All Woman

Veteran teacher honoured

Monday, December 11, 2000    

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A satisfying moment in Vida James-King's career occurred last month when she was honoured for over 40 years of service in the field of education, but perhaps even more satisfying was the fact that her three children, Ellsworth, Erica and Vidal, decided to launch a scholarship in her name, during the function.

The Vida James-King Scholarship was unveiled during an appreciation ceremony held on November 30, at the Wakefield Primary School in St Catherine, where James-King served as principal. The announcement of the scholarship came as a total surprise to the honoree and served as the icing on the cake at the function attended by scores of persons from varying communites.

According to James-King who retired in 1998, the two-yearly scholarship is to benefit two students at the Wakefield Primary School to the tune of $26,000.

"I had no knowledge of it," the former principal told All Woman last week. "They kept it as a surprise," said James-King, now 64.

This, however is a fitting tribute to a woman who worked tirelessly for 29 years, after teaching for several years before at various schools in St Ann and St Catherine.

She described as "challenging", her early years (which began in 1969) at Wakefield.

"There was no electricity, no water and the roads were bad."

Having moved from Moneague, where social amenities were available, James-King said she was unable to occupy the small teachers' cottage, as there was no way to use her appliances.

Her only choice was to travel the rugged miles back and forth to Wakefield.

"One day it rained so much on my way home from school, that the car stuck in the mud. Water started coming into the car. We had to be rescued by a tractor."

Back then, she had to struggle with a lack of space in the classrooms. There were not enough seats for the 250 students and, above all, she had to teach two classes in addition to her administrative duties.

As a result of her dedication and many hours spent at school, James-King said her children, one of them being Erica James-King of IRIE FM, were often left at the mercy of helpers. But it was her love for the children she taught, that kept her going.

"You get a sense of satisfaction when you see the children who passed through your hands making a meaningful contribution to society."

The veteran teacher was, however, quick to point out that she is not only proud of the numerous police, doctors, teachers whom she nurtured as children, but also those who are lowly farmers and handcart men.

"These people work very hard", she said fondly remembering how dearly she cherished a rose given to her by one past student, who pushes handcarts for a living.

James-King, who presently resides in Jericho, St Catherine recounts her sojourn leading up to the job in which she would spend more than 20 years.

Born in Westmoreland, she spent her early life between St Ann and St Catherine. Her first teaching assignment was at Caledonia Elementary in Westmoreland as a pre-trained teacher. After four years there, where she went by her maiden name, Buddington, she went for training at Moneague Teachers' College.

Upon graduation, she taught at Watsonville All-Age, Mount Ward in Hanover. She got married in 1965 and moved to St Ann; there she joined the staff at Golden Grove All-Age.

She later joined the staff at Moneague where her husband, Eric, was principal. The couple then left to take up positions at Wakefield.

Little did she know that 29 years later she would still be there, having taken over the position of principal from her husband who had moved on to greener pastures.

Although the challenges were many, James-King, with a dedicated staff of six, shaped the tiny rural school and placed it on the Jamaican map.

To date Wakefield has won several medals and certificates, particularly in Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) competitions, and attained several passes at the Common Entrance Examinations level.

She has also made a mark on the community.

Her achievements include her appointment as deaconess and lay-preacher at the Wakefield Baptist Church, receiving the St Catherine Baptist Association award for faithful and dedicated service, as well as the Jamaica Teachers' Association Golden Torch award for 25 years' service.

The honour recently bestowed on her served as a fitting crown for a job well done.

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