by Kimberley Cummins
Forty years is not 40 days and no one knows this better than Eugene Eastmond.
It was on this date back in 1972 when, as a 19-year-old, she started her teaching career. Now the principal of the St. Silas Primary School, this morning teachers, some of whom were past students, joined present students at the Orange Hill, St. James school to treat her to a surprise party. With a smile stamped on her face and tears of joy filling her eyes she was celebrated with prays, songs, dance, gifts and citations.
Almost speechless because of the gesture, Eastmond, without hesitation “gave God all the honour, glory and praise” for her many years in the education system.
She said because of the anniversary she had planned to spend “some money, even though it is not a lot” on the students and teachers, but was shocked when she entered the compound this morning with the feeling that “something was happening”.
“I never expected this,” she said as she smiled. “I am indeed very thankful to God for all he has done for me. I have gone through a lot of difficult situations but through it all I can say that God has really helped me.”
Eastmond advised those present to put God in everything they did. She warned them that though they were under the apostolic shield they also had to help themselves to achieve success. The veteran educator warned that they had to learn to behave themselves in class, to listen, learn and not be rude, adding they must not say negative words and indecent language and always ask Jesus to help them do what was right.
She told a story of how she too had to learn to do what was right so God would continue to be good and faithful to her. The first day of her career began on All Saints Day and back in those days they would venture to the church to acknowledge the occasion. On that day the service finished at 11 a.m. so because she lived close to the school she decided to go home but was warned by her head teacher that she should return by 12.45 p.m. for the start of school.
“I went home, went in my bed and sleep. When I catch myself it was 20 [minutes] to 1 p.m. and the bell will ring at a quarter to 1 p.m. I jumped up, put on the same clothes that I had on and I ran from Mile and a Quarter gas station down to All Saints School. I got there at a quarter to 1 p.m., I never run so fast yet in my life. I was slim, I wasn’t so fat, [and] in five minutes time I was at the school.
“I was pumping and saying ‘Lord I thank you’. I said, ‘Lord, anytime I am going to school help me to get there early’. Although I was living close to the school, after that time I would get to school early. Other teachers would ask me why I get there so early, that I didn’t have to, but I never told them what happened on my first day.
“That is why I always tell you, you have to get to school early… When you put your hands in the hands of God, God blesses those who seek after him,” she said. Since becoming an educator she has taught at the Wilkie Cumberbatch Primary, Grantley Prescod Primary, Lawrence T. Gay Primary, Holy Innocence Primary and St. Lucy Primary schools.