Though convinced that she has been doing a spectacular job, Shernette Nelson-Powell was doubtful about being numbered among educators receiving the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for Service To Education.
She collected the prestigious prize from Prime Minister Andrew Holness during a ceremony held at Jamaica House on September 8.
“I am humbled by the award actually; I really didn’t think that I would have gotten it,” said Powell, Principal of Point Hill Leased Primary School in St Catherine.
She added: “I was nominated by the St Catherine Teachers’ Association and when they sent the form to be filled out, honestly, I said I wasn’t going to do it. I know that I work hard, but I was thinking that these awards are more so for the older educators.”
It is not the first time that Powell is being awarded for her service as an educator and for being a good citizen.
She was the 2013 recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award for the education ministry’s Region Six, Kiwanian of the Year Award for Linstead in 2013 and for Spanish Town in 2019, as well as the Women in Leadership Award from the St Catherine Teachers’ Association.
Her husband, Collington Powell, principal of Friendship Primary School in Spanish Town, received the prestigious Prime Minister’s Award for education in 2015.
She told The Beacon: “All of these awards [that I have received] are just humbling awards. One of the things about it is the love that you have for what you do and the work that you put in. For me, it is not getting an award for something that I didn’t do; it is evidence-based… I have been a hard worker not to get awards, but to ensure that wherever I am working I can make a difference.”
Powell recalled that, while she was growing up in the Guy’s Hill area of St Catherine, she didn’t dream of becoming a teacher. She was more fascinated with business.
“I usually admire the [business] ladies in their suits and their heels and stockings. I really wanted to be somebody like a secretary; and that was the limited mindset that I had at the time,” Powell added.
She pursued business subjects while enrolled at Guy’s Hill High School. And she is an alumna of Mount Nebo Primary.
“I really didn’t want to teach,” she said. “I remember my pastor asking me one summer what my plans are for the next year. I said I didn’t know and, by the next week, I got an application form from him for Moneague College because his wife at the time was the guidance counsellor there.”
Powell didn’t attend Moneague College, but her pastor’s gesture was a fillip to her becoming open minded about attending teachers’ college.
She eventually enrolled at Bethlehem Moravain College where she pursued business secretarial studies.
“I think it was just ordained for me to be teaching because it wasn’t something that I wanted to do… After I started teaching really I recognized that it is something that I really loved,” said Powell, a principal since 2015.
She entered the teaching profession 20 years ago at Lucky Valley Primary School and eventually went to Tydixon Primary as principal. She has been principal at Point Hill Leased Primary and Junior High School since 2017.
Powell, who holds a Bachelor’s degree in business studies as well as a Master’s in leadership and management from the University of Technology, advises educators to aim for self-improvement.
“Have a yearning for continued education so that you can build your capacity to have more marketing value. For several years, we thought that teaching was just about going into a classroom, doing what you have to do and go back home,” she reasoned.
“Now we are seeing the values that are being placed on teachers here in Jamaica who have been migrating to other countries because they have a great amount of capacity,” Powell added.
She also noted that, amid the migration of teachers, she, along with many others who are highly qualified, have opted to stay put and work towards a better Jamaica.
“I know that in the classroom the money might not be the driving factor, but it is my own yearning to see a difference in Jamaica [that motivates me to continue in the profession]. I don’t want to see unattached youth and so I will help to drive the literacy and numeracy that they need so that they can become useful citizens in Jamaica,” Powell further told The Beacon.
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