In the same Rowe
ROSINA ROWE lights up when she talks about her teaching career. Her smile is contagious, and her stories brim with a love for her work and for the many students who passed through her classroom.
“Honestly, in all the years I have been teaching, I probably had about six experiences that were not so good, if so much. But my memorable experiences are countless,” she said of her 42 years in the service.
The joy of teaching was so immeasurable, Rosina had to share it with her daughter, Natalie Rowe. And although she was initially not as excited as her mother, Natalie has grown to realise that a love of imparting knowledge had been in her genes all along.
We sat down on last Monday after the school bell had rung at the Erdiston Nursery. The 60-year-old principal admitted that even though she strongly encouraged her daughter to become a teacher, her own foray into the field was by chance.
“When I was finished with school, I [applied to be a teacher] with a friend of mine, as we were passing by the Ministry of Education. It was on Bay Street at the time,” Rosina said.
“The principal of the [now defunct] St Bartholomew’s Girl’s School Vera Watkins called sometime later and asked my mum if I was really interested in teaching, and she said yes. She told her there was going to be a vacancy at the school and that she was going to ask the [education officer] to send me there. I went down [to the Ministry] the Saturday after that conversation, and [the education officer] told me he was going to send me down to St Patrick’s [Primary]. I sat there and just looked at him, because I didn’t know anything about travelling on the bus by myself. However, Mrs Watkins told my mother she would talk to [the education officer], who eventually told me to report to Mrs Watkins that Monday.”
In a fresh Sunday School dress, an 18-year-old Rosina walked into Class 1C as a new teacher in 1972, and has not looked back. She was mentored and moulded by other teachers at the school, notably Cora Ray and Hazene Green, who both taught her the practical and administrative aspects of being at the front of a classroom. Rosina added to her on the on-the-job training with courses offered by Erdiston Teachers’ Training College.
Rosina loved teaching tiny tots – a love that was strengthened while going through the early childhood programme at the college.
“From the time I did [the] early childhood I knew I wanted this to last. It was very interesting and I put my all into it,” she said in the interview which was punctuated by the sounds of chattering children sitting a few feet away.
Rosina was also responsible for starting the nursery section at the then St Bartholomew’s Girls, and continued in the infants section when the school amalgamated with St Bartholomew’s Boys’ School. She remained at the Parish Land, Christ Church-based school for several years before moving to South District Primary.
“I felt that it was time to see another environment. I wanted to see how it would be like to be at a school away from where I was brought up,” the Pilgrim Road, Christ Church native said.
She enjoyed short stints at Grantley Prescod, Belmont Primary, Christ Church Girls’ School, Eagle Hall Primary and Erdiston Nursery. She returned to the Pine Hill, St Michael school three years ago in the position of principal.
“I feel as though I am evolving . . . I love it [here],” she added.
Rosina also beamed with pride when she thought of how former students – some of whom are now parents – still regarded her highly and wanted their children to benefit from her guidance.
“When I see former students I would have taught and they [tell me] the things I did for them, it made me realise that while I was not even conscious of the things I did to help, it stuck with them. Now, when I go to town and I see them [they all] want a hug. . . I am really grateful to God that I chose the right career,” Rosina said.
The veteran educator was just as pleased that she was able to help her only child find a fulfilling career in the same profession. Natalie readily admitted her mind was geared towards becoming a political advisor during her time at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. She studied political science and sociology. However, her mother proudly asserted that she made decisive moves to ensure Natalie followed in her footsteps.
“[Natalie] always had this way about getting over things to people. So I thought, why waste it? Why not actively do it all through the day?” Rosina said.
Natalie decided to give teaching a try, with the intention of spending one year in the profession before moving on to something else.
“ . . . I taught for three years, then I went for my master’s and still came back into teaching. This year will be tenth year,” the class one teacher relayed.
“. . . . Even when I did my master’s I thought I was going to do something else. But to be honest, right now I am loving it,” Natalie added with a smile.
She believed that finding the “right age group” made the difference, as well as being placed at a school she loved: the Christ Church Girls’ School. Natalie gravitated towards the “talkative students” since they reminded her most of herself as a young student.
“I was not the typical teacher’s child . . . I got lashes every single day, twice or three times per day,” Natalie, 33, said, laughing.
“It would be because I would have said to her before we left home that she cannot interrupt other students by talking,” said Rosina, who taught her daughter in Infants B. “[I told her to] do your work, listen to teacher and when you go out to play then you can talk to your friends. But as soon as Natalie got into the classroom she would be talking. At the time you could lash, so she had to get lashes.”
But their relationship is strong, and Rosina offers invaluable advice on teaching, from colourful classroom charts to creative take-home projects.
“She is my best friend,” Natalie said of Rosina. “She’s a mother so, of course, she has her opinions. I would tell her something I am working on for the students and then she would want to take control, and tell me about the years of teaching that she has. I would tell her: ‘I want to do it [another] way.’ Sad to say, 95 per cent of the time she is right. . .
“She has a wealth of knowledge and knows what she is about . . . Maybe I didn’t appreciate it when I was younger because she used to lash me… but now I can see her wealth of knowledge.” (Green Bananas Media)