When Liz and Greg welcomed their first baby, Russ into our family, Jon and Nic and the kids made the long drive from Seattle to meet him. There have been many, varied visits family visits and events in the mean time but since then that we have not been all together in one place.

It took a lot of planning and a tremendous amount of effort on everyone’s part to coordinate our schedules but we finally got together again just in time to celebrate Russ’s fifth birthday. We gathered at Greg’s family’s beautiful cabin on Moyie Lake in southern British Columbia. Jon and Nic rented a small but very adequate cabin about five minutes walk away. Dave made the five hour trip through the mountains on his bike to be there with us,

Along with lovely accommodations we had the use of a boat, canoe and kayaks and a cool lake for swimming. We BBQ’d and had great meals together, hung out and played what was for us a new board game, Settlers of Catan, without too many disagreements.

 

The weather was spectacular with cool, clear mornings and warm, sunny afternoons. Steve had a great time teaching Ben and Abi to paddle the canoe and they were both steering quite competently by the end of the week.

We moved to the Caribbean so Steve could continue his ministry in teaching and yet still be close enough to our family to be able to have this kind of vacation. This time on the lake certainly brought home to us home much we love to be with our children and their children.

It is a great thing to be around your adult children and see them and their kids all getting along. For Canadians is like something in our DNA that this is most enjoyable outdoors. The Cayman Islands have lovely beaches and warm weather year round. But they don’t have the kind of beauty you see in the Rockies.

The lake was cold, but not unbearably so. All of us went in the water at one time or another, some as a result of going too fast in the raft, but always with a great deal of laughter. It was the nicest summer we have had in many a year.

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We have missed a number of birthdays during our time abroad: cousins, friends, children and grandchildren. It was so nice to celebrate Russ’ birthday while we were at the cabin.

Some presents were clearly more happily received than others, but one’s interests at five tend to be pretty specific. But whether opening presents, eating cake, or just sharing in the celebration of life, it was all a pretty joyous occasion.

We missed last year’s graduation, foregoing the celebration in favour of our own graduation for our Master’s degree in Pasadena. I hate to miss out on seeing the kids that I have struggled so hard to educate and prepare for university graduate from high school. It was therefore a great joy to be at this one last Thursday. I know that this is an event that is considered by many as unworthy of celebration. Forgive me if I mount an argument in its favour.

I think graduation from high school is one of the most important events in a young person’s life. For many it marks the end of childhood and adolescence and the beginning of life as a young adult. It marks the end of friendships and family structures that have been a source of comfort and security for 18 years. It marks the end of teachers that have always been willing to listen and modify their expectations in order to help their students succeed. There is virtually never a “final” anything in elementary or high school, until that final exam at the end of Grade 12. I will remark everything that is submitted. I will always allow a second test or a rewrite up until the moment I must submit my marks. Most teachers at this level will do the same. This is rarely true at university.

Those final exam results will not be in for another month or so, but based on what we have seen in them so far, this cohort will do well. With only one or two exceptions, these students are fully ready for the next step in their lives. It has been a real joy to have had them as part of my life for the past two years. I have fought very hard for their success, willing as I ever am, to put my relationship with a student on the line for their greater good. Invariably students understand that this is what a truly caring teacher must do. There are teachers – and there are always some, even in a good staff – who would rather just be friends with their students, never challenging them to dig deeper or try harder or undertake to go the next step. These teachers do their students no favours, even if they end up being temporarily more popular. I will trade my students’ success in university for my own popularity any day of the week and consider it a good deal.

There is no moment greater in a teacher’s life than having a student who has worked and struggled with some aspect of their learning finally gaining mastery. In English that ‘moment’ is likely a process, such as being able to analyze text in a coherent and persuasive manner. Usually that process that has taken months and the road has been marked with disappointment and frustration. When they do finally master their own writing it is not like some formula that they memorize and forget. Learning how to write with insight, skill, and polish is an accomplishment that will last a lifetime. I love it when my students finally feel confident in their own skill. I love it even more when they come back from university and tell me, as they often do, how invaluable that skill is in all their subjects at university.

There are days when my age wears on me and I come home exhausted and spent. I just don’t have the stamina I once had and this old body has begun to betray me in subtle but unmistakable ways. But there are times, such as this past weekend, when all of this effort seems not only worthwhile, but invaluable to someone else’s success. I have taught since I was a young adult myself, and I have nothing left to prove or gain. But if I can help another to succeed in this important transition in their young lives, that is motivation enough.

Cayman is remarkably rich in musical and dramatic talent for such a small island. There are only 60,000 of us tops, yet there are dozens of shows, dances, and musical events each week. Far too many for us to go to everything. So we typically tend to prioritize those events that involve friends, colleagues and students.

A few weeks back we saw a production of Annie put on by the middle and elementary students of Cayman International and several other schools on the island. At the best of times the musical is a silly little bit of fluff that glamourizes the hard-luck life of an orphan that is adopted by a billionaire. Tell that story to any one of the 30 million refugee children in the world and see what kind of reaction you get. Swimming upstream against that improbable script is a tough slog at best, but the kids did a wonderful job, and we had a very pleasant evening, despite the first-world/third-world disconnect.

The following weekend we went to see Grease, which despite its enduring popularity neither of had ever seen. This was an older group of students, high school and some recent graduates, and the song and dance routines had considerably better polish. Again, the score doesn’t rise to the level of Richard Rogers or Leonard Bernstein, but it was a fun evening, and the players’ spunky enthusiasm compensated for the limitations of the production.

Grease

We topped that off with an evening at the Westin Hotel on Seven Mile Beach that hosted the local orchestra and choir doing an evening of Broadway musicals. There was no shortage of excellent music at this event, and the choir was in excellent voice going through a repertoire of songs from West Side Story, Phantom of the Opera, South Pacific and The Wizard of Oz. They sang and played for over two hours and the quality, especially in the solo performances, was most impressive for an assembly of volunteers, some of who were friends and colleagues from CIS.

With just a few weeks left before the end of the year, there are still a number of events coming up that look to be equally enjoyable, if somewhat tiring. Island life has its limitations, but a lack of music and drama is not one of them.

Then and Now

August 1986

May 2018

For these guys anyway! Congratulations on another great year.

Last evening we had the great joy of attending the Golden Apple Awards to see our dear Ms. Nimmi Sekhar accept her Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Education. A gala, black tie event, it was held at the Ritz Carlton and Nimmi was supported by about forty or so family and friends from CIS. At the ceremony, Nimmi was honoured for her contributions to education over her thirty three years as a teacher, tutor, and administrator.

Nimmi began her teaching career in India, following her graduation with a Master’s degree in English Literature. Nimmi and her husband then moved to Jamaica, where Dr. Sekhar set up his practice. After a two year stint in academic support in Jamaica, she and her husband moved to Cayman Brac, where Nimmi began volunteering in a government school which led quickly to a full time teaching position in the Brac. When she and her husband moved to Grand Cayman, Nimmi supported the existing government schools by tutoring students with moderate to profound special educational needs.

In April of 1990, Nimmi teamed up with Dr Elizabeth Faulkner, a child psychologist working with special needs children and adults. Sensing a need that was not being met in the government school, Nimmi and Dr. Faulkner borrowed $60,000 to set up a school to meet the needs of these special kids. In 1994 Nimmi became the first Administrator of the newly founded Faulkner Academy. International School Services bought the school when Dr. Faulkner wished to retire, but Nimmi stayed on as an administrator of the renamed Cayman International School where she has served up until the present as our Vice-Principal and facilities manager.

Nimmi’s love of teaching and educating others is renowned here in Cayman and her commitment to excellence in education has impacted the lives of many students and the community as a whole, including Daniel Nicholson-Gardner, one of my many favourites. All who have been through CIS know her as an understanding, kind-hearted and selfless leader and friend and are constantly in awe of her determination and persistence.

It was wonderful to spend an evening with colleagues and friends all dressed in their finest for an evening that began with a reception prior to the awards ceremony. In fine Indian tradition, following the ceremony, Dr Sekhar hosted the entire group of Nimmi’s friends, family, and colleagues to a dinner in Camana Bay. We loved the opportunity to celebrate not only Nimmi but educators in general and we look forward to even more events next month to mark the end of an era at CIS.