Saluting a Great Caribbean Teacher

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By Dr Vishnu Bisram

Teachers are often heroes who shape the future, ignite curiosity, inspire greatness in their students, and train leaders. Yet they don’t get the kind of recognition they deserve for their work even when they are outstanding educators. One such teacher is Deocalli, a self made woman who has been providing brilliant services to children from many different cultures and backgrounds. This writer and publication salute Deocalli for her contributions to education.

This article focuses on and celebrate the tireless accomplishments of Deocalli Ramnarine (nee Ramdass), a remarkable teacher/educator, a professional par excellence, who has gone above and beyond duty to make a tremendous impact in the lives of her students as well as the societies where she lived or is living – Guyana and USA. She has worked assiduously to help students with their learning skills and is deserving accolades.

Born and raised in Guyana at No. 62 Village, Corentyne, Deocalli is the 7th of 9 children of the late Ramdass and Narinee. Deocalli’s father was one of many prominent farmers in the upper Corentyne region and her mom was a housewife. Mr. Ramdass contributed significantly to food production on the Corentyne.

Deocalli did extremely well in school in GCE. And she started to teach at a very young age in the community as an early childhood teacher. She married Mahadeo Ramnarine and moved to Georgetown in 1981. Personal and professional challenges soon presented themselves where Deocalli believed she had to choose between her career and raising a family. She was determined to achieve both, but she also recognized the benefits of furthering her own education. Deocalli enrolled in the In-Service Teachers Training at Cyril Potter College where she later became certified as a teacher. While teaching and attending college, she became pregnant with her first daughter, Reshma. The pressure of teaching and attending college was stressful, but she was very fortunate to have the unwavering support of her husband who encouraged her to continue her studies. She knew that her faith was being tested and she reminded herself that her endurance would guide her to the right path. She also remembered her father’s encouraging advice which was to “find a way to make it work rather than quit teaching”. Within five years of relocating, Deocalli had her second daughter, Devala, and was a certified teacher.

Deocalli and Mahadeo supported each other in their dreams of accomplishing bachelor’s degrees. Mahadeo enrolled in the University of Guyana and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. Deocalli followed suit shortly after and earned a Bachelor of Education Degree. She taught in many schools in Guyana. In 1990, Deocalli started as a part-time lecturer and later as a full-time Lecturer 1 at The Cyril Potter College of Education. She was also a part-time supervisor at the University of Guyana Faculty of Education, supervising teachers on teaching practice. At Cyril Potter’s College she worked alongside other faculty lecturers as part of the Guyana Basic Education Teacher Training Project. Together, they wrote the Distance Education Teacher’s Education Program for the college which was funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

In search of a better life and opportunity, Deocalli and her family migrated to the United States in 2003 after working as a teacher/educator in Guyana for 27 years. Deocalli was fortunate that she was already an accomplished teacher and secured a teaching position with the New York City Department of Education within weeks of relocating. In order to gain a professional teaching license in New York state, Deocalli needed to complete a Master’s degree. Her love for the profession motivated her to make the necessary sacrifices once again to return to college. She rose to the challenge and taught during the day while attending college in the evening. In 2008, she graduated with a dual Master’s in General and Special Education with a concentration in early childhood education.

Deocalli is celebrating 46 years as a prolific educator. Deocalli worked in both private and public schools in New York. She is presently an SI/ABA Therapist and works with the Early Intervention Program in New York City as an independent contractor. She has taught thousands of children during her teaching career and has been a positive influence on them. Though officially retured from the NYC DOE, she continues to serve students in a private capacity. Deocalli said she is forever grateful to three outstanding women in her life who made a difference in her teaching career; women that were great role models and mentors and contributed to making her the person she is today. These are Beverly Ramnarine, a former Education Officer/Supervisor in Region 6 who is now residing in Canada; the late Florence Sukhdeo, former Lecturer of The Cyril Potter College of Education and the University of Guyana and Savitri Balbahadur, former Principal of The Cyril Potter College of Education. All these women were great role models for her who emulated balancing family with professional responsibilities.

Deocalli is proud of her achievements. She is also proud her husband, former Deputy Auditor General of Guyana and both her daughters who learned the value of education. Reshma followed in her mother’s footsteps earning a Dual Master’s in the same field, and Devala has a Doctorate in Pharmacy.

Despite her busy schedule, Deocalli continues to be involved in community activities. She is currently a member of the Indo-Caribbean Federation and a member of the Council for Exceptional Children.

Teachers touch the lives of their students in many ways. They play different roles aside from being educators. They act as nurturers, parents, counselors, leaders, and role models. They are also agents of change, acting as key players who influence the struggle for equality and access to quality education. Deocalli espoused all of these qualities and is certainly a woman to admire and emulate. She is a great role model and is highly supportive of those who request her guidance on navigating the teaching profession.
The West Indian commends and recognizes Deocalli for her hard work and long-lasting contribution and service in the teaching profession.

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The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of the THE WEST INDIAN.