by Donna Sealy
Lorraine Bennett loves teaching.
Ask her about Lori’s Academy of Learning and she will start talking and laughing as she explains how she started and why.
Bennett said she always wanted to be a teacher or work in the airline sector which she had a taste of, before becoming a teacher.
She told Barbados TODAY that she always looks forward to Tuesday because that’s when she heads into the classroom to help mould the youngsters in her charge.
“During the morning I teach kids that did not finish secondary school or for some reason are not at school, they come to complete their CXCs. In the afternoon, I do private tuition with primary and secondary school and this is to give private lessons to help them further.
“When I finished my studying at Erdiston I had two choices, either go on to Deighton to teach or do what I did, which is start my own school. I opted for that but I don’t regret it. Since 1999, I have been here. I really don’t do much advertising, it comes through word of mouth. People from the past would come and they would probably have younger children they would bring after their older ones went through me,” she said.
At Lori’s Academy, children are taught Maths, English, Principles of Business, Office Administration.
“Those are the areas I think that are simple for them to grasp and go out there and get a CXC. Most of these kids would have gone through school and for some reason they left secondary school … We know that sometimes the school system takes you so far and then you’re out. I take them through a programme, they sit CXC privately and then they go on. Some of them in secondary return to me as adults,” she said.
Bennett said she was not sure she would be offering adult classes this September because some of them sign up and give “a 101 reasons” why they cannot continue for one reason or the other.
Most of the students in her classes are the slower learners, as she said, they “lack something in the school system” and their parents noticed they needed “an extra push”, and if they were dyslexic she referred them to the Caribbean Dyslexic Centre.
“My philosophy is that every child learns but they learn at their own pace. Character building has a lot to do with it so I try to get the kids to think positive to let them see that life is about having fun at times but there’s serious work through.
“This works for the secondary ones, the little ones are different and you have a little fun with them. With the secondary ones, you can’t be all hard and fast with them because they come from all areas. I mix [my lessons] with business and pleasure. If you sit with a secondary student and you put up those guards, ‘you do as I say’ and you don’t listen to them, you lose them, fast too. But if you sit with them and talk to them, you have a good rapport and you actually come down to their level, wonderful. You get them and you keep them. They open up to you.
“Sometimes it’s not an academic problem that is causing that child not to progress. It might be something personal. So I try to get to the root of the problem and deal with it from there,” the educator said.
Back to how she got to Erdiston.
“I used to work at Caribbean Data Services, which is CDS, many years ago. This was a subsidiary of American Airlines and we had to be touching this and touching that where the airline is concerned. That was a love of mine. I had really loved the boss when I was working there, Dr. Hensley Sobers, and he made sure I lived my dream.
“When he realised that CDS was closing down, I was in human resources then. We had an option where we said what we wanted in life and we would go into that and that is how I ended up at Erdiston pursuing my dream. I thank him every day for me,” he said.
As a teacher, seeing her children succeed gives her the greatest joy.
“For these children success does not have be them becoming a brain surgeon or whatever. From the time that I meet with that child to the time that that child leaves me and to see him/her progress in life in some way, more than what they came to me with, that’s my greatest joy,” she said.
Very soon, Bennett will realise another dream.
“What makes me happy is that my daughter, Kara Maynard, who is in her last year at UWI, really wants to teach. She has joined me and she will make a really good teacher and it has nothing to do with her being my daughter. Trust me!
“The legacy of Lori’s Academy of Learning will continue because my daughter will take it over and I know it’s going to be in great hands,” she said optimistically. [email protected]