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Full marks for two quality educators

Bermudian educators Millicent Burgess (left) and Phyllis Brooks were honoured as part of Canada?s Black History Month celebrations.

Two veteran Bermudian educators have been honoured by the Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) as part of black history month celebrations.MILLICENT (CAREY) BURGESSMillicent (Carey) Burgess was awarded the Reverend Addie Aylestock Award, and Phyllis (Simmons) Brooks received the Harriet Tubman Award at a special awards brunch arranged by OBHS. Both ladies are in their 80s and live in Canada.“Going into its 25th year, the brunch is an opportunity to showcase and reflect on the accomplishments of black peoples,” said Rosemary Sadlier, president of the OBHS. “This year’s event was that much more special because it coincided with the 50th year of independence for several countries in the African Diaspora. The theme for the 2012 event was The Year of Firsts. In addition to a celebration through song and dance, the OBHS also rewarded a number of well deserving individuals in the community that have created change in Canada.”When Millicent Burgess’ husband, Leroy, first suggested they move from Bermuda to Canada, she was reluctant.“I wasn’t too keen. I said, ‘I’ll try it, but if I don’t like it I’ll be going back to Bermuda’,” Mrs Burgess said.As it turned out, she did like living in Canada, and taught young children there for 34 years. During those years she also acted as a consultant with the Toronto Board of Education.She made regular trips back to the Island, and was also involved with the Canadian Negro Women’s Association (CANEWA), where she helped to organise the annual calypso carnival night. That event served as the precursor to Caribana, a popular annual festival in Toronto that celebrates Caribbean culture.“I have been involved with CANEWA since way back,” said Mrs Burgess. “I came to Toronto in 1957, and I became involved with CANEWA probably in the 1960s. Calypso carnival was a one night affair. We would have about 500 or 600 people at the dinner dance. One year when I was involved in it, I had my brother in Bermuda send up the gombey outfit, hat and that sort of thing and I wore it.”She first went to Canada after winning a scholarship in Bermuda to study teaching. She attended the Hamilton Teachers’ College and the Toronto Teachers’ College. She returned to Bermuda to teach for six years. During that period she married Leroy Burgess of St George’s. Mr Burgess had attended the University of Toronto and wanted to return to Canada to live and work.Mrs Burgess received her award because of her support of OBHS over the years, particularly her support of its scholarship fund.“I also attend meetings of the Bermudian Canadian Relief Association, which is now called the Canadian Bermudian Association,” she said. “I received an award from them in 2006. They have been meeting regularly since 1981. They have a scholarship committee and I donate money to that every year.”She has now been retired from teaching for 20 years. Her husband is deceased and she lives in a retirement home.PHYLLIS BROOKSPhyllis Brooks is retired, but stays busy volunteering in her community in Canada.“It was a very nice feeling winning the award,” she said. “I wasn’t expecting anything like that.”She has lived in Canada for over 50 years. She studied teaching in Canada on a Bermuda scholarship and then returned to Bermuda to teach. She became engaged to a Canadian, and eventually returned to Canada to marry. After she got married, she received a master’s degree in education.She was a teacher and librarian with the Toronto Board of Education for 20 years before her retirement. She also became a founding member of CANEWA, and a volunteer with the Bermudian Canadian Association.“I worked as a teacher librarian,” said Mrs Brooks. “I have taken various courses in child psychology and nursery school education. I found it all very rewarding.“I miss Bermuda sometimes for the warmth and the swimming. I still have a strong family base there, although my parents have passed away. I am retired now, but I do some volunteer teaching with the Toronto District School Board, teaching literacy to adults. With the Bermudian Canadian Association, I am on the working committee .“There are eight of us on the working committee, and about 40 or 50 people who are members of the association. We do a lot of charitable work. We give bursaries every year to post secondary students. The students are anyone who is deserving. They don’t have to be Bermudian or Canadian. They are people who have been brought forward who might need some help with post secondary school studies. Last year at our 30th anniversary we gave four bursaries. They were $1,000 each.”She said the organisation is small, but they have barbecues and fundraisers. They do charitable work with organisations at Christmas time, such as helping women in homeless shelters or children’s toy drives.“I am fairly busy for a person who is past retirement age,” she said. “I still manage to drive. I am in relatively good health. I do exercise by walking and bowling and things like that.”Mrs Brooks has four children and four grandchildren, of whom she is very proud. She said they have all been very successful, and one of her granddaughters is now studying for her doctoral degree.