Lifelong educator Joanna Clarke passes

Joanna Clarke passed away at the Cayman Islands Hospital on Christmas Eve. She was 85.

Joanna Clarke, the lifelong educator who inspired the creation of the Joanna Clarke Excellence in Education Award, has died.

She passed away at the Cayman Islands Hospital on Monday, Dec. 24, after a long illness. She was 85 years old.

Born July 24, 1933, to John and Eva Clarke, Ms. Clarke began her teaching career at Friendship Primary School in Westmoreland, Jamaica.

She traveled from Jamaica in 1964 and spent more than five decades teaching in the Cayman Islands government schools.

She taught at Savannah and George Town Primary schools and then moved on to become a language arts adviser at the Department of Education. She retired from education in 1993 but continued her service to the young people of these islands.

“We were best friends and I can’t get over it,” said Eloise Seymour. “It breaks my heart … my son Don had built a foundation for her with the excellence award.”

Another friend, Theoline Wellington, said Ms. Clarke will be greatly missed. When Ms. Clarke first came to Cayman, she stayed with Ms. Wellington at her home and they developed a bond.

“She was mostly involved in the church and spent most of her time speaking at many of the church[es] on the island,” Ms. Wellington said.

“Ms. Clarke was one of the most influential people in my life,” said DMS’s Don Seymour, a former student who knew her for more than 40 years.

“I first met her in primary school in the old Savannah school house that is now a national treasure. I [had] a severe stutter and although Miss Clarke had no specialized training in stuttering, she took the time during her lunch breaks and whenever she could to teach me how to talk. She would also get the older kids like Mark Scotland, Olivaire Watler, Liz McLaughlin and others to do their part teaching me how to talk and read,” Mr. Seymour said.

In 2007, Mr. Seymour established the Joanna Clarke Excellence in Education Award in his former teacher’s honor and to recognize the efforts of all people and organizations that contribute to education in the Cayman Islands.

“I owe Ms. Clarke an enormous debt of gratitude forever, because without her I would have lost the opportunity to learn,” he said.

Ms. Clarke lived an extraordinary life of service to her community and contributed greatly to the churches in these islands.

She was a committed Christian and actively involved in the works of the church. She served as Sunday school teacher and lay preacher, conducted Bible study classes, and assisted with bringing the message of God on “The Gospel of the Kingdom Echoes” weekly broadcast on Radio Cayman.

Despite not having any children of her own, her spirit was amazingly uplifting for children.

“She beamed with pride when she talked about her former students, whether Sunday School or primary school, or Cub Scouts,” said her niece Judith Witter.

The funeral service for Ms. Clarke will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5, at the Red Bay Church of God on Lord’s Way. Viewing will take place Friday, Jan. 4, at Bodden’s Funeral Home at 5-7 p.m. Interment will be at the Prospect Cemetery.

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  1. Ms. Clarke was of the “old-school” of teachers whose heart, and indeed life, was in the class-room. She was the type of person drawn to teaching for the love of the role, never for recognition and certainly not for financial gain. This is evident by the accolades she’s received from people like Mr. Don Seymour – she most definitely impacted people of a few school generations in a positive way. Ms. Clarke was a colleague of my late mother at the Secondary Modern School and succeeded my mother as “head-teacher” (principal) of the Savannah Primary School.

    Thankfully, the contributions of Ms. Clarke and teachers like her pre-date and have survived the subsequent “turmoil” in our public education system, caused perhaps by successive and inexperienced “influences and strategies”, at times. Thankfully there are still some teachers who live by the principles of Ms. Clarke and her peers in education but sadly, many teachers have become frustrated over the decades and generally, our education system and the children it serves, have suffered.

    Teachers like Ms. Clarke, the late Mrs. Monica Bryan, the late Mrs. McKenzie, Mrs. Fran McConvey, Mrs. Sue Tressider (nee Bashford), Mrs. Wheaton, Sister Wilma Moffitt and others who left lives in their home countries to dedicate their lives to the betterment of Caymanian children should be revered. Thank you all!

    RIP Ms. Clarke.