Lissan Gordon-Rainford journeyed from being rejected when she first applied to Moneague College, to getting first class honours there – and later attaining the equivalent of first class honours in her Master’s programme at UWI.

Though attaining two degrees with the highest quality honours, Lissan Gordon-Rainford is perhaps one of the most modest persons around town, not one to gloat about her academic prowess.

She graduated this month from the University of the West Indies (UWI) with a Master’s degree in Education Leadership and Management (distinction).

And she previously attained a Bachelor’s degree in Language Education – Literacy Studies (first class honours) at Moneague College in association with UWI.

“Considering that this was one of the hardest journeys I have ever taken, I am extremely proud of myself,” the scholar told The Beacon in relation to the Master’s she just acquired.

The college that initially rejected Lissan Gordon-Rainford’s application eventually took out this newspaper ad congratulating her AND using her as its poster girl of academic excellence.

Gordon-Rainford’s success belies the challenges she encountered as a child growing up in the rural community of Harkers Hall, St Catherine. Her home did not have electricity until she was in Grade Nine, and it lacked piped water.

Gordon-Rainford recalled using a kerosene lamp to study and going to a nearby spring at 5 o’clock in the mornings to bathe before heading off to school.

She and her siblings, unlike many other children, could not leave their home without parental consent, and so were viewed by some persons as the community’s laughing stock.

“I am happy that my parents were so strict and continuously motivated me to stay true to my values and be a better version of myself,” Gordon-Rainford told The Beacon. “While I did not have access to some of the things I wanted, I was provided with all I needed to succeed.”

This undated photo of Lissan Gordon-Rainford shows her attending Sargeantville Primary School

Her parents, Ralston and Dorrett Gordon, were sticklers for a good education. It is said that they checked their children’s books daily after school, ensured corrections were made where necessary, and even gave additional assignments.

Gordon-Rainford attended Harkers Hall Basic School, Sargeantville Primary and St. Mary’s College – both in St Catherine. She also enrolled in the sixth form programme at Charlemont High School.

She recalled struggling to maintain good grades in high school, but starting to live her true academic potential while she was pursuing a course in primary education at St. Joseph’s Teachers College in Kingston.

On the heels of leaving St. Joseph’s, she commenced her teaching career in 2006 with an eight-month contract at St Faiths Primary School, located a few miles away from Harkers Hall.

It was a moment of jubilation for Lissan Gordon-Rainford when her name was among those published in the newspapers as being successful in the now defunct Common Entrance Examination.

Gordon-Rainford had her first child in September 2007.

In February of the following year, she joined the staff at Tulloch Primary School in Bog Walk, St Catherine and has been there since.

Desirous of strengthening her credentials, she, in 2011, successfully applied to study at Moneague College, which, years earlier, had rejected her application.

She recalled how hectic it was traveling between Moneague College in St. Ann and Linstead in St. Catherine where her daughter was attending pre-school.

“We travelled by taxi and at times by van and even trailer,” she explained. “Friends who drove sometimes also offered to take us home.”

Notwithstanding the struggles, Gordon-Rainford was an academic standout at Moneague College, copping several awards and topping it off with first class honours.

A proud moment as Lissan Gordon-Rainford, donning her graduation gown, celebrates her Master’s degree at the UWI, Mona campus.

She stated that she was a recipient of The School of Education Prize for the Most Outstanding Performance in Literacy Studies, The Professor Aubrey Phillips Prize for Most Outstanding Academic Performance, and The Dean’s Award for Excellence for the Most Outstanding Performance in Education.

Gordon-Rainford also recalled getting pregnant in her final year at Moneague College and giving birth to her second daughter after handing in her research paper.

Her intention was to pursue a Master’s degree immediately after leaving Moneague College. However, due to financial constraints, she put a pause on that plan, until 2020.

In the second year of her Master’s programme at UWI, Gordon-Rainford was awarded the Jamaica Teachers Association Presidents’ Graduate Scholarship.

Her hands were already full of responsibilities when the COVID-19 pandemic brought on additional pressures, especially due to the imposition of a protracted ban on face-to-face classes.

Gordon-Rainford had to adapt quickly to the sudden switch to online learning while doubling up as a university student and as a teacher at Tulloch Primary School. On top of that, she ended up battling COVID-19 symptoms.

Flourishing under pressure, the scholar got straight A’s in all courses that made up the Master’s programme.

She told The Beacon that she overcame her struggles because of the motivation she got from her closely knit family, including her sister Elesean Gordon-Fuller, her daughters Khelsie and Khalisia Rainford, and her husband Omar Rainford, who was her sixth form schoolmate at Charlemont High.

Lissan Gordon-Rainford graduating from the sixth form programme at Charlemont High School.

Gordon-Rainford also noted that her career as a teacher was inspired by her aunt Donna Gordon, a recently retired infant school principal.

Prior to her aunt persuading her to enter the teaching profession, she struggled with uncertainty.

“In primary school, I wanted to become an astronaut. However, by the time I left high school, I felt that I’d better be suited as a pharmacist. But later, with the help of my aunt Donna Gordon, a principal at the time, I shifted my attention to pursuing a career in education,” Gordon-Rainford told The Beacon.

She has no regret choosing a career that gives her the awesome privilege to mould young minds.

At Tulloch Primary School, she is now a senior teacher, coordinator of Grade Four, literacy coordinator, assessment coordinator, clubs and societies coordinator, and the contact teacher for the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA).

She is also a member of Optimist International and president of the Virtual Optimist International Club of Enthusiasts (VOICE).

Gordon-Rainford’s main focus, she said, is to help improve the quality of Jamaica’s education system.

She advised students: “In your quest to achieve academic success, never forget to help those on the same journey who are struggling. I hope that my accomplishments will serve as motivation to others.”

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