After 43 years, Christine Valentine, a teacher at Vanguard Primary School, is handing over the baton to younger teachers.
Ms Valentine started her career as a 17-year-old, teaching in the afternoon, from noon until 4pm, with a class of 60 pupils at Philippi Primary School. Soon after starting at the school, she noticed the level of poverty among the children she taught, and she took some of them under her wing.
“Every child comes with their own ability and character. I had a girl in my class in my first year who was severely burnt and could only use her two thumbs to write. She did it. No extra attention and no special school,” Ms Valentine said.
Not one for mediocrity, Ms Valentine was a lifelong learner, and continuously improved her skills with further studies, up until the age of 45.
After Philippi Primary, she took up a post at Belmor Primary School in Hanover Park, before she joined Athwood Primary, also in Hanover Park. She spent the last third of her career at Vanguard Primary School.
Ms Valentine said one of her former principals was among the people who moulded her to become the best teacher she could be. “All honour to God for granting me the privilege to become a teacher. My journey moved between four schools and nine principals. The late Fred Carolus was my principal at Belmore Primary. He moulded me to always do my best. He was extremely strict.”
Even with the challenges over the years, Ms Valentine has no regrets for choosing teaching as a career.
“Change came, and curriculum 2005 came. Technology took over and I had to learn very fast, but my basics stayed. It was tough. There were happy days and crying days. I even conquered breast cancer in 2013. It is only by the grace of God that I’m still alive. I salute my parents, Michael and Evelyn Manuel. My late father fetched me at school and took me to university when I studied further. My mom is 86-years-old and she got the privilege to see me retiring,” Ms Valentine said.
Over the years, she has taught different grades, but she said her favourite pupils to teach were Grade 1s. “Being a Grade 1 teacher was the best. When it gets to March, and you see children who could not read at the beginning of the year blossoming, that is the beauty of it. I moulded minds, teaching them to read and write and unlocking mathematical minds. I also had to see to the sick ones with runny noses and runny tummies. Sometimes I fed children with my own lunch. There were also difficult parents, but I made it. Looking back, I taught children who today are doctors, teachers, engineers, chefs, and lawyers, among others. They all went through my hands.”
Although she has no clear plan on what she’d like to do in her retirement, Ms Valentine said it would definitely involve the community. She thanked all those who “journeyed with me” over the years.
“I want to thank my husband Roderick, our two children, my extended family and friends, René Benjamin, my principal at Vanguard Primary, parents, teachers, pupils and the wider community. Thank you for being part of my journey. Thank you for your encouragement and love. Now it’s time to venture into ‘me time’ and passing on the baton to the younger ones.
“My teaching motto has always been: ‘do unto other children as you would like others to do unto your children’.”