Region Three teachers recognised on World Teachers’ Day

Suzette Suzie Ferguson, Donna Patterson, Dayvika Ghansiam and Shavanne Douglas-Grimmond

DPI, Guyana, Friday, 05 October 2018

As we join with the rest of the world in celebrating World Teachers’ Day, we reflect on what it means to be an outstanding teacher, the qualities of an outstanding teacher and how outstanding teachers impact their students, their school, their community and the teaching profession?

Teachers are ordinary people that do extraordinary things.

We share with you the stories of four extraordinary teachers from Essequibo Islands-West Demerara:

Graduate Senior Mistress (GSM) Suzette Ferguson, currently sits as the second-in-charge at Essequibo Islands Secondary School, Wakenaam.  She began her career at the tender age of 17, just after completing the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination.

She first taught at Ridge Primary School and earned, at the time, just under $3,000 monthly. The school is located roughly 45mins from her home by foot. As she recalls, in those days there was no road in the area, but just a mud dam and many times long boots and short pants was the dress code because of the deplorable condition of the road which she had to walk for 3 years.

Suzette attended the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE) in 1995 and the University of Guyana in 2001 where she graduated with a Trained Teachers’ Certificate and Bachelor’s degree in History, respectively.

Asked what she enjoys the most as a teacher she said: “I just love children. When they do well I feel excited. I enjoy giving up 30 mins of my lunch hour every day to work with my CXC students because I understand the importance of an education.”

Suzette Ferguson, popularly called Teacher Suzie, is well known on Wakenaam Island by many of her colleagues, students and residents, for using her own money to purchase food and uniform for students who are less fortunate but eager to learn and that is extremely remarkable of her. At Essequibo Islands Secondary School, she teaches History and Social Studies and is responsible for records-keeping and general sanitation of the school. Teacher Suzie is a strong woman and dedicated teacher.

At Santa Primary School located at Santa Aratack (Santa Mission), Donna Patterson is Senior Assistant Mistress (SAM). Another dedicated member of the teaching profession with more than 30 years of experience of which the last 23 years were spent at Santa Primary School.

What kept her at this location for such a lengthy time? “We are Amerindians and people often times look down upon us, but I have a mission and that is to ensure that our Amerindian children receive education in the form of academics because our community can only be developed with educated Amerindians,” Patterson replied.

The educator extraordinaire stated, “Unfortunately, many of them leave after attaining good marks at the exams but few comes back and I am happy to know that I am one of the teachers that had educated them in their early childhood, hence putting them on the right path that leads to success.”

Patterson graduated from CPCE in the year 2004 and acted as Headmistress of Santa Primary for three years. She teaches a total of eight pupils at grades 5 and 6 and enjoys every bit of it. She has three years remaining on the job and when asked if she has any regrets, she replied in the negative but did say that her community expects more from her not realising that she is a human being too. Patterson has a passion for teaching and is very dedicated to her duties.

Dayvika Ghansiam started her career at the tender age of 16 and said it was her way of escaping poverty. She remembers fondly, receiving her first pay cheque to the tune of $2,000 and begged her father to accompany her to the bank to change it. After one year in the profession, she wanted to better qualify herself and attended the CPCE in 1993.

After graduating with a Trained Teachers’ Certificate, she taught at Chateau Margot Primary School before getting married and moved to Region Three.

The first school she taught in her adopted region was was Vreed-en-Hoop Primary. She now teaches at the Leonora Primary School and enjoys Grade One pupils the most. According to Ghansiam, her most disturbing time during her years of teaching was when in December 2015, she lost her eldest child, at the tender age of 17. Her grief also serves as a motivation to love all her pupils as she loved her child.

For teacher Ghansiam, satisfaction is when pupils progress under her watch. It fuels her never-ending passion for teaching. She is dedicated to her calling and is a remarkable teacher.

Shavanne Douglas-Grimmond is the current Headmistress at Versailles Nursery School.

She proudly remembers being among the first batch of students that wrote Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination in Guyana and she recalls not passing any subject. “I was faced with a lot of family challenges in my life during my school years and it really affected me. I was a bright girl, but these problems really hampered me. Can you believe, I wrote CXC and didn’t get any subject? But that didn’t keep me down,” said Grimmond.

Today, Shavanne Douglas-Grimmond is a Graduate Headmistress who currently holds a trained teachers Certificate and a Degree in Social Works.

She remembers two years after she wrote CSEC going to the then Regional Education Officer – Youman Singh and asking for a job. “I boldly went to Mr. Youman Singh, then education officer, and said, sir I need a job, but I don’t want to be a cleaner. When I told him, I have no CXC he asked me what I want to do, and I said with confidence, teach. He looked at me as I looked at him and after that awkward moment he gave me some paper and a pen and told me to go and write an essay stating why I want to become a teacher and what contribution I will make to the profession. I did just that and submitted it to him. It was sometime around Diwali too.”

She further recalls receiving the phone call on a Tuesday from Youman Singh who told her that the essay was excellent and that he is sending her to teach at Versailles Nursery. “He told me that when I go to Versailles I must promise him that I will join the Foundation Teachers Course and develop myself from there. I made that promise and I fulfilled it,” recalls Grimmond. She even said that at the school were many teachers like her with the Acting Teacher (AT) status, the lowest in the profession. However, that did not stop her as she remembered convincing all the others to join her in the Foundation Course as they together elevated themselves in the profession. Headteacher Douglas-Grimmond taught at Stanley Town Nursery, Goed Fortune Nursery and Leonora Nursery before returning to where it all began, Versailles Nursery School. She will be retiring in May of next year and said that she has no regrets being a teacher.

Story and Images: Ganesh Mahipaul

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