The Bodden Town Primary School was renamed Tuesday in honour of the late Theoline Lillis McCoy, a former school inspector and head teacher of Savannah Primary School.
Education Minister Juliana O’Connor-Connolly said at the unveiling ceremony that the renaming of the Bodden Town school to the Theoline L McCoy Primary School was fitting as it commemorated the contributions of a “dedicated and gracious” educator.
McCoy spent 34 years working in public education. She received her formal teacher training at Shortwood Teachers College in Jamaica from 1946 to 1949. She then returned to Cayman to become head teacher at Savannah Primary in 1950, a post she held until 1963, after which she taught English and home economics for seven years at the government’s Modern School in George Town.
From 1970-1971, she briefly worked at the Cayman High School when government merged it with the Modern School, before attending school-inspector training in Wales in 1971. She was one of three school inspectors assigned to all the islands’ primary schools, including Cayman Brac, a role in which she served until her retirement in 1980.
Born in 1919, McCoy passed away in 2001 at the age of 82.
Granddaughter Faith Gealey said the renaming ceremony was an emotional event for her, and she highlighted her grandmother’s personal sacrifices and many accomplishments in education. She commended the government for renaming the school in McCoy’s honour.
“She was a teacher from the old school, pun intended, ” Gealey said. “She came from a generation of Caymanians who saw the opportunity to serve our islands as almost a sacred duty, and any benefits of self-advancement were simply a by-product of that greater good.”
Gealey added, “Her personal life was consumed by service to the Bodden Town community in various areas, especially connected to her church activities.”
She said her grandmother served as an elder, organist, choir member and committee member among other roles in the Webster United Memorial church. She was a “well-loved and respected Bodden Towner”, Gealey said.
O’Connor-Connolly said what she found amazing about McCoy was “way back in the 1940s, she left these shores to go to Jamaica to teachers college when not so many Caymanians had that opportunity”.
The minister also noted that McCoy, in her first year as principal of the school, made a major difference at Savannah Primary when she played an integral role in saving it from closure by government as a result of poor academic performance prior to her arrival.
Under her leadership and with the help of only one teacher’s assistant, Savannah Primary eventually improved enough to achieve first place for academic performance among the islands’ primary schools.
“I am glad to say that education has improved because of the foundation that was so amply laid by persons like Ms. McCoy,” O’Connor-Connolly said.
Bodden Town East MLA and Minister for Health Dwayne Seymour remembered being taught discipline and order by McCoy, saying she made an impact on his life, always coaching and preparing students for what was next.
“When you can put single-handedly saving a school from closure on your list of achievements, that undoubtedly makes you a hero,” Seymour said.
McCoy’s son Kerith said the performances of the schoolchildren at Tuesday’s ceremony would have melted her heart. Her legacy and the legacy of other teachers like her were evident in the children, he said.
McCoy was married to the late Harwell ‘Harry’ McCoy, founder of the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce. The couple had three children, Kerith, Harwell and Cheryl, and six grandchildren.