Retired Vice Principal of Tivoli Gardens High School in Kingston, Paul Alphanso Napier, has been recognised for 40 years of dedicated service to the education sector.
The Government has honoured him with the national award, Order of Distinction (OD), in the Rank of Officer,
Mr. Napier, who lost his 92-year-old mother last year, tells JIS News that his mother would have been proud of this recognition of his work.
“She would have been very proud of me receiving this national award. I am very happy that I have been considered as a person worthy of this award. I see it as an instrument I can use to enrich the lives of those I come in contact with. It gives me a voice to become a stronger advocate for changes in my community and influence those I meet in a positive way,” he says.
Mr. Napier credits first Principal of the then just-opened Tivoli Gardens Comprehensive High School, in 1970, the late Jeanette Grant-Woodham, for inspiring him to enter the teaching profession.
He tells JIS News that as a student at the institution, her words of affirmation motivated him to reach beyond the poverty of inner-city life, into which he was born and bred, to excel and give back to the community in similar fashion.
“I was born and grown in Denham Town and I attended the Tivoli Gardens High School. I was part of the second batch of students to have entered the school when it had just opened and I was lucky to have met an amazing educator. She had a very powerful impression on me as a child. Because of what I learned from her, I wanted to pursue a career that involved giving back and pass on what was learned from her in the education process,” he says.
He notes that he maintained a close bond with his friend and mentor up until her death in September this year.
Mr. Napier, who is trained in the fine arts, began his career as an art teacher at the institution in 1980, and moved up the ranks to the position of Vice Principal in 1999.
Known for his uncompromising belief in discipline and the importance of holistic education, he employed his Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) training as a District Constable in his leadership of the inner-city institution, as he sought to mould the young minds in his care, positively impacting the lives of scores of young persons.
Dubbed, the ‘camera-wielding Vice Principal of Tivoli Gardens High’, Mr. Napier has earned a reputation for his innovative and unconventional approaches to education in his quest to get the best out of his students. He videotaped students caught misbehaving in public spaces.
“I had three members of staff helping me to videotape them in action at places where we knew they frequented. I would put on my JCF uniform and go for the offenders myself and carry them to the station, so they realised that I was serious about discipline and it made a huge change in their behaviour,” he recalls.
Mr. Napier notes that this approach was embraced and supported by parents, staff and members of the community, who participated in the disciplinary initiative.
Rather than carrying out punitive action against offenders, the retired Vice Principal says he used the opportunity to counsel and guide students.
“Being a product of the inner city myself, I know that was not the way to go, because they are accustomed to that kind of thing. I discovered very quickly what was more impactful on them was to encourage corrective ways of discipline by speaking with them and guiding them in the right way. My office was filled with students on a daily basis, because they saw me as a father figure and as one who understood them,” he tells JIS News.
He also sought to guide students in social etiquette, personal grooming, discipline, self-esteem development and non-violent methods of resolving conflicts.
Under his guidance, the school reintroduced a sixth-form programme in 2013 and reinstated the school’s graduation exercise that same year, based on the improved performance and behaviour of the students. Prior to that, the graduation exercise had been suspended for five years.
He retired as Vice Principal of Tivoli Gardens High School and from the JCF in March 2020.
Although he is retired, Mr. Napier, who is also a Justice of the Peace, intends to continue to build his community of Spanish Town where he now resides, and encourages other Jamaicans to contribute to nation building.
“There are a lot of talented people that can make positive changes in our society. We need to come together and pool the resources that we have to improve this country,” he says.
Mr. Napier was also the recipient of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education.