It is said that a “good teacher is like a candle – it consumes itself to light the way for others”.
This popular quote, by an unknown author, embodies the life and work of 81-year old Manchester resident Edna Coulton.
(Related Story: Outstanding Teachers to Receive PM's Medal of Appreciation June 14)
This exemplary teacher and educator, who contributed to the formal system for over 60 years, and is still going strong, is among 40 educators, who will be honoured this year, with the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation.
Retired teacher and friend of Mrs. Coulton for over 30 years, Vernal Norman, who recommended her for the prestigious award says he “cannot think of another person who is more deserving of the honour than she is”.
“I have no doubt at all in her capabilities, she has really shone. She is an exceptional person, a very hard working person and her influence is felt not only in Manchester, but in parts of Clarendon and St. Elizabeth,” Mr. Norman continues.
Mrs. Coulton is the second of 12 children born to Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Sewell of Brokenhurst, Manchester in 1921.
Her sojourn in the classroom started in 1952 at the Bethabara Primary School in Manchester, but it was in early childhood education that she made her mark.
A pioneer in early childhood education, she introduced the first language training programme for basic schools and participated in the drafting of early childhood curricula and instructional materials.
She is best remembered with much respect and admiration for the effective service she rendered in the training of basic school teachers. She is also instrumental in the establishment of early childhood resource centres and early childhood boards in the parishes of Manchester, Clarendon and St. Elizabeth.
As a Senior Education Officer, Mrs. Coulton managed the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Basic Services for Children’s Project in Clarendon and identified the need for teacher upgrading and implemented courses for teachers in infant schools and departments.
She also assisted in the launch of the Post Certificate Upgrading Diploma Distance Education Programme at the Church Teachers’ College (CTC), and was the National Coordinator of the Distance Education Programme from 1993-1998 at CTC. Her involvement in early childhood education also extended to the orientation of new education officers. She ensured that junior education officers in Manchester, Clarendon, St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland and Trelawny all participated in refresher courses.
“Mrs. Coulton has rendered very effective work and that was very noticeable in children from basic schools, who were beneficiaries of her tutelage. When they entered the lower grades of primary and all-age schools they are more eager to learn, more co-operative and know how to behave themselves,” Mr. Norman says.
Mrs. Coulton tells JIS News that her only motivation is to “”teach the children well”.
“I ensure that they get the basic principles of the skills and concepts that they need to learn; principles they will be able to build on when they move to higher areas of the education system,” she says.
Edna Coulton contribution to education over the past six decades has not gone un-noticed. She has been the recipient of many awards from as far back as 1958, when she received the Outstanding Student Award from Bethlehem Teachers’ College in St. Elizabeth. She was also recognised by her alma mater in 1991 with the 125th anniversary award for distinguished and dedicated service to education.
In 1990, she received the Ministry of Education’s Long Service Award.
Mrs. Coulton was also recognised by the American Biographical Institute for distinguished leadership in 1999.
The Edna Coulton Hall at the Church Teachers’ College is named in honour of her outstanding contribution to early childhood education and the establishment of the Early Childhood Education Resource Centre at the institution in 1980.
Although no longer in the formal education system, students in and around Mandeville continue to benefit from her visionary tutelage. She assists in the homework programme at the St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Mandeville.
“Once a teacher, always a teacher,” says her son Rawl Coulton. “She never stops, she is always in a teacher mode even if she is out at the supermarket, and she comes across one of her students she will enquire if they have done their homework.
As Jamaica celebrates its 50th year as an Independent nation this year, Mrs. Coulton is appealing to teachers to be very conscientious about what they are doing.
Teaching, she says, is a vocation that can contribute significantly to progress, and if a strong foundation is laid at the early childhood level, children will be better prepared for further learning.
“Once the foundation is well laid, all the other areas become manageable for the children,” she adds.
The Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education will be awarded on Thursday (June 14) at a ceremony to be held on the lawns of Jamaica House, starting at 7:00 p.m.
By Judith A. Hunter, JIS PRO