FAY Sterling lives her life and leads the Higgins Land Primary and Junior High School in St Ann by the words of John C Maxwell: “Value people, praise efforts and reward performance”.
The principal, who has been described as innovative and visionary, said that has been her approach in dealing with both staff and students.
At the helm of the school since 2007, Sterling's leadership style has not only advanced the institution but has also landed her several awards, the most recent of which were the Recognition in Leadership awards and the 2011 runnerup Lasco Principal of the Year.
She is a trained guidance counsellor and classroom teacher with a master’s degree in leadership, and has been producing well-rounded students from her well-rounded institution.
However, Sterling, an educator for 32 years, says much of her accomplishments are the result of staff effort.
"I don’t take the credit for what happens here; it’s a team effort,” Sterling said, adding that her husband, whom she succeeded as principal, laid a firm foundation on which she has built.
Still, vice-principal Claridine Allen Wilson, in the school’s newsletter, credited Sterling for having “displayed high standards in all areas of leadership”. As she puts it, Sterling is “a people person, a lover of education, a leader by example and a multitalented individual who has achieved greatness through Christ".
The quality of that leadership is initially evident in the environment at Higgins Land Primary and Junior High. With her having to spend most of her time at school, Sterling says it is important that the environment is comfortable. And it is not only the principal’s office which is so, but the entire school environment is conducive to learning.
“You need to be in comfort when you are here,” she told the Jamaica Observer North East.
The clean and eco-friendly environment has landed the school the National Solid Waste Management Authority's (NSWMA’s) award for the cleanest school for two years, with the school now the reigning champion, a title they hope to keep.
The academic performance of students is also at a very high standard. As an educator who wants the best for her students, Sterling’s teachers are all degree-trained, she says. And she continually encourages them to upgrade themselves, both for their personal development and for the enhancement of the quality of education the children receive.
In addition to that, students and teachers are rewarded for hard work, with the former group taking pride in making the principal’s honour roll or seeing themselves on the Wall of Fame. The school also has a regular mark reading ceremony which many students anticipate.
For teachers, there are the Teacher of the Month and the Teacher of the Year awards.
The school, which also enrols students from the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) for the junior high division, has done exceptionally well in getting the students through to the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT ) which make them eligible for transferring to traditional high schools.
“We keep them for three years and at the end of the three years the value-added is so much,” Sterling says.
She added that the school has a wide variety of clubs which include 4H, social graces and science. The school also hosts a quiz competition on Friday mornings as a means of motivating students to come out to school on the final day of the school week.
Higgins’ Land Primary and Junior High also hosts Christmas luncheons for students each year, whether or not children are able to contribute to the fare.
"Community support is strong," Sterling said, explaining that the institution also extends a helping hand to the indigent in the community.
Parents are also motivated, as the school recognies their efforts.
It is arguably Sterling's outstanding leadership qualities which have also led to her being selected to represent the Quality Education Council (QEC) 29 at Jamaica Teaching Council workshops. She says she attends the workshops regularly and has been “utilising the things I learn from them”.
The mother of three and the wife of principal of Ferncourt High School, Lenworth Sterling says she intends to continue to give her best until retirement.