Volunteer teacher making a difference in Waterhouse

Volunteer Jacqueline Cooper is living her dream.

Six years ago when she placed a poster on a nearby shop door about voluntarily teaching youngsters in her Waterhouse community, she was unsure of how many people would show up at her home for lessons.

Now, the 54-year-old has 20 youngsters between the ages of four to 17 years on her verandah daily, whom she describes as her “little gem achievers”.

“I always see many children running up and down, so I decided to do a thing [to help]. I asked the shopkeeper permission to paste up [the poster] and when mi look, the yard full [the next day],” Cooper told the Jamaica Observer.

But, in an effort to observe COVID-19 protocols, Cooper said she tries her best to avoid the large gathering at her home. Instead, she would facilitate youngsters in small groups of five.

“This is the time that I have more children, as they are not going to school. One child would tell another, ‘Guess what’s going on up at Miss Cooper? Then I have to tell dem to come at a certain time, to observe protocols,” she said.

“Five children will come at 9:30 am to 1:00 pm, another five would come at 1:00 pm till about 3:30 pm,” Cooper explained.

Kerry-Ann Francis, mother of six-year-old Shanique Stephenson who has been attending “Aunty Jacky’s” lessons since February, said her daughter’s learning abilities improved.

“She is a good lady in the community, she spends time with them and give them proper teaching. Little things that I didn’t know, she knows. She would always come home and say, ‘Aunty Jacky teach mi this,’ ” said Francis.

Grandaunt of four-year-old Reko Sparks, who also attends lessons, gave her name only as Chin, said she grew up with Cooper and described her as a loving and jovial person.

“Ms Cooper is an angel. She spends good time with them and now during COVID-19, we barely have Internet service, so she help them out a lot,” she said.

Noting that she is not a trained teacher, Cooper said she started her journey as the former manager at the Drewsland Community Centre from 2010 until 2012. She said after her scheduled work hours, she would spend time teaching teenaged mothers who did not complete school.

For her outstanding efforts, she received the CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Unsung Heroes award in 2012.

“I would see them [teenaged mothers] on the road, until I decided to start a little group. When they came, we would occupy one of the classrooms. But, nowadays, I mostly focus on the little ones,” she said.

Cooper, who is unemployed, said she uses the Observer Study Centre for lessons and at the end of the week, she would treat the youngsters to a movie or refreshments with donations from residents in the community.

“Every Friday mi nice it up by having pizza day or movie day with popcorn. I would walk around in the community and ask the guys on the corner, ‘Contribute something nuh, is your same nephew or niece over there enu,’ and then I would use the contribution to buy popcorn and pizza or donut,” she said.

Dreshawn Whittaker, five-year-old, did not hesitate in telling the Observer that he enjoys the refreshments. “I like pizza and movie days.”

Another youngster, Triston Sinclair, a 13-year-old, said he likes going to Cooper for lessons.

“Her teaching has been very good. We have learnt a lot; I was poor at maths, but now I am better,” he said, adding that he started attending a month ago.

Eight-year-old Kadane Annakie, said: “I enjoy learning to read and write and spell.”

During the upcoming summer holidays, Cooper wants to offer sewing lessons to the youngsters in the community.

“Mi have one little igloo, so mi will buy syrup, full it up with juice, add some ice cubes and put down the cups. Sometimes I would only have crackers with a little cheese and jam and decorate it on the dish. Once them come in and see that, they will sit and learn how to make cushions and pillows,” an overjoyed Cooper said.

Although she enjoys teaching the youngsters, Cooper said she is in need of a laptop and stationery supplies to make the process easier.

“I just want them to learn what I have taught them, so that when they go back to school they will understand the lessons and say, ‘Teacher I know that’. Sometimes they want somebody to listen to them and it is a [joy for me].”



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