• Feature
    Principal of St. Aloysius Primary School, Althea Palmer (left), offers an encouraging word to Grade six student, Troy Taylor.
    Photo: Michael Sloley

    Story Highlights

    • As the nation marks Child Month in May, one veteran educator is encouraging the nation’s teachers to play a greater role in ensuring the welfare of children and to create a safe and healthy environment for them at school.
    • Principal of the St. Aloysius Primary School, Althea Palmer, notes that the job of a teacher goes beyond the classroom.
    • “Teachers are not just teachers for the greater part. They are also mothers, fathers and role models. They go beyond the call of duty, they look out for individual differences to cater to the whole child,” she explains.

    As the nation marks Child Month in May, one veteran educator is encouraging the nation’s teachers to play a greater role in ensuring the welfare of children and to create a safe and healthy environment for them at school.

    Principal of the St. Aloysius Primary School, Althea Palmer, notes that the job of a teacher goes beyond the classroom.

    “Teachers are not just teachers for the greater part. They are also mothers, fathers and role models. They go beyond the call of duty, they look out for individual differences to cater to the whole child,” she explains.

    Ms. Palmer says that teachers should recognise that children face various challenges and stresses.

    Principal of Aloysius Primary School, Althea Palmer.

     

    “Our children come to us with baggage. They too have their problems. We have children having children, parents who don’t know how to parent, children coming to school with no money or no books, emotional baggage. You have children raising themselves sometimes,” she laments.

    “We have parents who are frustrated and we have to deal with these challenges. Sometimes it is not that a child cannot learn but they come (to school) with all of these things on their mind… so we have to address it,” she adds.

    Ms. Palmer, who has served the education system for 38 years, believes she was born to be an educator and lives her passion every day.

    She tells JIS News that it was the teachers “I met along my way in the education process who inspired me to enter the profession”.

    “You wanted to emulate them because you saw something to be patterned. That is why I became a teacher,” she shares.

    The educator has been a St. Aloysius Primary for her entire professional life.

    It was where she did her internship after completing her teaching degree at St. Joseph’s Teachers’ College in 1978 at the age of 18, later joining the staff full-time, then rising to the position of senior teacher, vice principal and then principal for the last 10 years.

    Ms. Palmer, who views the over 1,700 students enrolled at the institution as “her children”, has advice for young persons interested in entering the profession

    “I tell my teachers, ‘you do not use one paintbrush to paint every child. Every person is an individual and comes with their own personality, and you have to treat the person as such,” she notes.

    Ms. Palmer, who says she is “looking down the road to retirement”, tells JIS News that she wants to continue to serve children through social work.

    “I am driven to that because I see the challenges. I think I can make a difference there. I don’t want to be the social worker that sits behind a desk. I want to do home visits to find out what I can do to alleviate the situation,” she explains.

    The veteran educator, who is the recipient of several awards, including the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation and the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Golden Torch Award for exemplary service, says she sees herself as a nation builder.

    “I dedicate myself to my country and I do what I can for the betterment of my society,” she notes.

    The St. Aloysius Primary School Principal was one of hundreds of educators honoured by the Ministry of Youth, Education and Information during ‘Education Week’ for dedicated service in securing Jamaica’s future generations and the positive impact they make on a child’s life.

    The week was observed from May 5 to 11 under the theme ‘Empowering Educators: Retooling, Innovating, Networking for Sustainable Development’.