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Teaching dream a lesson in determination

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Sharing a love of learning: Apryl Jackson, a junior at Mount Saint Vincent University, is keen to become a maths teacher (Photograph supplied)

Apryl Jackson was overwhelmed when she first transferred to Warwick Academy.

She was 14 and struggled to fit in.

“I felt out of place and acted out negatively,” Miss Jackson, now 23, said. “I was often in trouble.”

In stepped teacher Jessica Bowdler.

“She really saved me,” Miss Jackson said. “I was a smart student who had honours, but was still struggling to conform to all the rules. She kept me on the straight and narrow. During study periods, she would often take me into her office to study, and she would ask me about assignments. She kept tabs on me.”

Today, Miss Jackson is a junior at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, studying for a bachelor’s degree in child and youth studies. She hopes to one day inspire youngsters the way Ms Bowdler inspired her, by becoming a teacher.

To gain a little teaching experience, she would like to take part in Vesa Canada, a two-week summer programme that sends students from Canadian universities to carry out volunteer projects in various parts of the world.

“Unfortunately, I am a bit short on cash,” Miss Jackson said. “It costs about $3,000. I am trying to raise the money to go next year, but I am putting myself through school and I don’t have a lot of extra funds.”

She first heard about Vesa Canada when the organisers came to speak at her university.

“It is similar to Raleigh International in Bermuda,” she said. “There are four region options: Fiji, South Africa, South East Asia or Ecuador. The first week, you volunteer in the community, doing what needs to be done, such as teaching English, building schools or working on sanitation.

“The second week, they take you on different excursions. Each trip has a fun element but you have to do the work first. I love travelling, even though I haven’t been to many places yet.”

Miss Jackson is eager to go on the trip because she knows that many youngsters in less developed countries do not have the opportunities she has had.

“It is vital that teachers travel to different places to give education to people who don’t have access to it,” she said.

Participants in Vesa Canada get to choose their destination and she is torn between Fiji and South Africa, but is leaning towards the latter.

“I’ve heard the scenery and culture is mind-blowing,” she said.

For a long time in high school, she was unsure of her career path. First, she thought she would go into journalism, then she thought about forensic science. It wasn’t until an internship at a nursery school that she considered teaching.

“I enjoyed it so much, I thought maybe I should go into it,” she said.

She wants to specialise in teaching maths because she feels this is where she could make the biggest impact.

“If you don’t have a good maths teacher, it is hard,” she said. “Maths is universal. You need it for just about any job there is. It can be fun as well. A lot of times, teachers don’t make it fun. It is key that you have a teacher that is passionate that all students pass.”

Before going away to school, she volunteered in a maths class at the Berkeley Institute to gain teaching experience.

“My younger brother, Antoine, was there and wanted me to come to his advanced maths class taught by Troy King,” Miss Jackson said.

She volunteered for 14 hours that semester and liked it so much that she came back the next term. She found Mr King to be very encouraging.

“He said we need maths teachers, particularly Bermudian female maths teachers,” she said. “He said he hoped I would come back to Bermuda and take his job from him.”

She said her young age sometimes made it easier for her to connect with the students and get maths concepts across.

“At the end of the year, it was great watching my brother and his class graduate,” she said. “Some of the maths students thanked me for my help and that made me cry a little bit. I’d spent a whole year with them. I was scared they weren’t going to pass, but they all passed. One of them said, ‘I can’t wait to see if you are going to teach my children’.”

Miss Jackson is the fifth of the six children of Sharon and George Jackson, the retired Commissioner of Police.

“I am putting myself through school,” she said. “I was at the Bermuda College before transferring to Mount Saint Vincent and I worked part-time in a supermarket to pay for school.”

She is proud to be paying her own way through school and said that if she failed, it was her own money and time that she had wasted.

“When I see my good grades, all those late nights of studying really feel worth it,” she said.

At Mount Saint Vincent, she has been active in several organisations, including the International Student Society, where she represents Bermuda. She also volunteered in a daycare centre for parents who were students at the school.

Life lessons: to gain teaching experience, Apryl Jackson is hoping to take part in a two-week summer programme in either Fiji or South Africa (Photograph supplied)