IN an era of technology and dynamism, Doreen Rowe, Florence Raymond, Audrey Wallace and Daphne Burke-Smith still believe in the old-fashioned values of working hard, respecting authority and making good use of every educational opportunity.
All four educators have each given more than 30 years of continuous service to St Mary's All-Age in Above Rocks, St Catherine, and although Wallace, Burke-Smith and Raymond are now retired, they still make use of every opportunity to boost the development of the institution.
"I will occasionally come to school to keep my mind active," said Wallace, who retired as the principal of the institution in 2010.
Wallace joined the staff at St Mary's All-Age in 1974 and said she has never had the urge to go anywhere else.
"St Mary's All-Age chose me, because after leaving Mico in the summer of 1974, I should have gone to another school, but because of illness, I was home for a month and my supervisor then came and told me that there was a vacancy at St Mary's," she said.
"This is where it started and this is where it ended for me," she asserted.
As she reflected on her lifelong profession, she admitted that there have been good times and bad times, though she was keen to point out that the "good outweighs the bad".
Wallace said she especially liked teaching students from grades four to six and was a teacher for many years before becoming a vice-principal and then a principal.
"I am passionate about children," she said, adding that she is especially pleased when past students come up to her outside of the school setting, introduce themselves and tell her about the impact she has had on their lives.
Like Wallace, Raymond also retired from the institution in 2010, but still visits the school from time to time to help out.
"It has been a roller-coaster. There have been good times and bad times, but I stuck it out," she said.
Raymond said teaching was not her desire initially, but then she was advised by one of her former school teachers that teaching would suit her, based on her personality.
"He figured that my place in Jamaica should be in the classroom," she said.
After completing her training at the St Joseph's Teachers College, Raymond officially started her career at St Mary's in 1978. She said forging a good relationship with her students' parents was an essential part of her success over the years.
"I was told they were my children, so it was for me to do with them as I like," she said.
"I always encouraged them to excel and work hard, because once they have lost time, they can never get back what they have lost, so they should put time to good use," she added.
She said she also encouraged her students to read because that is essential for their future success. In fact, the school's reading week plans are something she still looks forward to each year.
Rowe, who is the current principal of the school, said every effort is made to ensure that the students become good readers, and so a reading programme has been implemented to help those who are behind. Rowe is a past student of the institution and has been teaching there since 1975.
"I came here initially just for two years but the two years took me into 39 years and I am on my final year," she told Career & Education.
Rowe said her profession is a very rewarding one, because she gets to impart knowledge and principles to her students.
"I have seen students grow, I have seen them mature, and some have done very well," she said.
"As the years pass, it seems to be more difficult, because children are not as they used to be. There was a time when you would speak to a child and the child would respond right away, and there was a time when you could open your eyes wide and there would be some kind of response. But now you could open your eyes, roll your eyes, move your ears, stamp your feet, clap your hands, but they will just look at you. So there have been challenges."
Despite the challenges, the school has been doing well in various sporting activities, especially table tennis. Students also participate in a number of cultural activities and are involved in traditional clubs such as 4H. Many of the students, Rowe said, have also been able to secure positions at traditional high schools after sitting their Grade Six Achievement Test.
The mother of 2007 World Championships decathlon silver medallist Maurice Smith says her son developed a passion for sports while at the institution. He is just one of the many graduates who have gone on to make significant contributions to Jamaica. As a teacher at the institution for 35 years, Burke-Smith said she has taught several of these individuals.
"I have been here straight through. I had not broken my service until 2013," said Burke-Smith, who now helps out in the school canteen.
Attorney-at-law and past student Duane Thomas said the teachers are highly regarded by students who have benefited from their sound judgement and capabilities.
"They have taught the art of reading and the importance of your studies and having a goal and a mission," he said. "They instilled the values that have made me into a rounded person and a person who is ambitious and seeks to accomplish my goals."
The attorney said the teachers are stern disciplinarians and taught their students about life in general.
"I remember, for example, when I was leaving because I had passed my Common Entrance, Ms Wallace told me one thing that I have never forgotten: "This is your start," she said. "Don't start to feel like you are too big for your boots and what not, because this is just the beginning." That stuck with me, and as soon as I went out into the world, I understood why. I recognised the wisdom of what she said when I realised the challenges of high school and the challenges of life in general," he said.
A reading corner at St Mary's All-Age School in Above Rocks.
St Mary's All-Age School has produced a number of students who now contribute to Jamaica's development.