‘All my students are my children’
OCHO RIOS, St Ann —Though she has no children of her own, Janice Cunningham has found pleasure in moulding and instilling values into youngsters who have passed through her classroom.
“All my students are my children; I love them and treat them all equally. It is a joy for me to mould their young minds and try my best to impact their lives so they can contribute positively to society,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
Cunningham was among 250 teachers who were feted by Sandals along with the Urban Development Corporation and the North East Regional Health Authority (NERHA) at Pearly Beach in Ocho Rios on Wednesday in celebration of Teachers’ Day.
She was among educators from schools in St Ann and St Mary who had the time of their lives as they enjoyed scrumptious food and rocked to musical selections by Sandals disc jockeys. Some teachers left with prizes and trophies won during various competitions.
Not to be outdone, professionals from NERHA offered free medical exams.
“I’m delighted that they see what we teachers are doing and decided to show appreciation to us. It means a lot and I’m sure the other teachers are having a great time being here as well,” said Cunningham in expressing her appreciation for the kind gesture.
A break from the classroom and a chance to unwind is always appreciated, she added.
The 48-year-old told the Observer that her journey as an educator started when she was 18 years old. She believes her path to the classroom was inevitable.
“My aunts are mainly teachers so I grew up in a family of educators, so from there I had a passion for it. I followed through with it and I would never chose another profession,” said Cunningham
She landed her first job at Salmon Basic School in Exchange, Ocho Rios, as an assistant teacher. Being passionate about teaching, she went on to get certified at Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Montego Bay.
“I spent 15 years at Salmon Basic School and then I decided that I want to further myself so I went to college where I got my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and moved on to my master’s in curriculum and instructions a few years after,” she told the Observer.
Cunningham is now a senior teacher at the Salvation Army Basic School in St Ann.
“I teach the five-year-old children. I love being an early childhood teacher because it gives me joy to see the toddlers come in — basically empty — and then by the time they leave they are on another level, excelling in numeracy and literacy,” Cunningham stated with a smile of contentment.
“It also feels so good when I see my students and they run up to me and tell me all they have accomplished. I know I did something great to change even one life,” she added.
Every year, on the day dedicated to teachers, she gets an idea just how much she is appreciated. There is an outpouring of love from her past students and their relatives.
“My WhatsApp messages always blow up on Teachers’ Day and it warms my heart,” Cunningham told the Observer.