JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Veteran educator, Dr. Gilzene Rose Fearon’s decision to become a teacher was influenced by, among other persons, those who taught her at Dollington Elementary School in her native St. Mary.
  • Dr. Fearon is one of 40 educators from across the island who were recognised during the recent medal presentation ceremony at Jamaica House for outstanding service to the profession.
  • Dr. Fearon is also an accomplished playwright, having scripted numerous dramatic productions, and has piloted her students and peers to medal placements in Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) competitions.

Veteran educator, Dr. Gilzene Rose Fearon’s decision to become a teacher was influenced by, among other persons, those who taught her at Dollington Elementary School in her native parish, St. Mary.

As a child, the 2016 Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation awardee was beset by challenges resulting from a physical defect affecting her left leg from birth.

Consequently, she had to undergo three major surgeries that forced her to miss school for protracted periods on each occasion during the formative years of her education.

Dr. Fearon says, however, that to ensure she did not fall behind the other students, her teachers arranged to have the lessons she missed administered to her at home.

“When I returned to school, they would also give me specialised attention to ensure that I caught up (with the other students),” she says.

Dr. Fearon tells JIS News that despite her physical challenge, “I really enjoyed my school life as a child.”

“For me, learning was fun and very meaningful. The emphasis was not only on academics; the teachers also focused on the creative arts such as speech, drama, and dancing as well as sport. So I knew from an early age that this was the kind of environment in which I wanted to spend my life,” she states.

Dr. Fearon is one of 40 educators from across the island who were recognised during the recent medal presentation ceremony at Jamaica House for outstanding service to the profession.

The fifth of 12 children for Noel and Amy Woodbine of Woodpark, St. Mary, Dr. Fearon pursued her career goal by enrolling at St. Joseph’s Teachers’ College in Kingston after completing the Jamaica Local Examinations.

She landed her first job, after graduating in 1973, when she was recruited by Bonnet Primary School in St. Catherine, and subsequently moved on to Ramble All-Age School, also in the parish, teaching all subjects at both institutions.

Dr. Fearon’s love for drama, which would be pivotal during the latter part of her career, was ignited while at Ramble All-Age.

Her focus shifted to administering remedial work for slow learners when she moved to Oracabessa High School (formerly Orcabessa Secondary) in St. Mary in 1977, where she spent 28 years.

“In 1988 I went from teaching to full-time guidance and counselling and spent the next 18 years transforming the lives of my students. I was able to spot students who were marginalised, had problems and exhibited low self-esteem, and knew I could make a difference in their lives,” she tells JIS News.

Dr. Fearon retired from Oracabessa High in 2005 and now lectures at the International University of the Caribbean’s (IUC) Tower Isle Campus in St. Mary, where she trains guidance counsellors.

She also provides private professional counselling, is a motivational speaker and continues to help students exhibiting maladaptive and disruptive behaviourial patterns.

The accomplished educator has recorded several notable personal achievements during her career.

These include attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Educational Administration at Western Carolina University in the United States (US); a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology from the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology in Kingston; and a Doctorate in Christian Counselling from Andersonville Seminary in the US.

Dr. Fearon was also instrumental in developing a special programme, operated by Grace Baptist Church in Oracabessa of which she is a member, which targets at-risk young people, 17 years old and older, and those dropping out of school or performing below par academically.

She has been involved in the Girls’ Brigade movement for over 30 years and currently serves as Captain of the Fifth St. Mary Company.

Dr. Fearon is also an accomplished playwright, having scripted numerous dramatic productions, and has piloted her students and peers to medal placements in Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) competitions.

She expresses a sense of great satisfaction with her accomplishments thus far and the manner in which these were attained.

“I wanted to try and make school fun for children, like it was for me, and this has guided me throughout my career. I believe children must learn, and I cannot recall having a student leaving my class unable to read, no matter what level they were at when they arrived.  I used plays, drama and music and other ways to ensure that every child in my class was able to learn,” Dr. Fearon explains.

She says, however, that more needs to be done to help youngsters displaying behaviourial challenges, citing a special residential programme that was discussed by stakeholders recently, as an example.

“I think that there should also be a guidance counsellor in all primary schools who focuses on preventing behavioral problems,” she adds. St. Mary Teachers’ Association President, Timroy Shaw, who nominated Dr. Fearon for the Prime Minister’s Medal, describes her as the “consummate educator” whose indelible contribution to education and community development did not go unnoticed.

Meanwhile, Nadia Stephens, a former student of Dr. Fearon, who is also a teacher, holds the veteran educator, who influenced her to enter the profession, in high regard.

“She is fun-loving, she is dedicated, and she always goes the extra mile for her students,” Ms. Stephens shares.