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Gwen’s Wonderland nursery closes

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Word of mouth: Shanda Duncan has closed Gwen’s Wonderland, the nursery her mother started in Hamilton Parish in 1978 (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

Gwen’s Wonderland Nursery & Preschool in Hamilton Parish has closed after 44 years of caring for Bermuda’s children.

Owner Shanda Duncan shut the Radnor Road business on December 30.

“We have probably taken care of three generations of children,” Mrs Duncan said. “But I just felt that the season for it had run its course for me.”

Three generations of students: Gwen’s Wonderland owners Shanda Duncan, left, and mother Gwendolyn Young (Photograph supplied)

Mrs Duncan was 15 when her mother, Gwendolyn Young, started the nursery in 1978, on the lower level of her home. Mrs Duncan, the middle child of six, would often be called upon to help out with the children, something she did not appreciate at the time.

“I did not like helping her,” Mrs Duncan said. “It was a chore. I had to come straight from school and I could not hang out in town with my friends.”

But she had a change of heart while studying medical technology in university. The medical field was just not for her.

“I asked the Lord what I should do, and he said child development,” Mrs Duncan said.

She graduated with honours, with a degree in child development and family relations and a certification to teach kindergarten through to twelfth grade.

We never had to advertise: a Gwen’s Wonderland class with teacher Brenda Duffus Reid (Photograph supplied)

Mrs Duncan took the nursery over from her mother in 1985.

Mrs Young started her career caring for the elderly, but opened Gwen’s Wonderland, at the suggestion of a nursing friend. The friend thought she would have more freedom and mobility, taking care of young children than older people.

Mrs Young’s first client was Zayne Seymour, and her mother, Marguerite Burgess, was one of her first teachers.

“We never had to advertise,” Mrs Duncan said. “News of our nursery spread by word of mouth. Our good reputation meant we had children from St David’s to Warwick.”

Mrs Duncan said grocery shopping now takes a long time because she bumps into so many former students and their families.

In the school’s heyday they had as many as 45 students. Over the years however, numbers dropped due to changing government restrictions and child to teacher ratio requirements.

“There was also a drop in the birth rate,” Mrs Duncan said. “Then during the pandemic some parents lost their jobs and could no longer afford to send their children to us.”

They had 15 students when they closed.

Most of their clients and former clients were a little sad when they heard Gwen’s Wonderland was closing, but also happy for Mrs Duncan.

“It was bittersweet,” Mrs Duncan said. “I loved going downstairs and teaching the kids. We used to have graduations and plays and Christmas programmes.”

But she has not missed it, yet. Her husband, Lloyd Duncan, is a Bishop in the New Testament Church of God, and they are both heavily involved with counselling church members.

“I am focusing on the ministry and working with my husband,” she said. “It seems I am busier now than when I was working.”

She is proud that many of her former students have gone on to lead successful lives.

“As a teacher, it is wonderful to see that the people you helped, have blossomed,” she said.

On February 12, at 11am her church will hold a special service in her honour, to celebrate both her retirement and 61st birthday.

All former students and their families are invited. Their congregation is temporarily holding services at Midland Heights Seventh Day Adventist Church at 145 North Shore Road. “No need to RSVP,” she said. “Just come out to the service.”

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Published February 02, 2023 at 7:48 am (Updated February 03, 2023 at 8:03 am)

Gwen’s Wonderland nursery closes

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