Principal of Gordon Greenidge Primary School, Dr Angela Smith, surrounded by some of her charges. (Picture by Reco Moore.)
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Dr Angela Smith has dedicated 40 years of her life to educating the nation’s children. Fulfilled, accomplished and proud are just some of the emotions she feels today having made such a contribution to her nation.
Dr Smith, currently the principal at the Gordon Greenidge Primary School, said her journey thus far has been an interesting one filled with many accomplishments.
“The last 40 years have been exciting. There have been challenges along the way but I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey and I continue to do so,” she said.
Dr Smith even noted that she was living a lifelong dream.
“I am living a dream. God has allowed me to achieve all of my dreams. Even where my studies are concerned. I completed my doctorate, which is basically the highest level in education. I live by the verse ‘Commit your way to the Lord and He will grant you the desires of your heart’, and that’s what He has done for me,” she said.
Dr Smith, a devoted Christian, said she believes that this profession was one that was handpicked for her by God.
“I think God chose this profession for me. I’ve been in education my entire life. I believe it’s my God-given purpose on this earth, and for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a teacher, a principal and to be working in education on a whole, and God has allowed me to achieve that,” she added.
During the interview in her office at the St Peter institution, the many trophies and plaques surrounding her told of her very accomplished career thus far.
Dr Smith began as a classroom teacher when she was fresh out of Combermere after doing her A levels.
“My educational journey began at a private secondary school just after completing A Levels at Combermere School after leaving Alexandra. Then I went on to St Luke’s Girls, Chalky Mount Mixed, Hindsbury Girls, St Clements Junior and Infants and Ignatius Byer,” she recalled.
At present she is also the general secretary for the Association of Public Primary School Principals, and a part-time lecturer at Erdiston Teachers’ Training College since 1998.
During her 40 years, Dr Smith was also seconded to the Ministry of Education, where she worked as an education officer for four years.
She is now into her fourteenth year as a principal. Before taking up the post at Gordon Greenidge, she was the inaugural principal at the All Saints Nursery School.
Dr Smith said the career has been filled with so many memorable moments, that it was hard to pin point just one.
“I can’t say that there has been just one memorable moment. For me there have been plenty. But the opportunity to work on curriculum reform in 2000 has been a great moment for me. I also had the privilege of representing Barbados in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at a conference where they were looking at strategies to overcome failures in school. All of those things were memorable to me,” she revealed.
And just as she has had highs, she has also had lows, but she pushed through.
“The most challenging has been the change in social and emotional areas as far as children are concerned and also having to deal with some parents. Working with children has not been a challenge for me really. Certain behaviours you expect from children. And times have changed,” she said with a glance out her window at the kids running around.
“The profession has changed a lot over the 40 years . . . . How some parents interact with the schools, the values that they share with their children. In the early years of my career you had a greater percentage of parents being supportive of schools and its activities and showing a great interest in their children’s achievements.
“I have found that over the years that has dwindled. Some parents are not as involved in school as they should be. In some cases they do not transfer to the children the importance of education,” she said.
The other changes she said were academically and stressed that those changes were for the better.
“Academically, the changes would be the inclusion of technology in everything. When I first started as a teacher, it was pencil, paper and chalkboard. Everything has changed now. I think the inclusion of technology is a very good thing. Children learn by doing. They need to have activities so that they would be interested and focused on what they are doing and technology affords that,” she said.
On reflection, Dr Smith said her favourite group has been the tiny tots, as they gave her the most joy.
“My favourite age group is three to five. When they come in they are young, new, eager and want to learn. It’s a little challenging at first because it’s a new environment but when they settle, you can see all the work you are doing with them. They learn at a rapid rate. It is a very exciting time. You see the results of your teaching,” she explained, the excitement bright in her eyes.
And do not expect the vibrant, youthful looking principal to step down anytime soon.
“No plans to retire yet. As long as God gives me health and strength and the mandate to continue, I will continue,” she said with a chuckle.
Dr Smith added that she feels great in body and mind and feels good to know that she could make such a contribution to her nation.
“I feel honoured and humbled to make such a great contribution to my country. When I started out as a young teacher, I did not foresee that it would have gone all these years. There have been many areas that I worked in. Indeed, I have impacted several lives and not just children but teachers and prospective teachers. So I have impacted society in a great way I believe. It makes me feel good to know that. Many times I go to business places and I see familiar faces.
“It’s a great feeling to know that God has blessed me with the abilities that he has given me that I can make a contribution to my nation,” she added. (DB)