It was a poignant moment at Saturday’s Golden Apple Awards when Glenn Whewell commandeered the microphone at the end of a speech by Jennifer Artuch, who had just been named the top high school teacher in a private school.
Whewell, a teacher himself at John Gray High School, recounted how his son wanted to take A-level biology at St. Ignatius, where Artuch teaches the course. He’d done poorly in his previous biology course.
“She said, ‘Well, at school, you need a B (to take A-level) you got a D,’” Whewell recounted having to pause at several points as he choked back his emotions. “She said, ‘Of course you can.’ She took him under her wing and he got a B at A-levels. And tonight, my son is training to be an art teacher.”
It was an example of the kind of effort and dedication meant to be honoured at the event, hosted at the Kimpton Seafire Resort by the Cayman Island Chamber of Commerce. This is the seventh year the awards have been held since their inception in 2007. The ceremony coincided with World Teacher’s Day.
Addressing a crowd of more than 200 people, Chamber of Commerce President Chris Kirkconnell the awards are designed to recognise teachers who have made a significant impact.
“Tonight, we are here to pay tribute to our educators who go above and beyond the traditional sense of education and use their influence to teach more than just the curriculum,” he said.
Education Minister Julianna O’Connor-Connolly said the schools have many unsung heroes in their ranks and said she hopes to expand the awards next year to include the University College of the Cayman Islands, the International College of the Cayman Islands and St. Matthew’s University.
Having the awards feature an apple made of caymanite was appropriate, she said, because “Our teachers rock.”
“Not only do our teachers rock,” she added, “but they are just as polished as that caymanite.”
O’Connor-Connolly also took the occasion to call for more funding for higher education to establish master’s and doctoral programs.
Twelve finalists were honoured during the event. Among those, winners for best primary and high school teachers were named – one each for private and government schools – along with a best principal and a lifetime achievement award, which went to Marjorie Scott, who taught physical education at the primary level for many years.
In accepting the award for top government school primary teacher, Nadesha Nyathi, of Bodden Town Primary, took time to praise her fellow teachers.
“You are the backbone of society,” she told them. “You have the greatest contribution to build up the character of students and help them become ideal citizens. Continue to be the great educators you are.”
Kelly Cowling, of Cayman Prep and High School, took the private primary award. A video shown prior to the announcement showed her working with pre-school aged children. She said she was nervous addressing the crowd.
“You’re all a lot older than my usual target audience,” she said before reflecting on her career. “You don’t ever go into teaching imagining that you’re going to get any recognition. You go into teaching because you’re passionate about education and you want to have a positive influence and inspire the minds of young children.”
Kerita Levermore-Stewart, of John Gray, was named the top government high school teacher. In the video prior to her award announcement, Levermore-Stewart talked about her efforts to inspire students by telling them great books have yet to be written and great work is waiting to be done.
“The world needs you,” she said she tells them.
Named best principal, Adrian Jones of Layman Scott High School said he is thankful to have been helped by “the greatest group of individuals that anybody could ever work with. They are truly amazing.”
In a speech that kept the crowd entertained for the better part of half an hour, Scott recounted her career as, first, and English teacher and, later, as a PE teacher at Red Bay, Sir John A Cumber, Savannah and, since 2011, Prospect primary schools.
She drew laughter from the crowd, saying she had envisioned a Kayne West-kind of moment if she didn’t win and detailing the exercise regimen she went through to make sure she could fit into her only outfit appropriate for the awards event.
“I’m so happy tonight,” she gushed. “This is the outfit. All the hard work paid off,” she added, drawing a big round of applause.
She acknowledged her fellow educators and the help they had given her.
“Along my journey, I picked up a village,” she said, holding up her trophy. “I’m sharing my award with all my villagers.”
Golden Apple Finalists and Winners
Government primary school
Nadesha Nyathi (winner), Bodden Town Primary School
Erica Powell, Savannah Primary School
Private primary school
Kelly Cowling (winner), Cayman Prep and High School
Allison Copeland, Cayman Academy
Government high school
Kerita Levermore-Stewart (winner), John Gray High School
Dee Clark, Cayman Islands Further Education Centre
Private high school
Jennifer Artuch (winner), St. Ignatius
Daniel Baker, Cayman Prep and High School
Katherine Dilbert, Grace Christian Academy
Adrian Jones (winner), Layman E. Scott High School
Clare Thorpe, Island Monterssori
Marjorie Scott, Prospect Primary School