‘Teaching is My First Love’ – PM Award Recipient
Retired Educator, Patricia Eves-McKenzie, is honoured to be a recipient of the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for doing something that she loves.
Proud of her long and distinguished career in education, moulding students from the primary to the tertiary levels, Mrs. Eves-McKenzie says that things might have turned out differently, as there was a time when she stepped away from the profession.
She embarked on a 10-year journey out of education, which had been her mainstay for 17 years and ventured into unfamiliar territory.
Patricia Eves-McKenzie first entered the classroom at Mona Preparatory School in September 1967 as a young graduate straight out of Shortwood Teachers’ College.
She remained at Mona for one year, after which she moved on to the then Tarrant Junior Secondary (now Tarrant High) School where she remained for nine years. There she taught mathematics, English, Spanish and music.
She would eventually become the first Vice-Principal of the newly opened Edith Dalton James Secondary (now High) School and served that institution for seven years. Following her stint at Edith Dalton James, Mrs. Eves-McKenzie decided to step away from the classroom for other pursuits.
During the 10 years away from the classroom, Mrs. Eves-McKenzie’s love for teaching never waned, and she continued to provide support for students.
“I did not leave the profession totally, because I travelled around the island with the team that was adjudicating the inter-schools debating competitions,” she informs. “I also did a stint with the Children’s Own, where I went into schools and helped to train the teachers on how to use the (publication) in language teaching, so I was not totally away from it,” she adds.
She would eventually return to the field of education in January 1994 as principal of Dunrobin High School.
She says it was the late Albert Karram, who was a leader in her church at the time, who encouraged her to take up the job as principal.
“That man brought me to tears when he told me that the children needed me. I sat and cried.”
“So I went back. I had to. I really did not think I had a choice, because teaching was my first love and my students are precious to me,” she continues. In February 1998, after leaving Dunrobin, Mrs. Eves-McKenzie took her skills to the tertiary sector, lecturing at the University of Technology (UTech), where she remained for 18 years until her retirement in September 2016. At UTech, she lectured in psychology and counselling.
Mrs. Eves-McKenzie tells JIS News that although she taught students at all stages, she believes that it was at the high school and university levels that her impact was greatest.
She finds the greatest joy in seeing her students do well in their chosen fields and reaps great satisfaction from seeing them succeed. “I have always tried to motivate the students to be their very best in every place that I have been. That has been my mantra, and I feel that I am satisfied that I have seen my students excel,” she adds.
Mrs. Eves-McKenzie tells JIS News that on the day of the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation awards ceremony, “I walked into Jamaica House and a gentleman in full khaki police regalia looked at me and said, ‘My teacher; you taught me at Tarrant and today you are being awarded. I am honoured for you’.”.
“That made me proud to see him standing there knowing that he is making a meaningful contribution to society,” she remarks. She further recalls that, recently, one of her students, whom she challenged to tap into his true potential, attained his professorship.
“He called me and said, ‘You have to sit in the front row when I am doing my inaugural lecture’. I was overwhelmed. For me, they just need to be their best. That is enough for me,” she says. Mrs. Eves-McKenzie tells JIS News that she remained in teaching because she felt that she had something to offer.
She says that for every group of students who began school, she would decide to stay with the group until they had completed their studies, and that the cycle kept repeating itself.
“At UTech, I would be backstage at graduation when they would get their degrees, sharing their joy, because I know where many of them are coming from. I was always there to say to them there is another level and they must go for it,” she notes.
Although officially retired, Mrs. Eves-McKenzie continues to help out at UTech, assisting in shaping the lives of her students.
“I continue to journey with them and it is very fulfilling to see someone make changes that improve the quality of their life,” she beams.