Linda Cross reached a turning point in elementary school – she never wanted to go through the experience again.
It’s what motivated her later in life to pursue a career in education.
‘As a child I saw my teachers as affecting my life but not investing in my life. I had difficulty in my elementary years,’ she said.
‘I felt I wanted to help other students who had similar struggles. It motivated me to make that my life’s ambition. . . . that every student is valuable and every student can learn.’
It’s that approach that Ms Cross is bringing to First Baptist Christian School as the school’s new principal.
‘I’m not one to sit behind a desk,’ the Michigan native said. ‘I try to connect with students and build a relationship with them. I think that’s the key of a principal – building relationships with students, staff and parents.
‘You can eliminate problems a lot of times by your availability.’
Ms Cross, who arrived on island just a few weeks ago, brings 14 years of administrative and teaching experience to the position. Among her credits is a B.A. in Christian education from Lee College in Tennessee, a masters of arts degree in education from Wheaton in Illinois and Doctor of Ministry Degree from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago.
The long-time educator landed the job in Cayman after posting her resume on an on-line job site. She was looking for another position within the United States when First Baptist gave her a call.
‘I wasn’t looking for an overseas (post) but I like adventure and I like challenges,’ she said.
After visiting the island and meeting the people at First Baptist and in the community, she was sold on moving here.
‘What got me was people’s dedication here to Christian education and their commitment to that.’
She said First Baptist’s view of Christianity as a lifestyle – not simply with church walls – also appealed to her.
‘I was excited about their philosophy of ministry and where they want the future of the school to go.’
Among her goals as principal is to strengthen the school’s foundation of Christian principles and fine-tune curriculum.
‘I see my first year or two as one of assessor and then developing the whole programme around that,’ she said.
She noted that will include input from parents and staff.
‘I’m very much a team player.’
Returning to normal
First Baptist Christian School, which serves preschool to Grade 8, will open its doors 1 September for the new school year after undergoing extensive renovations. Hurricane Ivan pounded the church, causing millions of dollars in damages.
The entire education wing, upstairs in First Baptist Church, was shut down after the storm. The school re-opened less than six weeks after the storm, with makeshift classrooms set up in the gymnasium.
‘There was still no power but a breeze came through the door,’ recalled Ministry assistant Meg Bodden, who had two children enrolled in the school at the time.
‘It was very important to get the kids back into some sort of routine. I was impressed with how they improvised.’
Ms Bodden said staff pitched in to get the school – and community – back on track.
‘The teachers had an amazing attitude,’ she said, noting they volunteered with cooking meals and distributing food packages after the storm to assist those in need.
‘They pitched in anyway they could.’
During that time, the gym also doubled as the church sanctuary – which is still being repaired – so the school was stripped down every Saturday and readied for services.
Classrooms moved back upstairs in January, with the finishing touches on renovations now being completed.
Enrolment has dropped somewhat since Ivan, with 92 students this year compared to last year’s 120. The school also lost its principal after the storm – he’d arrived with his family just 10 days before the hurricane to take up the post. Former First Baptist principals Ramona Melody and Bob Haskins filled in during the interim.
Ms Bodden said despite the disruptions, students managed to keep up academically.
‘It’s amazing how they got right back on track.’
With a permanent principal now in place and repairs nearly complete, Ms Bodden said First Baptist Christian School is poised for the future.
‘We’ve been blessed.’