Bringing out the best in people

  • Music lover: retired teacher Helen Daley practises on her keyboard at least three times a week and assists organist Reginald Tucker at St James Church in Sandys (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Music lover: retired teacher Helen Daley practises on her keyboard at least three times a week and assists organist Reginald Tucker at St James Church in Sandys (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Retired teacher Helen Daley (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Retired teacher Helen Daley (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Helen Daley always tried to bring out the best in her students. She was a teacher for more than 40 years and it became her classroom mission. She still has the thank you notes she received from some of her pupils.

“I just saw so many possibilities that spurred me on,” she said. “I had some children who would be considered slow learners, but I never liked putting any labels on them. There is always a light somewhere if you bring out the best in the child.”

Mrs Daley grew up in Ely’s Harbour, Sandys. Her mother, Nellie Rabain, was a beautician; her father, William, worked for the Bermuda Telephone Company. She fell in love with teaching while playing school with her siblings on rainy days.

While in high school in Canada, friends tried to convince her to join them in their nursing studies, but when she received the prospectus, she just knew that path was not for her.

“My friends were watching me when I read it,” she said. “Suddenly I said, ‘Good night all. I’m staying with teaching’.”

She trained at Hamilton Teachers’ College and Toronto Teachers’ College and then returned to Bermuda where she taught primary school students for six years. On a visit to Jamaica, she met Ulett Daley, a chartered accountant.

“He was a good man,” she said.

The couple married on December 15, 1960, at St Paul’s Church in Paget. After a brief stint in England, they decided to relocate to Kingston.

“I found myself leaving Bermuda to go off to a new experience,” Mrs Daley said.

“It was a whole new world for me to get used to; new people and a new culture.”

Although Jamaica did not seem as wealthy as Bermuda, a spirit of optimism pervaded. The Caribbean island was then only months away from independence. She remembers watching the new Jamaican flag go up for the first time in August 1962.

“I saw people who walked with dignity and decency,” Mrs Daley said. “They were ready to move on to independence. Those were good years.

“There was pride everywhere. People were happy. Things changed afterward, but what I saw looked very promising; manufacturing started and gave people hope.”

Her first job was at a new technical high school, but she yearned to teach younger kids.

“By the following year, the Franciscan Sisters had opened a lovely prep school with a well-equipped kindergarten,” she said. “So I started there with them and worked well with the Sisters.”

The children were focused and unfailingly polite.

“They showed their appreciation in so many little ways,” said Mrs Daley.

She then moved to Wolmer’s Boys’ School, where she taught 11 and 12-year-olds for ten years. It had a student body of 1,300 and her classes often had as many as 40 boys at a time — she loved it.

“What I found about boys is that once you knew how to reach them, you got their attention and you could move on,” she said. “I could get order.”

Although some teachers get turned off when children are sassy, Mrs Daley did not let it bother her.

“Learn to just be quiet and ignore it,” she said. “Don’t pick up every little thing. If you do, they will get to know you are very sensitive and will do it to annoy you.”

Life in Jamaica outside the classroom was not always easy however, especially during the 1970s.

“In those days, many countries were embracing socialism,” she said.

“Some countries in Africa did that, and Jamaica fell into that between 1972 and 1980. Many people fled from the island. You would get up in the morning and see a trailer. The neighbours wouldn’t say they were leaving, they would just be gone. They would leave for Florida.”

She and her husband were determined to stick out the difficult time and educate their daughter and two sons.

“We were able to get the fruit from our own land,” she said. “My husband had planted a lovely garden with everything at the back — oranges, pears, lemons, limes, mangoes; we were well fruited — but there were items that were scarce. It might have meant you would stand in line for maybe 30 minutes or more to get a chicken.”

She remembers visiting Bermuda when Jamaica refused to allow its citizens to leave with more than US$50.

“I had to get my passport and stand in line for hours waiting until the Bank of Jamaica sent out currency,” she said.

The teller would then stamp her passport and hand over the money.

“Then you had to pray very hard that you would be safe until you reached Bermuda, bearing in mind sometimes you had to go through Miami,” she said. “You sat there frozen until the flight left for Bermuda.”

When she was not teaching, music was her love. She started piano lessons at five with Sylvia Lee.

“She was a very patient teacher,” said Mrs Daley.

The classes helped her learn how to memorise music. The skill came in handy when she became a teacher as she could play while keeping a sharp eye on her students.

Once retired, she played the piano and organ for weddings and funerals at St Matthew’s Anglican Church.

Four years ago, she moved back to Bermuda to be closer to her family.

“I do miss Jamaica sometimes, but I adjust,” said the Southampton resident, whose husband passed away in 2012.

“There comes a time in life when one learns to release and adjust to a new setting. It is good to be with my family.”

She enjoys practising the piano on her keyboard at least three times a week, and assists organist Reginald Tucker at St James Church in Sandys.

“I still love music very much,” she said. “I love the hymns of the faith. When I am ready I listen to my classics. That keeps me going all the time.”

Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them

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Published Jan 7, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated Jan 7, 2020 at 7:13 am)

Bringing out the best in people

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