From her primary school years, Waynette Bethell-Hanna said she had one goal in life, and that was to teach, and now seven years into her career, she was recognized for her excellence in the profession and named National Teacher of the Year (NTOY) 2019-2021.
Bethell-Hanna is the 13th NTOY, and also the first educator to take the national title home to E.P. Roberts where she’s a second-grade generalist teacher and team leader.
Upon accepting her title, Bethell-Hanna, who said she knew she would be in the “running” for the title as she always strives to be amongst the elite and best, and prides herself on doing so, said she was still surprised to hear her name called.
“It really came as a shock,” said the educator who also won the teaching proficiency award, which counts for 50 percent of the weighted scoring system.
In choosing the winner, teaching proficiency (50 percent), extracurricular activities (10 percent), professional development activities (10 percent), outstanding contributions to education (10 percent), personal philosophy of education (five percent), portfolio (five percent) and documentary video (10 percent) were taken into account, with a weighted system used in determining the winner.
“It means the world to me. It’s good to know that I’ve not been working in vain, and it’s nice to know that people recognize the good things that I’ve been doing. I post the type of work I’ve been doing on social media just to share and network globally with other teachers, so it’s good to know that more persons in The Bahamas can recognize it,” she said.
Bethell-Hanna’s mantra is good, better, best – and that people should not rest until their good is better, and their better becomes best.
“Don’t ever stop advancing or learning. I don’t think a teacher’s job ever stops – or the learning. I go to seminars to try to advance with technology and keep it modern.”
She also encourages her peers to share their work as she does, as she wants people to know that there are other ways to do things.
“The traditional way is fine, but times are advancing – and the more we share and network, the better it will be for all of our students,” she said.
The newest NTOY says she’s the same person when she’s inside the classroom and outside the classroom.
“I’m wild, rambunctious, very vibrant and loud and exciting. Wherever you see me, I’m one way all the time – with my kids or without my kids – that’s just my personality.”
It’s a personality that she says works. Walk into her classroom on any given day and you may find her students engaged in singing or dancing, as she believes in hands-on work. And she said the interactive type of learning and her personality work well in her classroom where she can find herself teaching students in range from six-years-old to eight-years-old, and where she normally has more boys than girls.
“To other people coming in looking at it, you would be like okay… there’s some chaos going on, until you sit down, and really catch that there’s learning in the process. It’s harder to get through to boys than girls because of their kinesthetic type of learning, but it works to my advantage.”
And this teacher can ramp it up with the best of them. She said she can easily go from zero to 100 with her students and calm right back down to contain everything, which she said is all about classroom management.
She also keeps abreast with cartoons, which she watches to connect with her students.
“I watch cartoons on a daily, and when we sit down at lunch time we have movies before they go to play and we watch cartoons and have an actual conversation. And I can actually talk with them and know what’s going on,” she said.
Bethell-Hanna has spent her career to date at the school on Lincoln Boulevard. Her first two years she taught the bottom group in fourth grade before being assigned to second grade and elevated to team leader.
The newest NTOY believes teaching is in her genetic makeup, and that she couldn’t escape it, with multiple family members having taught. Her grandmother Sylvia Bethell was a teacher; her aunt Yvette Johnson teaches; and her uncle Felix Bethell lectured at the then College of The Bahamas (COB), now University of The Bahamas (UB). And she says numerous teachers during her primary years alluded to her growing up and entering the education field.
“Ms. McKenzie, my sixth-grade teacher, confirmed it and said she knew I was going to be a teacher,” she recalled. “I always practiced at home, and played – and during class time they would choose me to do different things to help out with instruction, and I think all of that molded me into the teacher that I am today. Ms. McKenzie would be so amazed that I won this award.”
Bethell-Hanna entered and also participated in the Future Teachers of The Bahamas program in high school which is open to students with a keen interest in the education profession. She credits that program with giving her experience and push and said it helped her to develop a better understanding of what teaching is about.
That program led to her being granted a full scholarship to study education at the then COB, where she obtained a Bachelor’s degree in general primary education in 2012. Two years later she obtained a Master’s degree at Barry University in organizational learning and leadership.
Of the 48 initial nominees for NTOY with Bethell-Hanna, six of them were members of her 2012 COB graduation. Rashard McKenzie, Kevra Bostwick, Stephanel Stubbs, Zindora Munnings, Tara Burrows, Indira Coleby and Danique Dorsette all began the process on the road to the final, which Bethell-Hanna said was an amazing feat.
“It was amazing to sit amongst them again. It shows that we were truly the best. From we graduated they said it, and here we were again – sharing that occasion,” she said.
While she’s been teaching for seven years, which she says some people may look at as a short time frame, she’s proud of the student success she’s had in preparing students to move on to the next stage of their lives. One such former student, she said, is now a 10th grade student at C.H. Reeves who, when he came to her, was totally disinterested in school and mischievous. But, she said, she saw potential in him and got through to him.
“He was trying his hardest not to do any schoolwork and I got through to him. His little brother is now at E.P. Roberts, and this student comes back every Friday to say ‘hi’ – and I’m so proud of him that he’s keeping his grades up.”
Bethell-Hanna said at his last report card the student had a 2.89 grade point average (GPA).
“When you have older kids coming back just to give you a hail, I think that’s where we get our accolades from,” she said.
In the win, Bethell-Hanna took home a $5,000 prize purse.
C.V. Bethel High School’s performing arts teacher Giovanni Clarke was this year’s first runner-up, winning a $3,000 prize purse; Rhashanna Curry from Jack Hayward High School was the second runner-up and was awarded a $2,000 prize package; Krishanta Wildgoose-Butcher from the Beacon School was the third runner-up and walked away with a $1,000 prize package.
The professional development award and the best documentary video awards went to Gayle Barrow, a sixth-grade teacher at Sadie Curtis who took home a $1,500 prize package; the contributions to education award went to Clarke as well as a $500 prize package; the extracurricular involvement award was won by Tara Burrows, a third-grade teacher at Inagua All-Age School, and came with a $500 prize package; and the community development went to Wildgoose-Butcher who also took home a $500 prize package.
Objectives of the awards are to highlight the significant role of teachers in nation building; honor and reward teachers for their outstanding contributions in the field of education; encourage and motivate teachers to perform at high standards; provide teachers with the opportunity to showcase and share their teaching talent; and introduce outstanding teachers to the wider community.
The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT), under the presidency of Donald Symonette, during the 1987-1988 academic year, introduced the teacher of the year awards to recognize excellent teachers in the public school system around the country. Awards were presented in four categories which were named after past union executives and members – Mabel Walker, founder and past president; A. Leonard Archer, former president; Carlton E. Francis, former president; and Florence Mursay Poitier, founding member.
Ten years after the introduction of the awards, the Ministry of Education, supported by the BUT, became the lead sponsor, and the result was the National Teacher of the Year Award exercise. The celebration of teaching excellence has since evolved into a biennial event that is organized in school districts and includes primary, all-age, secondary and special schools.
of the Year
Mabel Walker Primary Division
1987-1988 – Catherine Brown
1988-1989 – Earl Smith
1989-1990 – Dahlia Deleveaux
1990-1991 – Shirley Mreault
1991-1992 – Mary Jane Moxey
1992-1993 – Wenly Fowler
1993-1994 – Mildred Roberts
1996-1998 – Martha Bullard
1996-1998 – Eloise Bullard
A. Leonard Archer
1987-1988 – Maxine Missick
1988-1989 – Elise Delancy
1989-1990 – Lillymae Brown
1990-1991 – Clyde Johnson
1991-1992 – Mary Deveaux
1992-1993 – Paulene Adderley
1993-1994 – Telford Mullings
1994-1996 – Franklyn Lightbourne
1996-1998 – Geoffrey McPhee
All Age Division
1987-1988 – Paula Curry
1988-1989 – Mildred Williamson
1989-1990 – Lillian Poitier
1990-1991 – Donald Sawyer
1991-1992 – Constance Martin
1992-1993 – Laura Anderson
1993-1994 – Shanna Johnson
1994-1996 – Yvonne Ferguson
1996-1998 – Esther Cooper
The Second Decade
1998-1999 – Kenneth Romer
1999-2000 – Barbara Dorsett
2000-2001 – Joan Knowles
2001-2002 – Stacy Stubbs
2002-2004 – Roderick Rolle
2004-2006 – Yorick Sands
2006-2008 – Tamika Cartwright
2008-2010 – Marcia Musgrove
2010-2012 – Afrika Karamo-Miller
2012-2014 – Nadia Smith
2015-2017 – Yonell Justilien
2017-2019 – Antonique Josey
2019-2021 – Waynette Bethell-Hanna
Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.