Special Education pioneer Cecele Thompson-Browne honoured on Nevis
NIA Charlestown Nevis — April 29, 2014, will be written in the annals of the Special Education Unit as one of its most memorable days. It will be forever remembered as the day when it was renamed after its founding teacher Cecele Thompson-Browne, who blazed the trail as a pioneer in the field of Special Education on Nevis.
At a ceremony to mark the occasion, she expressed her gratitude for the accolade.
“I am truly humbled to have this honour bestowed upon me and I would like to express my sincere gratitude to those persons who have counted me worthy of it and also to those who put in all of the work today to make this exercise today such a memorable one…and I thank you,” she said.
Mrs. Thompson-Browne who is now an ordained Reverend at the Wesleyan Holiness Church explained how her involvement with Special Education came about by divine intervention.
“It started for me with a strange incident. I was at the beginning of my teaching career in St. Kitts when I had a visit from the Lord in 1976 in St. Pauls, St. Kitts, when He showed me myself at the school with children with special needs in Prospect. This may seem quiet ironic but it’s true and I am glad this is not the first time some of you are hearing me say this.
“Who would have thought that what we see here today is what I was actually seeing at that time. When it all started, nothing like this would have entered my mind. My mission was to make a difference in the lives of persons with special needs, persons with the learning differences and we would have realized, through the years that the language has changed for political purposes but in spite of the changes, the persons who we serve are special and will always be special in my eyes,” she said.
According to Mrs. Thompson-Browne, all she wanted when she started was to put into practice all she had learnt in her training and to see Special Education develop in Nevis as she had seen in Jamaica. Nonetheless, she approached it knowing it was going to be a challenge.
“I came to it knowing that it was going to be a long hard journey but I was not daunted. I have had some very great experiences along this journey, so many good and interesting memories,” she said.
The Special Education pioneering teacher, also spoke to some of the memories etched in her memory.
“I vividly remember the excitement of the very first batch of students as they came in. I realized that there was hope for them to be able to learn and become functional. They were so eager to learn but what stands out in my mind, is the fear and trepidation of the parents so much so that one parent who just giggled, delivered her child to me with a long list of instructions. I regret that I did not keep that list.
“That parent and I still laugh about it. I remember the same child of that same parent going home with me for a weekend and returning home to tell her mother ‘Thompson gave me knife and fork to eat with. I want knife and fork’,” she said.
However, the fruits of Mrs. Thompson-Browne’s labour at the Special Education Unit on Nevis had brought her untold joy and she did not for a moment hesitate to speak of it.
“My greatest joy is to look at those who are gainfully employed and holding their own. I feel very honoured to hear the good remarks and appreciation expressed by parents and guardians as they meet me on the street.
“That is rewarding in itself. It gives me such pleasure to see how Jennifer Liburd and Brenda Manners have grown in this profession since the inception of the Unit. My association with professionals like Shirley Tyson-Cunningham, Adella Francis-Meade and Violet Clarke have served to impact my life in many ways you do not know,” she said.
The Nevis-born Special Education trained teacher also acknowledge her colleague Ms. Clarice Cotton who is today the Chief Education Officer on St. Kitts. She explained that they had met for the first time in September 1980 at the office of the then Chief Education Officer in St. Kitts.
“We were both granted scholarships to study Special Education in Jamaica. We both left St. Kitts together and we developed a relationship which remains intact to this very day. She was my supervisor at the Special Education Unit in St Kitts. She was my mentor.
“I am certain that if she had the opportunity she would tell you that even though I worked in St. Kitts, Nevis was always on my mind and I looked out for the interest of Nevis as much as I possibly could in Special Education and Special Olympics,” she said.
Acknowledgement was also given to the parents who had gone the extra mile to ensure the promotion and progress of the Unit and her husband Reverend James Browne whom she said came into her life knowing that when they got married it meant also getting married to Special Education and Special Olympics.
As she graciously accepted the honour, she noted that even though she took home the special plaque that was presented to her it was something she shared with all the other deserving stakeholders especially the School’s supervisors and staff who had been on what she termed her very challenging yet very exciting journey through changing scenes, since the inception of the Unit.
“From one borrowed, crowded classroom where I tried to be teacher, counsellor, psychologist, therapist, nurse and not forgetting the cleaner, he expression we use for that is, chief cook and bottle washer but I loved and enjoyed every minute of it.
“In case you may ask if there is anything I would change if I had to do it all over again, my initial response would be a resounding ‘no’ but when I think about it, I would have to say yes. However, those developmental changes which have been made in the process of time by my successors, allowed the journey to what we see before us today would have accomplished the vision that I had in my mind and today I see a school with classrooms, improved staffing, better equipment, and ladies and gentlemen I stand tall and proud because it bares my name, Cecele Browne Integrated School. I give God thanks and praise for that. My name is written on the school. It’s significant to me. I do have mixed feelings about that but if you the people say so let it be so,” she said.
In conclusion Mrs. Thompson-Browne stated that her prayer for the school was one of continued transformation which would continue to touch the lives of children and families.
“I rejoice today because my name is indelibly inscribed not on a building but in the hearts of each and every special needs person whose life I have touched in this Federation and most importantly, my name is written in God’s record book and as I receive the award, I do so in anticipation of that greater reward that God has made up for me.
“My prayer for this school is that it will continue to bring transformation for the children and families who will be served here. My hope is that Special Education will stand in its rightful place among all other educational institutions in this island, in the Federation, in the region and the world. I want to encourage those of you who are still in the battlefield to continue to fight the good fight of faith and may Special Education grow from strength to strength,” she said.