Education officer retires after 32 years of service
After 32 years of service to the education sector in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Gwenette Cambridge has retired.
Cambridge was hailed by colleagues as the matriarch of this era for early childhood education, having spent the last 11 years of her career as the senior education officer for early childhood education.
“She has a passion for early education and this has driven her to work assiduously for the sector, not only locally but regionally and internationally,” said education officer, Ethny Williams during the retirement awards ceremony on Friday.
Williams said that Cambridge was instrumental in the establishment of the early childhood standards. And she said that the educator will always be remembered for the contribution and foundation that she has laid out in the field.
Esther Pompey, the president of the National Association of Early Childhood Educators used cricket analogies to describe Cambridge’s contribution to the education sector.
The president said that even at the time of her retirement, she can be considered as “not out”.
“Her entry saw the continuation of the building process of the sector. I am aware her departure from that department has not seen completion of the construction of the early childhood education sector. There are more blocks to go up, steel to bend, windows to go in, among others but I believe that we can all face the future with confidence, under her successor,” she said.
Chief education officer, Beverley Neptune said that Cambridge has always kept up to date with new trends and early childhood educational practices because “she recognized the need to be a part of a cadre of professionals with the expertise to move St Vincent and the Grenadines forward and help the fledging early childhood sector”.
She described Cambridge as enthusiastic and dedicated. And like the other speakers before her, she said that Cambridge was always going to be an educator because of her commitment to the holistic development of the children and other educators as well.
“I am convinced that you will return, whether to classrooms or to organizations, where you will continue to be a major source of insight and direction for our developing nation,” Neptune said. “You must continue to be that mentor to those individuals who are willing to be open, who are available and you will be a living challenge and encouragement to teachers, mainly through your willingness to tell the stories of your experiences and I’m sure that you have many stories to tell.”
Neptune also encouraged Cambridge to “live, laugh, love” and spend her retirement catching up on the books she never had a chance to read, travelling, gardening and learning new skills.
Representatives from the 11 early childhood districts in St Vincent and the Grenadines paid homage to Cambridge by presenting her with gifts and testimonies of the impact that she has made in their lives.
“I feel very humbled this morning because you made me realize that in spite of the teeth and tongue situation, that I would have made an impact on your lives and I am very glad that I did,” said Cambridge in response to the various presentations.
The educator, who is originally from Guyana, said that she came to St Vincent 33 years ago on the invitation of her husband, who was her pen pal at the time.
And she expressed gratitude to him for the support that he has given her throughout the years.
“I must say that when I decided to leave the secondary school to come into early childhood education, I discussed it. I said should I or shouldn’t I go,” Cambridge said. “He has always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. Honey, thank you for that. Every time, everything in terms of my work, he was my sounding board. I go home and I tell him and we talk about it, sometimes 3 O’ clock in the morning and we’re working it through. So that’s why sometimes I come with a different attitude every time I come, because I will have gone through it.”
Cambridge said that everyone in the room also made an impression on her life in some way.
She encouraged the early childhood educators present to take early childhood education to the next level by allowing room for growth.
She further told them that they should expose themselves to knowledge and seek higher levels of tertiary education so that they could continue to move forward in the field.
Throughout her career, Cambridge has taught at several secondary schools. She was the acting principal of the Buccament Bay Secondary School before becoming an education officer in the Ministry of Education. The educator served for a short time as the acting local registrar before returning to the ministry as senior education officer with responsibility for early childhood education.