BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Sunday Observer Staff Reporter email@example.com
INSTEAD of toting bagged juices on the streets of Kingston, these days Olympian Olivia McKoy has her arms filled with books and markers as she heads to teach classes at the Hydel Group of Schools.
McKoy, who was in July spotted at the intersection of Oxford Road and Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston peddling bagged juices in a desperate attempt to make a living, has been given a place in the classroom by Hyacinth Bennett, director of the group of schools after her story was published in the Sunday Observer on July 21.
On Friday, when the Jamaica Observer visited the school, McKoy stood in front of 32 students in a grade eight classroom, eloquently delivering the Mathematics formula to eager students bent on grasping just what was being written on the board.
McKoy's professionalism and method of putting across the information resulted in the students positively responding to her questions after being shown an example in the transposition of formulae in algebra.
That was just one of McKoy's classes.
She later explained that she teaches Mathematics and Literacy to grades seven, eight and nine students, while also helping out in the coaching of javelin throwers.
"I am teaching Math to seven, eighth and ninth graders, along with Literacy," McKoy said outside her classroom.
"And I am helping out in the sports department now. I'm at the track. I'm coaching the javelin throwers — three females and one male. So everything is going fine. You know, getting back into what I'm actually used to — teaching and helping the young people — is challenging, because the young people of today are in their own world so you have to help them with the vision that they have and try to help them to realise that what you are telling them is actually necessary for the future," she said.
The Olympian, who represented Jamaica at the national level as a javelin thrower, said that she is settling comfortably in her new roles.
"Looking at how my life was going to waste just like that, my God, I was so scared," she said. "I don't see any negativity around me here at Hydel. Everybody is enthused and just working as a team to get the job done in moulding these young minds. I make sure to do my preparation before I come to class and I try to pay them individual attention," she said.
She said that other staff members are happy for her and have embraced her progress at the school so far.
McKoy, who lives on the campus, said that she tries to make herself as comfortable as possible, while doing her preparation for classes.
"I give God thanks for everything," she said. "After three weeks in the classroom I am settling down. It's getting better. Because what I did was I try to evaluate where they are and what they are capable of doing and how they learn — their different methods of learning and how they grasp the information," she said. "You know they are kind of antsy, so I evaluate how to settle them in, what works and what does not work; how to get the class participating, and so on," she said.
"The burden is on my heart for these kids, and some of them are not focused, so I want to really get it across to them. It's eighth grade," she said in reference to the class that she was observed teaching. "But I'm doing CXC Math with them and so I try to simplify things. They can do CXC Math at this level. They don't have to wait until 10th grade. Some of these students I will be preparing them and they could even do their CXCs next year or even part of it. Because what I'm teaching now is part of paper two," she said.
Bennett said that McKoy had settled in the school's community quite satisfactorily.
"It is my belief that Miss McKoy has benefitted from, and continues to be undergirded by the prayerful support of a number of individuals," the director told the Observer. "You see, what appeared to have been insurmountable personal challenges with which she seemed to have been beset for quite some time ... thank God ... a number of them have been disappearing fast and miraculously," she said.
"Miss McKoy has not only settled into the Hydel Community quite satisfactorily, but already she is demonstrating a passionate zeal for the teaching of Mathematics and involvement in sports-related activities here at Hydel," she said.
Bennett said that the Olympian's inclusion in the school's community is therapeutic for her.
"The patient, caring, loving and kind embrace of Miss McKoy by one and all in the Hydel community has not only been therapeutic for her but this has been helping her to pursue and nurture her two-pronged passion which seems to be teaching and sports," she said.
"With the help of the greatest of physicians -- the Lord God -- we at Hydel are committed to continue facilitating Miss McKoy's journey to becoming all that is in the Lord's blueprint for her life," the director said.
As Bennett stood observing the Olympian at the white board, she softly whispered, "she is good. She is very good!"
The transformation of the athlete was a vast contrast to the battered and bruised woman who was forced against the ropes, having to sleep on the streets with her four-year-old son. McKoy was later forced to send him overseas with a friend in an attempt to keep him safe. He is still living overseas.
McKoy represented Jamaica at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia and returned eight years later to participate at the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
She has been to numerous Commonwealth Games, winning a bronze medal in 2006, and also represented Jamaica at the Pan American Games and the Central American and Caribbean Championships.
The veteran javelin thrower placed second at the National Senior Championship in June.
McKoy attended Tulloch Primary School, Crescent All-Age, Bog Walk Secondary, St Jago High, and Northern Caribbean University (NCU) before taking up an overseas scholarship to Louisiana Tech University.
She lived in Atlanta for 15 years while attending university and representing Jamaica.
She was a pre-school teacher and a high school teacher, teaching for a year and a half at St Mary's College.
McKoy holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Louisiana Tech University and is also pursuing a Master's degree.
Since the Olympian's plight was highlighted, the Government on July 29 announced plans for the introduction of health insurance benefits to cover some 1,500 Jamaican athletes.
Minister with responsibility for sport, Natalie Neita-Headley, said that the health insurance plan forms part of Jamaica's Sport Policy, which has been developed to fuel success in sports, as well as to enhance future development.
The Sport Policy, the minister said, also has a pension plan for the athletes, which is still being discussed, with a view to making it a contributory scheme, similar to the one that pertains in the public sector.