My admiration and respect for teachers has been made quite clear in the past and one can tell from the number of teachers I have written about in this paper, but out of the lot, there has never been one quite like today’s WOTW.
Sherma Weekes has been teaching for the past ten years and is currently an educator at the Corinth Secondary School.
The Entrepot resident has a personality that one cannot possibly put a label on but if you were to attempt it, it would be a mixture of crazy, stubborn, grounded, hilarious, loyal and upbeat…do you know a single word to sum her up yet?
Just to give an example, when asked how old she was, which was an optional response, she said: “I am 25 years old, that’s my story and I am sticking to it!!!”
It is that same personality that has, in her years of teaching, gained her entry into a zone where not too many teachers have been privileged to be in…Weekes has an amazingly addictive personality where her students can’t seem to get enough of her and feel free to express themselves wholly with her.
All the while these bonds are being created, she is also making head waves by holding high pass rates among her students.
The VOICE asked Weekes to reveal her secret and she modestly said: “It’s probably the way we interact. I tell my students what I expect from them in terms of behaviour and their grades. I don’t expect anybody to fail. I try to make the subject as interesting to all the students. I also ensure that I give them some form of practical exercise because I teach Building Technology as well as Mechanical Engineering Technology (the latter is not taught at the school I’m currently at). Plus I am a kinesthetic person so would get bored with only paper work. I enjoy explaining things to the students…with a little joke here and there to lighten up the classroom environment.”
Weekes said her personality could be a little bit intimidating at times, however, once the students get to know her, she can’t seem to shake them off, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
As a teacher, Weekes is not afraid of learning from her students. She said: “I don’t start off my classes with note taking. We have discussions because the kids do have contributions. Some of them have parents who work in the field and so these students have lots to add.”
Weekes is particularly passionate about driving her lessons home because she is teaching skills that will benefit the students for life: “I tell them that even if they do not select the subject at the end of form three, at some point in their lives, they will be home owners and they will need to know the basics.”
One thing worth noting was that all through the interview with Weekes, at least six past students walked up to her to give her big bear hugs and crack jokes with her.
She said this is extremely common: “It makes me feel very appreciated and I know that all my nagging was not in vain. I helped shaped somebody’s future. Some pop into the school just to say hi whilst others send me messages via Facebook.
Weekes said students have always found it easy to reach out to her and confide in her when they need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. But she said there are boundaries that she respects: “When it comes to personal issues, I would direct them to the necessary people. But if they come to me with a situation where they need encouragement…I have that covered! I am hardly ever alone in my workshop at break time and lunch time. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I usually have to bring extra food for my company, and some even reserve food from the day before.”
According to the lovable teacher, the parents of her students don’t seem to mind her methods one bit. “The parents and I become good friends! Because we are of the same mind set which is for the child to do well. Last year of a class of 35, I had 6 students failing. I still reflect upon what more could I have done with those students. This year I am aiming for 100 percent passes.”
When asked if she had any golden nuggets of advice for any teacher out there having trouble connecting with their students, Weekes said the solution is easier than one might think: “Just be you! When I started teaching, I would use techniques I remembered teachers using whilst I was at school. Then I noticed that they didn’t work, so I just started being me. I tell my students what I expect from them and also what they can expect from me.”
Weekes said her life really is an open book and there isn’t much about her that the world doesn’t already know, but she said if she could dig deep to reveal anything about herself, it would be that underneath her tomboyish persona, she is a marshmallow…but only to a certain extent.
She said: “I am a softie, but not too soft! When I see them doing well, it warms my heart. There are days as a teacher when you feel like giving up and wanting to change careers, then you get some form of gratitude from the past students…then it’s like ok, it’s not in vain.”