the Governor's Speeches

Back to Speeches Indexfeb 10, 2017

“The Teachers’ Commandment: Inspire Your Students To Make A Positive Difference” Remarks By H.E. Governor Eugene B. Holiday Delivered on Teachers Formation Day Celebrating 126 years of Catholic Education At the St. Dominic High School

Reverend Father Adam Olesczuk,
President of the Foundation Catholic Education, Dr. Marlon Haley,
Executive Director of the Foundation Catholic Education, Mrs. Lilia Aventurin-Hodge,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning,

Good Morning and special greetings to all educators present.
Special greetings because: Education is the inspiration to make a real difference in our lives and society. My mom understood this and shared it with her children each chance she got.

As a result, Education is close to my heart and I am therefore particularly pleased to answer your call to address and join you this morning for Teachers Formation Day 2017 in Celebration of 126 years of Catholic Education on Sint Maarten.
Thanks to those who answered the call to share and do God’s work through education, we are here today celebrating 126 years of catholic education. Early pioneers such as Father Nieuwenhuis and Sister Regina along with five other sisters answered the call to do God’s work through Catholic Education leading to the establishment of the St. Joseph School (my elementary school alma mater) in 1890. Since then, many sisters and teachers, including you, have followed in the footsteps of Sister Regina.

Personally, I have had the privilege to attend the St. Joseph School under the leadership of the imposing Sister Lamberta as well as the Pater Nieuwenhuis MAVO, under the leadership of the quiet disciplinarian Sister Borgia. Today I can say that I, like many others, benefitted from the Catholic Education we received. This annual celebration in which you come together and organize Teachers’ Formation Day is as such a fitting way to give thanks for past achievements and sharpen your skills for the challenges ahead.

As I deliberated on this year’s celebration theme: “We Are Called To Share With Others” and placed it into perspective, I was inspired by the words of John chapter 13 verse 34 were he shared Jesus’ New Commandment with us, which reads:  “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” I have as a result decided to give my remarks the title: “The Teachers’ Commandment, Inspire Your Students to Make A Positive Difference”. [I REPEAT]. I do so because like in Jesus’ new commandment teachers inspired you and teachers inspired me so that we can inspire others. In the next few minutes I shall, building on a speech I gave in 2011, share my views on the various aspects of the teachers’ commandment with you.

As a youngster growing up, I recall that teachers were viewed as highly knowledgeable and intelligent people. Teachers commanded and enjoyed great respect in our society. As a result teaching as a profession was considered to be at the top of the social pyramid along with other professions such as doctors, lawyers and clerics. Hence, many of my peers and I wanted to become teachers.

Having said that, I do not know how many of my peers actually became teachers. As for me I did not take up teaching as my profession, but I have on occasion had the distinct privilege to stand before the classroom as a guest lecturer. Instead of teaching, I studied economics, thanks to the education I received from dedicated and skilled teachers in kindergarten, teachers in primary school, teachers in secondary school and teachers in university. Yes, I received an education thanks to teachers like you. Like myself many other professionals, doctors, lawyers, clerics, accountants, engineers, and artists, have and are receiving an education which would not be possible without teachers. This means that every professional is the product of the labor of a chain of teachers.  In short, teaching is the mother of all professions. This in my view is the basic truth of teaching.

Whereas it is the basic truth that teaching is the mother of all professions, the inconvenient truth is that teachers no longer enjoy the related respect and standing of yester year in our society. This inconvenient truth however should not distract you from meeting the higher professional standard of your profession. It should not be allowed to distract you from the higher calling of the basic truth of the teaching profession. That is, it should not distract you from the teachers’ commandment to inspire your students to make a positive difference.
As practitioners of the mother of all professions, you are standard-bearers of our society. [I repeat - As practitioners of the mother of all professions, you are standard-bearers of our society.] Whatever happens in your classroom sets the standard for our society. That is because the classroom is the training ground where pupils and students acquire the skills and capabilities to become effective contributing members of our society. It is in your classrooms where kids from differing social, ethnical and religious backgrounds come together under your care as teachers to be molded for their role in society.  It is in your classrooms where in large part the seeds are planted for the standards of our society. Thus, whatever happens in your classrooms, affects all of us, yes all of us. This ladies and gentlemen, this teachers, is the deeper truth of the teaching profession. This deeper societal truth is the core imperative why you must keep the teachers’ commandment to inspire each generation of students that pass through your classrooms to make a positive difference.

These basic and deeper truths of teaching, place a great responsibility on teachers. The apostle Paul in Romans chapter 12 verse 7 refers to that responsibility as follows: `If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well`. As teachers it is your calling to be standard-bearers, and as such it is incumbent on you to excel in doing so. This responsibility of excellence is, in my opinion, the noble truth of teaching. For it is through excellence in education that we can be assured of a strong, sustainable and noble society. A society where not all of us have the same function, but one where we individually have the gifts, abilities and values necessary for the development of a free and just Sint Maarten. A society which in large part depends on your dedication to the teachers’ commandment to inspire your students to make a difference.
As a result I recommend that you reflect on how you will continue, like my educators did for me, to live by the teachers’ commandment to inspire students to make a positive difference. As you do so I suggest we pause for a moment and ask yourself the following question:
Can I name five things which I have shared with my students?
[……………Interact with audience ……………………………
If so would you like to communicate one of those things to me?
The teachers responses: (1) Love, (2) Time, (3) Patience, (4) There is nothing called I can’t, (5) Knowledge, (6) belief, (7) respect, (8) hobbies, (9) learning is fun, and (10) Faith in God.
Thank you, thank you for your input! Now let me compare my list with that of you as professional educators.
The list I compiled of valuable gifts to share with others and your students in particular is as follows:
• First, kindness, compassion and love, Because these are the gifts that create an environment for educational success and bring peace to our lives and the lives of others;
• Second, encouragement, because this gift strengthens students to solve problems and develops the attitude necessary to meet challenges as future participants in our society;
• Third, opportunity, because this gift maximizes the available talents of students and the potential of our society;
• Fourth, hope, because this gift develops optimistic and positive young minds to work with confidence in anticipation of good results;
• And fifth, knowledge and understanding: because these gifts offers the tools necessary to make optimal use of all the gifts shared to achieve growth in our modern societies; Or in the inspiring words of Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. Well, as teachers you have the tools to develop that weapon in every student that passes through your classrooms.
Overall when I compare our lists I can conclude that we are on the same page.
By sharing these good values and gifts with your students and others you will lift them up and make a positive difference in their lives and the society we live in. And in doing so, you will inspire your students to be better persons and contribute to a stronger, more just and noble society.

Hence, on this Teachers Formation Day in celebration of 126 years of Catholic Education I advise that you reflect on the Teachers’ Commandment: To Inspire Your Students to Make a Positive Difference. And as your profession seems undervalued and underappreciated within an increasingly complex and challenging social and work environment, I recommend you to do so even more. For after all is said and done, it is by keeping your Commandment that you will find the true inspiration and reward of your noble profession.

In closing, I congratulate the Catholic Church and the Foundation for Catholic Education on the organization of this Teachers Formation Day and thank you the teachers for your invaluable contributions to our society. I wish you much strength in the continued execution of the all-important noble task of educating our children, towards the building of a stronger and better Sint Maarten.
Having said that I will like to leave you with a video taken from Carson-Dellossa Publishing and the words are as follows:.
Dear Teachers,
Sometimes it may seem that people have forgotten how important you really are. Your creativity, your dedication, your passion.
It is time for a reminder.
For every child that says:
“I am not smart enough”, “I don’t get it”, “I can’t”
There is a teacher who says:
“You can”
For every child who needs:
Basis skills, knowledge, Someone to believe in him.
There is a teacher who will do whatever it takes ………..
Encourage, motivate, challenge, engage,
inspire and instill love for learning.
So for every teacher who work with our children building a better future for all of us,
one child at a time,
even when it seems like no one is watching
or that people have forgotten just how special teachers really are.
So repeat after us
“I make a difference”
Now use your outside voice
“I make a difference”
For reaching each child to become
the next great author, artist, scientist, architect, musician, doctor, engineer,
You make a difference

Thank you and God bless you!