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Story Highlights

  • Principal at the Water Valley Primary School in St. Mary, Morris Omar Edwards, has given 37 years of exceptional service to education.
  • A native of the parish in which he practices his profession, the educator was raised by his maternal grandmother, after the death of his mother, while he was a child.
  • Mr. Edwards tells JIS News that, without the burden of tuition costs, his major focus, while in college, was on passing his classes.

Principal at the Water Valley Primary School in St. Mary, Morris Omar Edwards, has given 37 years of exceptional service to education.

A native of the parish in which he practices his profession, the educator was raised by his maternal grandmother, after the death of his mother, while he was a child.

He always had his eyes set on becoming a doctor but after being enlisted with the National Youth Service (NYS), and placed as a pre-trained teacher at the Free Hill Primary School, he soon feel in love with teaching as he became aware of the impact that he had on the young minds entrusted to him.

With his appetite for teaching whetted, Mr. Edwards enrolled at Moneague Teachers’ College in St. Ann in 1979, one year after his NYS stint.

Mr. Edwards tells JIS News that, without the burden of tuition costs, his major focus, while in college, was on passing his classes.

“There was no tuition; the only challenge was to pay for books. Meals, boarding and washing of laundry were free and I was assisted by my aunt in England and an aunt in Jamaica, who was a teacher,” he recalls.

Islington High School (then Islington Secondary) was the budding educator’s first job after leaving college in 1982. It was there that he honed the skills that would prepare him for his role as Principal.

While at the secondary institution, where he taught mathematics and social studies, Mr. Edwards inspired and gained the respect of many students, who called him “Prof.” By 1989, he became senior teacher, grade 11 coordinator and head of the school’s mathematics department.

It was in 1994 that Mr. Edwards left Islington Secondary to take up the position that would define his career; that of Principal of the Water Valley Primary.

“There was a vacancy at the school and colleagues prompted me to apply.  I told myself that I could do it because I like to work with people and I particularly get along well with children. I like to help them and I like to see them excel,” he says.

Being Principal is now a position that he relishes as he sees it as his responsibility  “to prepare the young minds for future tasks, the job market and for survival.”

Not only has he transformed the minds of students but there have been marked improvements at the St. Mary-based primary school.

Since 2008, the school has partnered with American-Caribbean Experience, a faith-based outreach ministry dedicated to community transformation in the parish of

St. Mary through strategic initiatives in education, enterprise, health care and discipleship.

The collaboration produced a number of programmes including the promotion of literacy through the provision of ongoing training, support and teaching strategies for teachers locally and overseas.

A tutoring programme held three times per week involving retired American teachers has also been instituted. The relationship has also seen the establishment of a multipurpose court, partition walls for classrooms, and a tuck shop.

In addition, Mr. Edwards solicited help from the Kiwanis Club of St. Mary to repair the school’s kitchen for the provision of meals to students. A computer resource centre has also been established with donations from the Canadian High Commission and several corporate companies.

Mr. Edwards was also instrumental in the institution of a breakfast programme at the Water Valley Primary.

In 2013, he obtained five-year scholarships for two students attending the St. Mary High School. He was also successful in getting assistance for one grade six student from each of the five primary schools in the Islington zone of lay magistrates.

Grade six student at Water Valley Primary, Xo Haughton, is proof of the hard work and commitment of the Principal.  Even after he transitions to high school in September, he says, he will always remember Mr. Edwards for being “very disciplined, hard working, understanding and dedicated.”

Xo, recognises the integrated approach that his Principal has taken in the everyday operation of the school.

“Mr. Edwards works very well with his staff, his parents and his students. He listens to all those he works alongside with ….in the running of the school,” he says.

Not only has he earned the respect of students, but also his staff. Grade five teacher at the institution, Andrea Williams, has had a first-hand account of Mr. Edwards’ growth from classroom teacher to Principal, as she was one of his students at Islington Secondary over 30 years ago.

She has nothing but high praises for the man, who helped to influence her decision to become a teacher.

“He came to Islington Secondary when I was in grade 10 and some of us were struggling with mathematics and he would sit with us and show us that mathematics was not as hard as people make it out and that year most of us passed the test,” she shares.

Now as her boss, she says that Mr. Edwards is still helping persons “to be their best selves.”

“As the head of the school, he tries to put programmes in place to assist students and parents. He also puts things in place for the teachers and he tries to make sure that we do what we’re supposed to do to enhance the teaching and learning process,” she says.

“You have some troubled students, those with behavioural problems, he would try to take them under his wings. When they misbehave…he tries to talk to them and give them incentives to help them to improve,” shares the grade five teacher.

Mr. Edwards is also actively involved in his community. He is a past Vice President of the Islington Lay Magistrates’ Association, a member of the St. Mary Chamber of Commerce and a past member of the Kiwanis Club of St. Mary.

The educator says that while he loves his job, he has had to make many sacrifices over the years to ensure the effective operation of the school.

“I have to be at school every day. I can’t be absent like others because I’m in a leadership position, so I have to set an example. I also have to live an exemplary life (more so) because I am a Justice of the Peace (JP),” he comments.

He admits though that he tries to make time for relaxation on the weekends whether by playing his favourite game of dominoes or listening to gospel or rhythm and blues music.

The Principal of over 20 years says there are many misconceptions about the role of teachers that need to be addressed. Chief among them is the notion that the sole factor in a child’s progress is the ability of the teacher to impart knowledge.

“The greatest misconception that persons have about educators is that when students go before teachers, the teachers open their brain and put in the matter. The students and the parents are the outside factors. They have a bearing on performance,” he notes.

On Thursday, June 23 Mr. Edwards was presented with Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the sector.

He says that when news of the nomination for the award reached him, he was elated.

“I called my friends and told them I am going to shake the Prime Minister’s hand,” he laughs. I feel honoured to know that I have served my country for so many years and to be (recognised) by the Prime Minister,” he adds.

Mr. Edwards notes, however, that his fulfilment comes from helping students achieve their potential.

“When you see your students come out and they excel, you feel good knowing that they passed through your hands,” he says.

For all his colleagues in the profession, Mr. Edwards is encouraging them to continue to do the best for their students despite the challenges they may encounter.

“Continue to do your job and keep the students’ interest at heart because in the final analysis, the student will come to you and say ‘you taught me well and I benefitted from your tutoring’,” he says.