the Governor's Speeches

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Educators are conduits for growth Remarks By H.E. Governor Eugene B. Holiday Delivered at the Teachers Appreciation Gala in Celebrating The Sundial School 50th and Milton Peters College 40th Anniversary

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening and congratulations to all past and present students, teachers, non-teaching staff, management and board members on the Sundial School 50th and Milton Peters College 40th anniversaries. And special greetings to all educators present for whom this appreciation gala evening has been organized.
Before I continue allow me to express my condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of teacher Sarafina Samuel on her passing earlier today.

Special greetings because as educators you are vehicles for change or in the inspiring words of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. My mom understood this and shared it with her children every chance she got. As a result my siblings and I have great pride in educational achievement. A pride which I believe can use some extra care and nurturing in our society in general and among our youths today.

It therefore goes without saying that education is close to my heart. I am therefore pleased to answer the request of the management of the Sundial School and Milton Peters College to address you this evening and celebrate the important role teachers played and continue to play on Sint Maarten. As I deliberated on the purpose of this evening’s event I kept coming back to the words preparation, inspiration and growth. In is against that background that I have, decided to give my remarks the title: “Educators are Conduits of Growth”.
On a personal note, I am proud to say that I have had the privilege as a teenager to attend the Milton Peters College. I started at the same time, albeit in different classes, with my future wife Marie-Louise. It is therefore my pleasure to stand before you this evening as a proud alumni of the Milton Peters College. Marie-Louise and I were both part of the first group of 425 students to attend the MPC when the school opened its doors on August 17, 1976. And while we both attended the school during the same period we have no recollection of each other in those years. When we met many years later in 1985 we had the privilege of sharing experiences of our MPC days, each from our own perspective.

Tonight I am pleased to address you about our MPC experiences from a broader perspective of growth.
As I said, I was one of first of the group of students that attended MPC in 1976. Ten years earlier the Sundial School had opened its doors. With the opening of MPC in 1976 the history of the two schools would forever be linked. I say this because they were brought under the umbrella of one school foundation – SVOBE. But also because both schools share a special and outstanding student, and alumni: Maria Bass, who regrettably is no longer with us. She was through her remarkable academic and professional growth a standard bearer of both schools. After completing sundial school Maria Bass transferred to ETAO at MPC in 1976. And in 1977 she transferred to MAVO where we became classmates. She would go on to complete HAVO and VWO and graduate from university as a fiscal lawyer. Following her impressive academic achievements she would hold political office as state secretary of the Netherlands Antilles and head the inspectorate of taxes at the Tax Department of Sint Maarten. She was in that respect testimony to the contributions of the teachers of Sundial and MPC schools.

As I stated I was one of the first students that attended Milton Peters College. My fellow students, of which a random selection is displayed on the screen, and I had just completed our freshman year, which we attended in part at the old Pater Nieuwenhuis MAVO facilities and in part at the old John Philips MAVO facilities. I shall never forget my freshman year classroom teacher Meneer Joseph Vliegen. He scolded my classmates and I for failing miserably on our first biology test in high school because we had failed to study and prepare. His scolding taught us the importance of preparation to grow and achieve our goals.
And in August 1976 we walked into the brand new MPC facilities along with many other students.

Thinking back on my MPC journey of growth, be it learning my favorite subject math, or learning languages, exact sciences, social sciences, physical education or art, brings back fond memories of fellow students, of beautiful academic achievements, of fierce volleyball and basketball competitions against peers and of memorable interactions with various teachers. My MPC journey was guided by a group of dedicated teachers under the leadership of General Director Meneer Ronald Francisca.
• My classmates and I got Spanish from our new classroom teacher the beautiful Mevrouw Roosenburg. And boy I had a crush on Mw. Roosenburg. That is probably why my Spanish is not as good as it should be;
• Meneer Ernst van Gunst taught us Dutch. I shall always remember the Dictionary of final examinations Dutch words which he made especially for us. That dictionary paid major dividends for my Dutch language comprehension in subsequent years;
• Meneer John van der Sluis taught my classmates and I my favorite subject, math. His classes nourished my love for math and were instrumental in my further academic development and choices;
• And there were others like Mw O’connor who taught us English. Meneer van der Ven who taught me Physics as well as math, Meneer Anthony Gumbs who taught me chemistry and Meneer Baker who taught us geography;
• My love for academics was equaled by my love for sports. We received physical education from Meneer Korteknie. But more important for me was the opportunity to play volleyball and compete against the powerful Teach United volleyball team in which Meneer Korteknie, Meneer van Gunst and Meneer Heethuis played;
• We got history from Meneer Traksel and briefly from Meneer Walter Cras. And it is a pity I do not have a photo of him to show you. Meneer Walter Cras was instrumental in better preparing me for higher education and the challenges of the real world. His emphasized the importance of reasoning and critical thinking in learning as opposed to reproduction and memorization;
• And finally, my classmates and I were taught commerce and bookkeeping by Meneer Heethuis but mostly by the disciplinarian Meneer Harry Schaminee. Meneer Harry Schaminee believed in me. It was his classes, my having to work in my parents’ restaurant and my natural love for math that planted the seeds for my decision to study economics.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The teachers I named were the ones that taught me, my classmates and many others. It would however be remiss of me, if I failed to mention that they were only part of the many other teachers that taught generations of Sint Maarten students at Sundial and MPC over the past 50 and 40 years, respectively. As a result I am sure that other Sundial and MPC students would, even though they did not recognize it at the time, attest to the positive influence their teachers have had in their lives.

Today I can say that I, like many others, benefitted and grew from the education we received at Sundial and/or MPC. Dedicating a special Gala for teachers as part of the Sundial and MPC anniversary activities is as such a fitting way to celebrate and recognize their contributions.
In celebrating and recognizing their contributions I will like to share three truths about teaching with you.
The first truth is what I call the basic truth of teaching. And it entails that teaching is the mother of all professions.  This means that every economist, like myself, or other professionals, is the product of the preparation of a chain of teachers.  This basic truth, that teaching is the mother of all professions, holds within it a higher calling. It is a calling to move beyond preparing students, to inspiring students for growth as my teachers did for me.

The second truth is what I call the deeper truth of teaching. It means that teachers, as practitioners of the mother of all professions, are standard-bearers of our society. That is because it is in classrooms where kids from differing social, ethnic and religious backgrounds come together under the care of teachers to be molded for their role in society.  It is in the classrooms where in large part the seeds are planted for the standards of our society. Thus, whatever teachers teach in classrooms, affects all of us, yes all of us.
That brings me to the third truth of teaching, it is what I call the noble truth of teaching. The basic and deeper truths of teaching, place a great responsibility on teachers. As standard-bearers of society it is incumbent on teachers to excel in doing so. This responsibility of excellence is, in my opinion, the noble truth of teaching. For it is through excellence in education that we can be assured of a strong, sustainable and noble society. A society where not all of us have the same function, but one where we collectively have the gifts, abilities and values necessary for the development of a free and just Sint Maarten. A society which in large part depends on the dedication of teachers to be the conduits to educate, prepare and inspire students for excellence and thus growth.

Hence, as we celebrate and recognize the important role teacher’s play in our society I advise that you reflect on the three truths of teaching. And as your profession seems undervalued and underappreciated within an increasingly complex and challenging social and work environment, I recommend you to do so even more. For after all is said and done, it is in these three truths that you will find the true inspiration and reward of your noble profession.

In doing so, I also recommend that you, as educational institutions, as teachers of sundial and MPC, recommit yourselves to the mission to be conduits of growth by educating, preparing and inspiring every generation of students that pass through your classrooms. In saying that I recognize that teachers cannot do it alone. It is in this regard imperative that we as a society – students, parents, businesses and government – reset our priorities and acknowledge and act on the wisdom of the basic truth, the deeper truth and the noble truth of education. To do so we must, in keeping with the inspiring words of Nelson Mandela, instill in our children that “Education is the most powerful weapon which they can use” to grow and build a stronger, more just and noble Sint Maarten.
In closing, I congratulate the Foundation for the Advancement of Secondary Education of the Windward Islands on the organization of this event and thank you the teachers for your invaluable contributions to our society. I wish you much strength in the continued execution of the all-important noble task of educating our children.
Having said that I will like to leave you with a video taken from Carson-Dellossa Publishing.
Dear Teachers,
Sometimes it may seem that people have forgotten how important you really are. Your creativity, your dedication, your passion.
It is time for a reminder.
For every child that says:
“I am not smart enough”, “I don’t get it”, “I can’t”
There is a teacher who says:
“You can”
For every child who needs:
Basis skills, knowledge, Someone to believe in him.
There is a teacher who will do whatever it takes ………..
Encourage, motivate, challenge, engage,
inspire and instill love for learning.
So for every teacher who work with our children building a better future for all of us,
one child at a time,
even when it seems like no one is watching
or that people have forgotten just how special teachers really are.
So repeat after us
“I make a difference”
Now use your outside voice
“I make a difference”
For reaching each child to become
the next great author, artist, scientist, architect, musician, doctor, engineer,
You make a difference

Thank you and God bless you!