Education ministry pays tribute to Joanna Clark, Penny McDowall

Tribute to Joanna Clark,who passed away Dec. 24

Joanna Faith Clark accepted her call to education in the Cayman Islands when she responded in 1964 to a two-year secondment from the Ministry of Education in Jamaica. On arrival, she was welcomed by the late Clifton Hunter and Vernon Jackson. This began a 50-year relationship with the Cayman Islands, which became her second home.

Her first appointment was at the George Town Primary School where she worked for three years in the Infant Department under the leadership of Mrs. Aileen McField. In 1967, Ms. Clark was promoted to the post of principal of Savannah Primary where she served for 16 years. In 1983, she was again promoted to the post of Language Arts Curriculum Officer for primary and middle schools, and was assigned to the Department of Education Services.

“The contribution that Ms. Joanna Clark made to education in the Cayman Islands is immeasurable, her impact on the lives of thousands of students indelible. As an educator, a colleague, a citizen, a friend, she set a standard to which we all should aspire. We are all better for having known her and worked with her. She will be sorely missed,” said Minister for Education Juliana O’Connor-Connolly.

Ms. Clark engrained in all her students the highest ethical and moral principles which would take them through life. A vast number of the island’s notable professionals have benefitted from the experience and expertise of this esteemed educator. As a testament to her inspiration, distinguished service and commitment to education, two of her past students initiated scholarships and awards in her memory – the Joanna Clark Awards Foundation, introduced in 2007, and the Award for the Top Student in Language Arts at Savannah Primary.

During her tenure at the Department of Education Services, Ms. Clark reshaped the future of Language Arts teaching at all primary schools. She introduced a new Language Arts Curriculum that was supported by the Simon and Schuster Reading scheme.

Joanna Clark’s outstanding contributions to education in the Cayman Islands included the introduction of Reading Week and the Annual Book Fair, the Annual Standardised Reading test and the introduction of Adult Education classes at the Department of Education Services.

She was a lifelong learner who kept abreast of any developments in Language Arts and attended a myriad of International Reading Association conferences to ensure that Cayman was always aware of any changes in this discipline. On her return, she held many professional development sessions to upskill teachers and give them new tools. Ms. Clark also initiated the Cayman Islands Reading Association, which was an affiliate of the International Reading Association.

This consummate professional worked diligently and dutifully for the Department of Education for 30 sterling years under four Chief Education officers before retiring in 1994. She continued to share her passion for shaping young minds while she served as Education Programme Coordinator at the Young Parents Programme for another 14 years.

Ms. Clark has left a legacy for students, parents and teachers in the Cayman Islands to emulate. Her work will live on forever as we salute her for her untiring, committed, and outstanding service of 44 years in education in the Cayman Islands.

May her soul rest in peace.

Tribute to Penny McDowall, who passed away Dec. 31

Mrs. Penny McDowall was an active member of the teaching staff at Lighthouse School for over 20 years, where she was employed from 1993 to 2013 as a Special Education Teacher.

She was a vibrant teacher whose passion was seeing her students achieve success, whether big or small. She had a special energy that she brought to her teaching and any activities in which she was involved. During her time at the school, she was instrumental in starting the swimming program, facilitating students’ participation in the National Children’s Festival of the Arts, providing the musical accompaniment for weekly devotions and spearheading many Christmas concerts where her musical talents came to life.

Minister for Education Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said, “Penny embodied the qualities of a successful special needs educator – patience, acceptance, organization, intuition, creativity, and a fun personality. These attributes are what drew her students to her and endeared her to everyone who had the opportunity to meet her or work alongside her.

“Her passionate advocacy for the special needs community has inspired so many and encouraged the increased inclusion of special needs individuals in all segments of society. Her passing has indeed left a void, but her contributions will always be remembered by those whose lives she touched, and also by the accomplishments of her students and athletes.”

Mrs. McDowall was always willing to go above and beyond to ensure that her students were able to participate in as many inclusive activities as possible, even if it entailed her working outside of regular school hours, which she never hesitated to do.

She was an active member of the Special Olympics Cayman Islands organization, and was committed to seeing that her athletes had the opportunity to participate in local, regional and international competitions.

Mrs. McDowall was more than a teacher to her students; she was a mother figure, nurse, advocate and coach. Some of her Lighthouse School students described her as “helpful, wonderful, kind, nice, good and happy.” There truly is no better legacy to leave than that.

She will be greatly missed.

Ministry of Education and the Department of Education Services

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