• Feature
    Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, presents former Principal of the Watsonton Primary School, Carmelita Patterson, with the 2019 Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education at the awards ceremony held on June 26 at Jamaica House.
    Photo: Yhomo Hutchinson

    Story Highlights

    • Devoted educator, mentor and role model, Carmelita Evadne Patterson, has made a sterling contribution to the community of Lionel Town in Clarendon.
    • She gave more than 40 years to the teaching profession, 36 of which were spent at her alma mater Watsonton Primary School, in the capacity of teacher, senior teacher, vice principal and then principal for 11 years before she retired in 2001.
    • “Teaching has been my passion, it was something I always wanted to do as a child. I used to teach the post and wall by pretending that they were my students,” Mrs. Patterson tells JIS News.

    Devoted educator, mentor and role model, Carmelita Evadne Patterson, has made a sterling contribution to the community of Lionel Town in Clarendon.

    She gave more than 40 years to the teaching profession, 36 of which were spent at her alma mater Watsonton Primary School, in the capacity of teacher, senior teacher, vice principal and then principal for 11 years before she retired in 2001.

    “Teaching has been my passion, it was something I always wanted to do as a child. I used to teach the post and wall by pretending that they were my students,” Mrs. Patterson tells JIS News.

    Before Watsonton Primary, Mrs. Patterson taught briefly at Salt Savannah and Hayes Primary schools in the parish before pursuing studies in primary education at the Shortwood Teachers’ College in St. Andrew.

    “When I started at Watsonton, I was teaching grade four, and that particular class used to be a challenging one, but I was able to transform the students and made a difference.

    “Persons, including the principal, were surprised at how the students transformed. Their behaviour changed, I exercised good class control and had a good rapport with the children, and they learnt,” she says.

    She had similar success working with grade-six students, whom she prepared for the then Common Entrance Examination.

    “Grammar was always crucial and I stressed the importance of it to my students. I told them they have to master it in order to go to high school, so they had to know their subject and verb and not mix up plural with singular… . I went all out for them, as I wanted them to shine and to stand out when they went off to high school,” she recounts.

    Mrs. Patterson initiated several activities to encourage excellence in academics and sports and promote self-discipline.

    Among her initiatives was a Happy Hour music programme “where the children would listen to music while having lunch to get them to remain quiet and relaxed. It worked; we could see the difference in their behaviour”.

    A Reading Centre was also established to improve reading and grammar.

    Mrs. Patterson spearheaded inter-class contests in personal hygiene and best-kept classroom, the latter of which blossomed into a beautification competition, resulting in the school being awarded by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) in 1991.

    To further promote team spirit and sportsmanship, Mrs. Patterson organised quiz and debating competitions for primary schools in south Clarendon.

    She also taught students cake making for the Jamaica 4-H Club competitions and was Brownie Pack Captain for Lionel Town and Alley community groups.

    Mrs. Patterson initiated various activities geared towards the development of the school and wider community.

    She raised funds for the building of a netball court; erected a fence around a section of the school compound; formed a committee to do fundraising to assist students to attend the Miami Classic in Florida in 1998 and 1999, and for the Glenmuir High School Choir to travel to Cincinnati and Pennsylvania in 1980 and 1981, respectively.

    The former principal also established a welfare fund to assist needy students at Watsonton with transportation, uniforms, shoes and other emergencies, and since retirement, has developed an annual scholarship for a needy student, who is doing well academically.

    She has established an adult literacy class for parents in the area, and has served as census taker, and poll clerk and presiding officer in general and local elections.

    Mrs. Patterson is proud of her four decades of service to education, and contribution to transforming lives.

    “When you see those that you have taught continue to excel in their chosen career, it makes me feel proud and that my work have not gone in vain,” she tells JIS News.

    “I have lawyers, doctors, entrepreneurs who have passed through my hands, and when we meet on the road and they thank me for helping them to reach where they are, it is a very good feeling,” she adds.

    Mrs. Patterson was one of 40 educators awarded the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education during a ceremony at Jamaica House on June 26.

    She tells JIS News that she is honoured and grateful to have been recognised.

    Her advice to young and aspiring teachers is to “show true dedication and commitment, and give it your all in order to get results.

    “When you leave the classroom each day, you should feel satisfied that you have given your best, so you have to love what you do and have full dedication to reap the rewards.”

    Now retired, she volunteers her time to the church and is a member of the Retired Teachers Association, May Pen chapter.

    “I continue to give back and spend more time with family. I have worked long and hard, given my all, so I can now relax and enjoy the rest of my life and the fruits of my labour,” she tells JIS News.