Devon Vassel, Retired St Elizabeth Teacher, Feels Good Getting AwardOctober 5, 2022
Devon Vassel, 67, fell in love with the teaching profession at the age of 17.
That’s while he, on leaving high school in 1972, was working as a pre-trained teacher at Bull Savannah All-Age School in St. Elizabeth.
“As my life went on teaching at Bull Savannah, I just fell in love with teaching, and I saw where students were gravitating towards me. They loved my method of teaching; they loved how I interacted with them. And I just said, I think I am going to continue as a teacher’,” he said.
Having served the noble profession for 41 years, the retired teacher was among 80 educators awarded the Prime Minister’s Medal of Appreciation for outstanding and dedicated service to education.
He received the award from Prime Minister Andrew Holness as part of the 2021 and 2022 cohorts during a ceremony at Jamaica House on September 8.
The father of two is pleased that his years of dedicated service to the education sector have earned him an award from the prime minister.
“I think it is a good gesture. I think we have worked hard as teachers over the years, and I think it’s just a way of saying thanks to us for the hard work,” he reasoned. “It makes us feel good to know that you have been awarded by the prime minister of your country.”
Looking back at his four decades of service in the field of education, Vassel said his first three years at Bull Savannah All-Age as a Grade Five teacher was a learning process that helped to shape his career.
He received his teacher training under the In-Service Training Educational Trust (ISTET), administered by the then Mico Teachers’ College over four years from 1972 to 1976.
As he grew fond of the teaching and learning process at Bull Savannah, he volunteered to teach young men enrolled in the Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JAMAL) programme at his alma mater – Seaview Primary, situated 10 miles from Bull Savanah.
Vassel stated that, despite the transportation woes he faced, he was committed to the cause of helping to improve the literacy skills of youths in his community.
“I was just 17 years old, and I taught there [Bull Savannah All Age) for three years. Everything went well as a teacher. It was a learning process for me and then, during that time, I visited Seaview All-Age, which was the school I attended as a boy,” he explained.
“I used to visit them in 1972 and 1973 when they had the JAMAL classes. When I returned from Bull Savannah in the evenings, I used to visit Seaview and help out with JAMAL. I helped the young men in my community, and they respected me for that. I was also a part of the 4-H club at that time, although I was not a teacher at the school,” he recalled.
His act of volunteerism caught the attention of the then principal who offered him a job at the institution in 1975.
Although hesitant at first, Vassel took up the offer and continued as a Grade Five teacher at the school for five years.
Due to his innovative pedagogical skills, he was asked to transition to Grade Six where he was placed in charge of students sitting external examinations.
“My time at Seaview [All-Age] was good. I was put in charge of preparing students for [external] examinations – it was Common Entrance, then it moved to GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test), and then to the PEP (Primary Exit Profile),” Vassel said.
According to him, his early years at Seaview All Age opened his eyes to the need for male teachers in the education sector.
He was the only male teacher at the institution for several years, and so he was called on to instill discipline at all levels.
He added that the boys revered him.
“Teaching and learning was the order of the day at that time, and we really instilled in the students the importance of learning. Discipline played a very important role in school also. And for the most part, I was the only male at school. So, although I was at Grade Six, I moved from class to class. Even at Grade One, the teacher would call me – also at Grade Two and Grade Three. So, I was always involved in the development of the school,” Vassell recounted.
He also was involved heavily in the coordination of extra-curricular activities at Seaview All-Age. He served as sports coordinator and was also involved in the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides groups.
Throughout his teaching journey, Vassel offered extra classes to students seven days a week, inspired by his passion to see children excel.
“During the summer holidays, I would still have classes. Sometimes you get paid; sometimes you don’t get paid… Sometimes I don’t collect one dollar, but I say I am doing a service for my community, I am doing a service for Jamaica…hoping that one day I will see doctors and lawyers out of my achievement,” the retired educator reasoned.
After retiring from the profession as a senior teacher at Seaview Primary and Infant in 2013, Vassel returned to volunteer as an assistant teacher up to March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the education sector.
Vassel is also a community-orientated person, as he serves as a Justice of the Peace, a shelter manager, as well as a member of the Lions Club of St. Elizabeth and the Southfield farmers group.
He is now actively involved in farming.
In his spare time, He enjoys a game of dominoes with his family and close friends.
EDITORIAL NOTE: The information used in this story was obtained from the Jamaica Information Service.
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