Catching Up with National Teacher of the Year — Afrika Karamo-Miller
There are many things Afrika Karamo-Miller, the national teacher of the year for 2010-2012, could’ve done with her life. She is a skilled violinist and once even had dreams of going into medicine, but it was a deep love and appreciation for molding the younger generation that won out, and got her to take a nobler route in life. Now, 15 years into a stellar career as a Spanish teacher, stationed at Sister Mary Patricia Russell Junior School in Grand Bahama, and with a teacher of the year title under her belt, the outstanding educator still believes her choice was the best one she could have ever made.
Q. What do you think made you stand out above your peers to be selected as National Teacher of the Year for 2010-2012?
A. I don’t think I am exceptional compared to everybody else. In fact, I feel there are many teachers out there who are overlooked although they do great work. For every teacher that is recognized, there are many others who aren’t. But I do know that I am a dedicated teacher. I invest most of my time in my students to the point where it conflicts with my home life at times. I also aim to improve myself every year and I try to be conscious of my mistakes so I can do better next time. I am always brainstorming on ways to better reach my students because sometimes educators can get very complacent. They reach this plateau and feel they have arrived. They don’t feel that there is much more out there for them learn. I’m an avid learner and I am always looking forward to updating myself and learning new strategies and techniques.
Q. What made you want to become a teacher?
A. I started in school studying pre-med. I wanted to be a doctor, but then I always loved languages and I always loved music. There were so many things I did well, so for a while it was such a hard decision to make. I really wanted to be an obstetrician gynecologist, but then I started thinking about the babies being born dead and other off the wall things, so I thought maybe it would be better to go into another area I would be interested in. I always loved languages and even then I didn’t think of using my degree in teaching initially. I wanted to do interpretation translation but my parents both were teachers. They taught me in a home-school for 12 years of my life so that was my greatest influence. I am really glad about my decision especially when I see my students motivated and doing well.
Q. What would you say is your best experience as a teacher?
A. There are so many experiences so it’s hard to say which one is the best. There was the time when my students at St. George’s took the BJC (Bahamas Junior Certificate) and they all got A’s and B’s. What really moves me is when my students graduate from school and come back to me to tell me they have chosen to go in a field related to modern languages. It’s great when they can say to me that they are doing it because I really made the class so exciting for them. I even had a few students tell me they want to start a language school on the island. It’s really rewarding when you can help inspire visions like that in your students.
Q. Do you think homeschooling children is a good idea?
A. I was homeschooled by my parents for 12 years then placed in a physical school. I understood my parents’ position in homeschooling since there were seven children. They were both teachers and felt they had more control over what was being taught. I don’t have any regrets, nor do I feel I was at a disadvantage being homeschooled. I feel it prepared me well for when I was put in an actual school. I still did well. Today, homeschooling is not so uncommon as more and more Bahamian parents are opting to do this. I think it’s a good choice especially so that you can give your child that one-on-one contact that they often don’t get in the school system. It’s a great advantage in that regard, especially if you are allowing them to have social interactions as a part of the program. I don’t think schooling in isolation is the best. There are religious sects that do that, but I think it’s good to interact and socialize.
Q. Is there a reason you have always chosen to work in the Family Islands?
A. I’ve always had a good experience working and living where I do. It wasn’t an intentional choice but something I had to do since I was stationed where I was needed upon starting my teaching career. My first station was in Abaco and after a few years I transferred to Freeport where my family resides. I think it’s a good experience to have, although resources to some extent are harder to come by, the more remote your school is. Being in Freeport right now I have access to a lot. But even if you don’t have good access at times as a teacher you have to make do and do the best you can with what you have.