- Merline Sewell Sullivan always knew she wanted to be a teacher. As a child it was her favourite role to play.
- She says that one of her more memorable experiences at Charlie Smith was helping to transform the life of a student, who had behavioural problems.
- The educator has plans to pursue doctoral studies in Clinical Psychology, an interest she developed at School of Hope.
Merline Sewell Sullivan always knew she wanted to be a teacher. As a child it was her favourite role to play.
“I used to have juice boxes set up in front of me and I would teach them. I remember that I would demand that the boxes pay attention and for them to get the lesson right,” she laughs.
After years of role playing, Mrs. Sewell Sullivan was introduced to a classroom in 1978, when she did voluntary service at the Boys’ Town summer school in Kingston.
“That experience showed me that I truly belonged in the classroom and I taught at Boys’ Town every summer thereafter for three years,” she tells JIS NEWS.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan says she briefly strayed from the teaching profession and tried nursing, but at the end of her first year in the programme she realised that it was definitely not her calling.
“I remember going to the Kingston Public Hospital and upon entering the casualty area and seeing the blood, I just fainted. Thereafter, I just reverted to the place where God wanted me,” she recounts.
On Thursday, June 23, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, will award the Trench Town Primary School Principal for 33 years of sterling service to the education sector.
She will be among 40 educators, who will be presented with the Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education, during a ceremony at Jamaica House.
The commemorative medal is awarded to persons who have given outstanding service through innovation and creativity as well as their active involvement in community development.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan, who hails from the Trench Town community, tells JIS NEWS that she is extremely happy and humbled to be honoured.
She sees the award as recognition of her years of service to the profession. She was the recipient of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association’s (JTA) Golden Torch Award in 2015, as well as two special awards for commitment to education at Trench Town High School in 2009.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan’s official classroom experience as a trained professional began at Denham Town High School in 1986. She later served at the School of Hope’s Maxfield Park Unit, where she taught children with special needs for 10 years.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan tells JIS NEWS that her experience at School of Hope was rewarding and one of the most memorable in her career.
She informs that she taught children with “mild intellectual disabilities, who required lessons from the basics up and I also had to ensure that their lessons were hands-on”.
Although she was not trained as a special-needs teacher, she attended workshops, seminars and short courses in special education in order to be better equipped to serve her students.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan says that four of the children that she taught were able to transition into regular classrooms. “They just needed that special help and a little more time and I am honoured to have provided it,” she shares.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan has also taught at Mavis Bank Vocational Training Centre and the former Charlie Smith High.
She says that one of her more memorable experiences at Charlie Smith was helping to transform the life of a student, who had behavioural problems.
“Wherever there was indiscipline, he was there. I worked with that youngster and today I am so proud to see him being active on the football field playing for Arnett Gardens and I can really tip my hat to him for his transformation,” she says.
“As a teacher you can really reach out to a child, you can change their path. As teachers we are nurses, doctors, peer counsellors, lawyers and police officers,” she adds.
At Trench Town Primary School, Mrs. Sewell Sullivan has implemented a number of transformational initiatives, including a ‘Pair-Share-Think Programme,’ where parents can sit at the back of their child’s classroom and listen while class is in session.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan says the programme empowers parents to help their children with assignments and school projects, and the feedback from the initiative has been good.
“I can recall as a child growing up, you dared not enter the principal’s office, so the first thing I tried to establish when I got to Trench Town Primary was an open-door policy. I tell the parents that the compound belongs to them, in the sense that they are stakeholders and part of the learning process,” she tells JIS NEWS.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan says that a computer literacy class, which is under way, also adds value to the students’ homework as well as develops their information technology skills.
She has also introduced the Reader of the Week and Principal’s Award to encourage students “to maximise their full potential”.
The Trench Town Primary Principal says the students look forward to the awards annually and are highly competitive and as a result, this has boosted their academic performance.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan says she believes wholeheartedly in education “because it lifted someone like me, a person who grew up in Trench Town, who is able to have a positive impact on so many lives”.
“They used to say ‘nothing good could come from Trench Town’, but I proved them wrong. I attended Ardenne High School for five years on government funding because my parents could not afford it. Afterwards, I volunteered and got a scholarship to attend St. Joseph’s Teachers’ College and I worked hard to finish my diploma,” she shares.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan tells JIS NEWS that she is committed to giving students a good foundation to become nation builders.
Secretary for the St. Andrew Central JTA District Association, Michelle Wallace-Knight, who nominated Mrs. Sewell Sullivan for the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation, tells JIS NEWS that she finds her to be an ardent supporter of the teaching profession.
“She has worked at every level of the academic field and I find her to be a dedicated educator,” she says.
Mrs. Sewell Sullivan is equally active in community development. She is a founding member and past public relations officer for the Trench Town Development Association.
The educator has plans to pursue doctoral studies in Clinical Psychology, an interest she developed at School of Hope.
She has a Bachelor of Science in Middle School Education and a Master’s degree in Administration from Western Carolina University in the United States.