Eudeen Williams-Harris, better known as Casandra, wanted to serve her country through the military, but destiny sent her to fight another battle in another profession.
She has been fighting illiteracy as a teacher for some 35 years; a feat she does not regret.
Williams-Harris, now on the cusp of retirement, said the highest point of her teaching career is the impact she was able to make, especially on students dubbed slow learners.
“I don’t like when people label them; they are late starters; and everybody deserves a second chance in life,” she told The Beacon.
“My highest moment in teaching is to see my slower kids progress.”
Williams-Harris, a staunch lover of children, had her baptism as a teacher – a Sunday school teacher, at the Church of God of Prophecy in Longwood district, Clarendon.
After graduating from Kemps Hill High School in 1976, she landed her first paying job as an educator at Longwood Basic School.
Williams-Harris eventually took a break from the classroom.
In 1981, she was hired as a relief worker at Clare McWhinnie Memorial Branch Library in Race Course.
The sheer brilliance of her interaction with students attending the library did not go unnoticed by her co-workers, who encouraged her to attend teachers college.
“I refused to attend,” Williams-Harris declared, adding: “My co-workers saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.”
She could not escape what her co-workers saw… teaching.
Another opportunity popped up in 1989 when Williams-Harris was hired as a pre-trained teacher at Race Course Primary School.
After continuing to be lionized for her expertise in the classroom, she eventually took the giant step to enroll at St Joseph’s Teachers College. “College was a very good experience,” Williams-Harris told The Beacon.
The educator, after completing college, returned to Race Course Primary.
She later bolstered her credentials at the University of the West Indies, obtaining a degree in Early Childhood Education.
Her fate with teaching, by then, had been sealed.
Williams-Harris, while satisfying the educational needs of her students, had needs of her own.
She went on a romantic escapade and got married to Michael Harris – a minister of religion. Williams-Harris is also a devout Christian.
She left Race Course Primary School in 2006, and relocated from her native Clarendon to reside with her husband in St Catherine.
Williams-Harris, in 2006, commenced working at Rosemount Primary School in Linstead, St Catherine.
She is still at that school, and will officially walk into retirement on 3 October 2019.
“I have been preparing for retirement,” Williams-Harris told The Beacon.
“I think I worked hard; I will still come back and look for my kids. Wherever they are, I still keep in touch with them.”
Williams-Harris further stated that, while she had many highs throughout her career, there were also lows – especially when members of the teaching profession fought against each other.
“I like when people are happy together because, when you are happy together, you eventually work better,” she reasoned.
Williams-Harris is no stranger to togetherness, having been raised in a rural household filled with love.
She grew up at Longwood district in the Vere area of Clarendon with her siblings and her parents – Raphael and Murtella Williams.
“When I was growing up, I was a Tom Boy. My father had cows and canes; I used to be like one of my father’s boys,” Williams-Harris recalled. “My parents wanted me to be a teacher; I didn’t want to be a teacher; I wanted to be a soldier because I was like a Tom Boy.”
The educator extraordinaire, who does not regret the places her journey has taken her, is a past student of Longwood Basic School, Alley Primary, Brompton Prep School, and Kemps Hill High.
She told The Beacon that she would like to be remembered ‘as a person who has molded the lives of struggling students’, adding that, although she is not a biological mother, she has dedicated her life to mothering many.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
Don't hesitate. Please send us positive stories, and donate to The Beacon in support of free and fair journalism.