ode to an amazing teacher


This morning I learned that one of my favourite teachers from my high school, St. Joseph's Convent Port-of-Spain, passed away a few days ago.

I don't talk about my time at St. Joseph's because it was a pretty difficult time; one I still struggle with processing, years later.  I was 14-15 years old -- the exact age my daughter is now, come to think of it.  I lived with my grandparents instead of my parents (for logistical reasons), so I didn't have any social life because my grandparents were old, and I didn't want to burden them with having to drive me places; also, on weekends, I would take the 2-hour trip to my parents' home to the small village where they lived, so Friday and Saturday nights were out.  As a result, I was incredibly lonely. Plus, having just returned to my homeland after living in the United States, for the most part my classmates looked at me as a foreigner in my own land, since I had a tinge of an American accent and likely a lot of American "ways."  Besides, friendships and groups had already been solidly established -- I was definitely an outsider. I felt like even the teachers looked at me with a bit of a side-eye (except for my math teachers. I was a whiz at math, so they loved me).

One huge exception to this was Ms. Worrell. She taught history -- my absolute worst subject -- but she was patient, and kind, and really seemed interested in who I was. I never forgot her after I left school, and was delighted when, about 7 or 8 years ago, she found me on Twitter ("Are you the same Karen Walrond who attended St. Joseph's Convent in the 80s?") and we became Twitter friends. (Even though Ms. Worrell was only 15 years older than me, I could NEVER call her "Pat." Even now, she is and will always be "Ms. Worrell.") I remember the first time I said a bad word on Twitter ("shit"), she commented about the subject of my Tweet, caring not one bit about my word choice ... but I was horrified that I'd cursed in front of my teacher.

(She accepted my apology, adding "I think we're past that now, Karen.")

We eventually became Facebook friends as well, and even though I never saw her again in person, I really valued that she got back in touch with me, and joined me various political rantings online.  At times, I'd ask her questions about the history of the Caribbean, and even though she didn't teach history anymore (she went on to teach computer science at the University of the West Indies), she always tried to find the answer to my question if she didn't know it.   She was absolutely lovely.  Her death was sudden and completely unexpected, and I have to admit, I'm a little heartbroken today.

I'm sharing this for two reasons: one, I feel the need to express how I'm feeling, and I always do that best when I write, but secondly: I know many of you are teachers who are about to head back into the school year, and I wanted to say how in awe I am of what you do. Even when the little brats seem thankless, trust when I tell you that for at least one of those little brats -- maybe the immigrant, or the outsider, or weirdo, or the nerd -- you are making a huge difference in how s/he sees him/herself, and s/he will never ever forget it.

Rest in Peace, Ms. Worrell. Thank you so much for your kindness.