Grade A mum and student
Parent volunteer with a dream of special teaching
It is her dream to become a teacher one day. And while Sheldyne Ramsay, 49, is on her way to realizing that dream, she has been doing so amidst some difficult circumstances.
Ramsay recently graduated from the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College’s In-Service Certificate In Early Childhood Education, Care And Development programme with all Grade As, and she is beaming with happiness. For it she earned Most Outstanding Student For 2013-2014.
Ramsay, who has been a parent volunteer at the Ann Hill School since September, 2014, told Barbados TODAY that she had wanted to do the early childhood education course “ever since”, but she just didn’t believe she was ready.
“I didn’t think I was ready because I had my daughter; and I always have to be there to care for her,” said Ramsay.
Her last child Sheena Jordan, 13, was born with spina bifida, a developmental congenital disorder, that causes her to have no control over her feet, bowels and bladder.
It was after the birth of her daughter that Ramsay dedicated her time as a parent volunteer, caring for her daughter and other children with challenges. Prior to giving birth to Sheena, Ramsay worked in a garment factory. When her daughter was ready for school, she was told no teacher was allowed to change her child’s diaper; so if Ramsay wanted her in school, she would have to be responsible for the diaper changing.
“So I used to leave home, go down and change her, and come home, and then go back for her. Then it was too much for me.
So when the parent volunteer finished, they asked me if I wanted to do it, and I said yes. A parent volunteer is only supposed to put in ten hours a week; but I go every day. I love what I do. I love to help children. I like to assist children,” said Ramsay.
“Since I had [Sheena] I realized this is where I am supposed to be,” she added.
Prior to taking up the position at the Ann Hill School, which her daughter now attends, Ramsay worked at All Saints for approximately six years. It was in 2013, while working at the All Saints Primary School as a parent volunteer, that Ramsay decided she was ready to undertake some studies in teaching.
“It came up, and I said, ‘This is my turn; I am ready to do it’. And I told the headteacher Mr Keith Headley about it and he said that he would call and find out if they would accept me. And, they did,” she recalled.
But the Lonesome Hill, St Peter resident would soon find out that juggling her chores, day job and studies was not easy. The course ended in May last year.
“It is really tough to have to juggle so many things. It is hard. And I only get a stipend,” she said.
“What I had to do was to go to school with [Sheena] and bring her back home; then go back to school to get a ride with one of the teachers. It was a 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. course on Tuesdays and Thursdays. When I leave then, I would go to Speightstown to wait for the bus to come home. So it was really hard,” said the mother of four.
She also has three sons, aged 25, 19 and 18 years. Two of them are working and one is at school.
Ramsay’s husband is currently not working.
“It was hard studying. I told myself I was not going to do a course until I had the time to study. I would come home, get some rest, get up early in the morning and study and do my papers,” said Ramsay.
She said she did not regret waiting so long to do her studies.
“This is my time,” she said, adding that she “did it all” for her daughter.
What is most surprising to Ramsay is that she performed exceptionally well, despite not having any former training
“I didn’t get the call until Tuesday last week that I was top student. I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this. I can’t believe that I did that’. I felt so good. I was on cloud nine, because then I was informed that graduation was Saturday. I was told I had to go to Erdiston on Thursday to do the media. So I did.
“When I got there, I did CBC, but then afterwards they told me that the print media only wanted the teachers. I felt that bad,” she recalled.
“When I first heard the grades were all As. I said ‘Yes!’. I knew I was going to pass, but I was not expecting all As because it is new to me by not being a teacher. Whenever I came across a problem
I had to go and ask one of the teachers to explain it to me; and they would explain it, because they had some good teachers at All Saints. They were like family. They helped me to understand what the course was about and what I had to do,” she said.
“When I went and collected the plaque from the Minister [of Education] he said, ‘You have to smile’, and I said, ‘I did this! This is me! I did this, little old me did this! I can’t believe!’. I was so excited. I enjoyed myself,” Ramsay said of the graduation last Saturday.
Daughter Sheena was too shy to speak with our news team, but Ramsay said she was currently “doing teenager stuff”, experimenting with make-up and hairstyles.
“I am not accustomed wearing make-up, but she did my make-up, and she did my hair on Saturday,” she added.
And though she is still not ready to stand in front of a classroom and teach, Ramsay said she was seriously considering doing studies in special needs education “at some point”. And given her daughter, Ramsay said that was her main reason for wanting to teach and care for special needs children.
“But I just want to make sure that [Sheena] is covered, because she comes before anything else. She is at Ann Hill now; so I have to make sure I can go and leave her. But there is a setback to that; so now I have to be there with her all day,” Ramsay pointed out.
Also possessing certification in a level one and two computer course, the mother said she had applied for the position of
a teacher’s aide, but she had been told there were no vacancies. But as soon as she is “able to study” again, Ramsay will be pursuing such a vocation.
“Any job I get will have to include her [Sheena], because by her not being able to care for herself, it will have to include her,” she said.