strengthening relationships with parents, families, and the community. We know that these relationships are broken but, to quote Pope Francis “…we cannot be nostalgic for the past, but rather we must make careful note of the changes, that have affected both the family and school” (The Catholic World Report 2014). We continue to source and provide resources that contribute to a curriculum for holistic development of the students and for maintenance of school facilities where possible. The CEBM also continues to collaborate with education stakeholders and advocate for meeting the developmental /teaching and learning needs of schools, staff, and students.
“Quality education” is often spoken about. The CEBM has developed a Quality Assurance System for Catholic schools and a Principal Support Programme. Can you describe how these have been working?
The QAS allowed principals to develop and implement action plans for any gap areas that were identified during the self-assessment stage, where they will have a rating school and look at high student academic performance, participation in varied extra-curricular activities be it social, cultural, or sporting; pedagogy—promoting learning. Some principals recorded a turnaround in their schools’ performances based on the implementation of these plans. Some principals and teachers have changed though, so it continues to be a work in progress.
What are some of the main challenges the CEBM faces in trying to assist Catholic schools to produce disciples of Christ and well-developed citizens?
Scarcity of resources – human, physical and financial – is an ever-present challenge that we face. Fortunately, we have principals and teachers who work with us, the Board, to find creative solutions to these issues. Another key issue we contend with is society’s tunnel-visioned focus on exam results. This is only one indicator of success. Non-academic areas such as community service, the creative arts or Girl Guides or Boy Scouts are de-prioritised for the sake of coming first in the class.
In order to practise the evangelising mission of the Church, what would you say is the most important quality that a Catholic principal /teacher must have?
They must have a passion for Catholic education. They must understand that through their daily work the persons with whom they interact can experience the love of Jesus Christ. With the passion and knowledge of self as imperfect, and the willingness to acknowledge and own the results of that imperfection, while continuing to work toward perfection in love.
In what ways can Catholics/the public support the work of the CEBM?
Get acquainted/learn about what happens in schools. Check the Catholic News articles online and in print. Check the CEBM Facebook page. Volunteer resources: time, materials, money, and expertise to principals, teachers, ancillary staff, students, and their families.
Crucifixion – asking subversive questions