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Jamaica has lost one of its most endearing and dedicated educators, Jennifer Gidden, vice principal of Charlemont High School.
She passed away this morning while being brought from her home to Linstead Public Hospital in the parish, according to her sister Novlette Gidden-Malcolm, who also is vice-principal at Dinthill Technical High School.
Ms. Gidden, whose retirement would have taken effect in December, had been ailing for months. “She started ailing in October last year,” her sister said.
She further stated that Ms. Gidden was admitted to the University Hospital of the West Indies and, upon her discharge, had a private nurse caring for her at home.
“It is painful,” said her weeping sister. “She was a good woman and a disciplinarian who loved children. She did her best in education. Sometimes she took on more than what she should have, but she did it because of the love for her job. She loved her job. God gave her the gifting and she did it to the best of her ability.”
Ms. Gidden had one son, Javil-Don Beason, who expressed sadness at the passing of her mother. He was taking her to hospital at the time she died.
Ms. Gidden, who was at one point diagnosed with cancer, had five siblings.
She was born and raised at Cotton Piece district, located across from WINDALCO bauxite plant in Ewarton, St. Catherine.
Her late mother, Irona Knight-Gidden, was an educator. So too was her maternal grandmother, Venisha Knight Coombs. Her maternal uncle, Owen Knight, served as Principal at Mount Angus Primary School in St. Mary. Her sister, as said before, is a vice principal.
Her mother enrolled her at the schools where she was teaching.
That’s how Ms. Gidden ended up attending Mount Rosser, Claremont, and Rosemount Primary Schools.
She also went to Mount Angus Primary where her uncle became Principal.
Ms. Gidden, an alumna of Dinthill Technical High, eventually enrolled at Moneague College to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a teacher.
She stated that Moneague ended up being closed down, and so she completed studies at Church Teachers College.
Ms. Gidden entered the teaching profession at the then Port Maria Secondary School in St. Mary – now Wycliffe Martin High, where she spent two years.
She later returned to her native St. Catherine, and commenced her tenure as a teacher of English Language and Literature at Charlemont High in 1988, when she was nearly 30 years old.
At that time, Charlemont was headed by Olive Whitehead, who, to date, is the only woman to have served as Principal at the 42-year-old school.
Ms. Gidden never left Charlemont.
During her tenure there, she lectured part-time at Moneague College for two years.
She also attained two degrees at the University of the West Indies – a Bachelor of Science in Management Studies and a Master’s in Educational Administration.
Ms. Gidden further bolstered her credentials with certification from the National College For Educational Leadership.
She served in various positions, including vice principal and acting principal.
During an interview with The Jamaica Beacon in January 2021, she was asked how she eventually would like to be remembered.
She replied: “Remember that fairness is my hallmark and hard work is my goal. I like to see people happy as I am a happy person. Whenever people set out to make others unhappy, it makes me unhappy.”