How a Teacher Transformed a Student’s Life

    JN Group

    It is a well-established fact that teachers can have a profound impact on their students. They do not just impart knowledge, but also shape the minds and characters of the next generation, often making a difference and, in many cases, changing the trajectory of students’ lives.

    Meet Jerry Ellis, a resident of Kitson Town, St Catherine and a web administrator at The Jamaica National Group, whose life was positively impacted by a selfless teacher.

    Back in 1993, when Jerry was then 12 years old, he was struggling to read while in Grade Six at the Friendship Primary School in Spanish Town.  Despite the efforts of his previous teachers, he found it difficult to keep up with the lessons that were being taught. His learning issues were further compounded by his stuttering, which resulted in him constantly being teased by his peers.

    “When you have a stutter and cannot read, you develop low esteem. I used to get anxious when the stuttering acted up.  I was laughed at a lot of times because when I was stuttering, I would knock the bench when I am trying to bring across a point,” he said adding that the jeering from his school mates did not discourage him from going to school.

    Jerry expresses appreciation to Ms Harris with a hug.

    Jerry’s life took a dramatic turn when Patricia Harris became his teacher in Grade Six.

    “She helped me to overcome the stuttering by letting me practise speaking proper English and it worked,” Jerry pointed out.

    Ms Harris, now the library manager and culture agent at the school, as well as Councillor for the Angels Division in the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation, related that she was assigned a remedial class for students who were unable to read or write and who had behavioural challenges.

    “I looked at it as a challenge because my purpose was to help those children from the inner city to be number one because I am a product of the inner city, and I have seen the disadvantages with these students.  They were not in privileged situations,” she explained.

    Although her encounter with Jerry occurred almost three decades ago, she remembers him very well.  She had worked tirelessly with him before the start of classes and during extra lessons after school at no cost to his parents.

    “Jerry was different. He was a humble student with the willingness and the drive to learn. I could not resist helping him. He never missed a class. When he saw that he was progressing in reading, he said, ‘Miss, I can read!’ That to me was worth more than a billion dollars.  When he started to read, his confidence level skyrocketed.   There was no stopping him from there,” she exclaimed, with eyes welling up in tears.

    With his reading skill developing each day, Jerry would often go to the school library to read the encyclopedias.  Besides, he was performing better in his school work and he was feeling good about himself.

    Patricia Harris, library manager and culture agent at the Friendship Primary School

    Miss Harris pointed out that she had planned to remain only for a short time at Friendship Primary as she is a trained economics and business teacher.

    “His progress made me changed my mind. I could not leave because I felt the need to help other ‘Jerrys’ coming up in the school system. I realized that this was my ‘calling’,” she said.

    After spending two years in Grade Six, Jerry transitioned to the then Spanish Town Comprehensive High School but would still go back to Friendship Primary after school to join Ms Harris’ extra lesson classes to further improve his academic performance.

    “He brought with him to Spanish Town [Comprehensive] High School, the reading skills and the determination to learn and I think that’s what propelled him to be this success story that he is today and I’m extremely proud of him.”

    In an interesting coincidence, Jerry’s spouse, Tracey-Ann, is an accounting clerk at the Friendship Primary school.  As a result, he gets to see Ms Harris frequently. He maintains that he will always be indebted to Ms Harris for her tremendous dedication and support.

    “I appreciate her so much.  I can’t stop giving her praise for her contribution in my life.  She really went above and beyond where I am concerned.  She saw the potential in me.”

    The now father of three related that he cannot fathom what his life would have been like had Ms Harris not intervened.

    “When I was in grade eight, a gun was introduced to me,” he disclosed adding that he was about 14 years at the time and did not want to jeopardise his education.

    Today, Jerry is a successful IT technician, graphic designer, full-stack and web developer.  Additionally, he operates a small egg farming business and attributes his success to Ms Harris for she taught him not only how to read, but also how to persevere and overcome challenges.

    Jennifer Jones-D’Aguilar, senior manager, Website and Digital Media at The Jamaica National Group, emphasised that Jerry is a valuable member of her team.

    “He is a pleasure to work with. He consistently demonstrates a positive attitude and willingness to help out where needed.  He shows a great deal of flexibility and adaptability in his work, and is able to adjust to changes in our organisation and priorities with ease.”

    Jerry is now approaching his third year working with The Jamaica National Group.

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