Teacher delighted with honours recognition
A teacher honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours used to stand outside Buckingham Palace and wave at the Royals on trips to London.
Judith James, 76, never thought that she would one day be awarded the Queen’s Certificate and Badge of Honour for services to education.
Ms James told how she would “never forget” the moment she was told she had won the award.
She said: “I could not get over that — it makes you want to cry with happiness.”
Ms James, a teacher for almost 50 years, retired several years ago but still heads the kindergarten group at Southampton Seventh-day Adventist Church.
She said: “I just love taking care of people.”
Ms James, who at first wanted to be a nurse, decided instead to train as a teacher in Canada and taught for 47 years.
She said: “I wasn’t ever thinking about me, not at all, it was for the children. It just lifts me.”
Ms James explained many of her pupils came from broken homes and needed help.
She said: “Teaching made me feel there was something I could do.
“I could see a lot of little people who needed not just scholastic help, but needed help emotionally, physically and spiritually.”
She added that she often invited youngsters and their parents to her church and her own home to “sit around the dining room table and talk”.
Ms James said people sometimes asked if she was bothered by the constant presence of pupils.
She said she told them: “We’re striving to make a better Bermuda”.
Ms James added she had often visited London and “would stand outside the palace gates and wave to the Queen, she was so precious”.
She said: “To think we waved at her, and now this.”
Ms James, one of three children, was brought up on Angle Street in Hamilton.
She said: “Growing up we were poor, but didn’t realise it.”
Ms James attended Ord Road School, where she would one day teach.
She said the school roof collapsed while she was a pupil and the school was forced to look for temporary accommodation.
A children’s centre at St John’s Church in Pembroke was off limits in racist and segregated Bermuda, so the youngsters were taken in at Northlands Primary School instead.
Ms James said decades later when was established as prominent teacher, she was invited to the St John’s children’s centre to speak as an honoured guest.
She added: “We need to appreciate how far we’ve come, look out for others and encourage them to do their best. In Bermuda we’re all connected, its one beautiful island.”
Ms James said: “We’re trying to make a better Bermuda, that is my goal.”
Ms James moved to Northlands Primary School, Pembroke and went to high school at the prestigious Berkeley Institute.
She later went on to a teacher training college in Ottawa and worked part-time to help support her through the course.
When she returned to Bermuda, she returned to Northlands as a teacher, and also worked at Ord Road School, Elliot Primary and Victor Scott Primary.
In addition, she was a volunteer at the Red Cross and acted as custodian of traditional Bermudian culture at home and overseas, including a folk life festival at the world-famous Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
She was also superintendent of the Sabbath school at Southampton Seventh-Day Adventist Church for the children’s divisions before she retired in 2016 to head the kindergarten section.
Ms James said she was still approached by former pupils whose lives she had touched “everyday, everywhere I go”.
She added: “My three grandsons joke ‘don’t go grocery shopping with Gran — you’ll never get out. Everybody knows her’.”
But she said: “I’m glad I could be a little light in my students’ lives.”
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