After more than four decades educating some of the nation’s children in the north of the island, Althea Strickland-Bowen was given a sendoff fit for a queen yesterday.
During her surprise retirement function held at the school where she ended her teaching career after 41 years, Ignatius Byer Primary in St Lucy, Strickland-Bowen was overcome with emotion as students and teachers showered her with tributes and gifts.
Through song, dance, speeches and poems, teachers and students expressed their gratitude for the lady who they all agreed had made an indelible impact on their lives and an incomparable contribution to the school.
She was described as a teacher who had a positive effect on all who came in contact with her warmth, love, care and expert teaching ability.
Many called her easy to work with, a shoulder to lean on in time of need, and one who was always willing to go the extra mile.
A common thread ran through all the speeches at the retirement function – that Strickland-Bowen was always willing to lend a helping hand and offer words of advice.
Education Officer Lomar Rock, who knew Strickland-Bowen from the time he was a child, said her legacy would live on forever.
“Your dedication to duty and your sacrifices are worthy of note. Your sacrifices for the children of this community are greatly appreciated,” he told her.
“From her first assignment at St Clement’s Junior School, her approach has been one of humility and loyalty. . . . The countless children she has taught can attest to her loyalty and dedication to duty,” Rock said of Strickland-Bowen.
He added that it was widely known that Strickland-Bowen was never one for fanfare, but she deserved every moment of praise.
Principal at Ignatius Byer Primary School Linda Graham thanked Strickland-Bowen for not only being a colleague but a friend as well.
“Mrs Strickland-Bowen keeps me grounded . . . . Sometimes when I’m overwhelmed I would talk to her. She’s an excellent listener and believes that the best way to influence anyone is to listen attentively. She not only listens attentively but she brings strong judgment, educational and mature insights, and her Christian values to bear on our conversations and decisions,” she said.
Graham added that Strickland-Bowen’s love and dedication to the students and the school were unlike any other, and her presence would be missed.
“I love and appreciate Mrs Strickland-Bowen. I thank God for the opportunity for being able to work with you over the last two years. So, as you retire, I pray God’s continued blessings on you. I wish you long life. I pray that you would continue being the person you are,” she told the retiring educator.
In the many tributes, Strickland-Bowen was encouraged to enjoy her retirement, including by relaxing and travelling.
The teachers rendered a touching song, entitled You Deserve It, which brought tears to the eyes of all gathered.
In delivering her final formal speech at the school as a teacher, Strickland-Bowen said she would always carry the school in her heart and would forever be thankful for the lovely sendoff she received.
“Over the years, I had the privilege of teaching so many children. I’m so happy to have met and interfaced with them. Some were naughty and some were nice, but through it all I intended to make their good better and their better best. I could not have done it on my own. So, thank you so very much to all of you,” she added.