- At 83 years old, retired educator Etheline May serves as a model of excellence for today’s generation of teachers.
- This outstanding Jamaican was recently awarded the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation in recognition of her contribution to education.
- Mrs. Aiken’s passion for imparting knowledge took her through the whole gamut of the public education system, from the infant to the tertiary level.
At 83 years old, retired educator Etheline May serves as a model of excellence for today’s generation of teachers.
This outstanding Jamaican, who has given 48 years of noble service to teaching, contributing to the development of thousands of Jamaicans, believes that passion and love for the profession are key attributes for any successful teacher.
She was recently awarded the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation in recognition of her contribution to education.
The honour is the latest in a list of prestigious awards she has received over the years, including an Order of Distinction for Services to Education in 2005; the Golden Torch Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Education in 1995; the Bethlehem Training College Award for Distinguished and Dedicated Service in 1986; Good Samaritan Award from Harmony in the Homes in 1989; and the Diocese of Jamaica Certificate of Appreciation for over 30 years of Service in Education in1993.
Mrs. Aiken’s passion for imparting knowledge took her through the whole gamut of the public education system, from the infant to the tertiary level. It is a passion that she feels is lacking in many teachers today and which is affecting the way they do the job.
“I want to advise teachers and those planning to go into teaching that you have to love children and love teaching if you want to be an effective teacher. Some persons use teaching as a stepping stone; that is not good enough. You will have to go with the desire to help people,” Mrs. Aiken says.
Her sojourn as a teacher started in 1956 at the Rose Bank Primary School. She then moved on to Port Royal Infant Department where she taught from 1957-1960. Central Branch Primary School was her next stop, where she spent 10 years.
However, it was The Queen’s School that played a pivotal role in Mrs. Aiken’s illustrious career. She entered the institution as teacher of history in 1971 and a year later became head of that department. Five years later, she was promoted to the post of principal in which she served for 15 years.
It was under her stewardship that The Queen’s School won the 1978 Girls’ Athletic Championship.
Mrs. Aiken, who lives by the maxim that “whatever is worth doing, is worth doing well,” says it was not always easy for her but she believed in herself and persevered. She tells JIS News that while attending the University of the West Indies (UWI), she attended an employment fair to be interviewed for a post at the secondary level and was considered too inexperienced for the job.
“The administrators were reluctant to employ me because I had no experience in teaching at the secondary level. However, my experience teaching at the primary level actually helped me to transition to the secondary. I did not take it for granted that my students would learn so I used methods such as repetition, reinforcing as I would do with students at the infant and primary levels. This helped me to succeed in that the results, especially my history classes were very good,” she adds.
For her, the most rewarding part of teaching was seeing the look on the students’ faces when they finally understood a lesson.
“Whenever my students are absorbing what I am teaching and their eyes come alive, and I see the difference in their facial expressions, indicating that they are grasping what is being taught. These are the best moments for me,” Mrs. Aiken says.
After retiring from The Queen’s School, Mrs. Aiken spent 12 years at the Shortwood Teachers’ College as a lecturer where she found that some persons pursued teaching because they could not find anything else to do and even then, they did not give of their best. This was a disappointment to her.
“They were just passing through, so they were not really contributing the way they should; you have to be dedicated. It should be your ministry,” she contends.
“Teaching was my ministry because I was doing it not for myself but for God, so if am doing it for God I must give of my best,” Mrs. Aiken says.
As if establishing herself as the consummate educator was not enough, this esteemed lady has been a Lay Preacher at the St. George’s Church, 83 Duke Street for over 23 years. She is also a published author with three books to her credit; ‘Spiritual Reflections Books One and Two,’ published in 2004 and 2011, respectively, which are compilations of sermons and homilies that she delivered at St. George’s Church.
Her latest publication ‘Queens School in Transition 1971-1991’, chronicles her journey at that prestigious institution.
Retirement has not slowed down Mrs. Aiken, who serves as the Chaplain of the Government Pensioners Association; a Justice of the Peace and Member of Hughenden Senior Citizens’ Association, serving as vice president up to three months ago. The 83-year old keeps up-to-date with technology and uses her Amazon Kindle to download books to satisfy her passion for reading.
“I am also involved with the National Council for Senior Citizens art and craft exhibition, so right now I am preparing for the exhibition in July. I am never bored and sometimes I forget that I am 83,” she says.