March 20, 2009
Students pay tribute to well-loved teacher

by Samantha Campbell 20.MAR.09

Staff and students at the J.P. Eustace Memorial Secondary School, formerly The Emmanuel High School, at Victoria Park Road held a Black and White fundraising event last Tuesday, 17th March 2009 in the memory of one of their own, Dionne Matthews.{{more}}

Matthews, who died on Wednesday, 11th March 2009 in Trinidad shortly after the birth of her second child, taught English at the school.

Marcia John, a colleague of the deceased in the English department, said the money was being collected on behalf of Matthews’s family. She stated, students and teachers alike, eagerly wanted to “honour [Matthews’s] contribution” to the school.

The event, which began at 10.30am saw almost all the cakes, pizzas, hotdogs and drinks brought for the occasion, being sold before the lunch hour – another sign, John said, of students’ appreciation for the late teacher.

Students were also asked to dress in black and white colours and give a monetary donation of $3.00 or more and according to John, the response was overwhelming. Up to press time, contributions were still being collected.

Desiree Wilson, a teacher from the Liberty Lodge Boys Training Centre brought along 6 of her students to provide assistance at the event despite only being fairly well acquainted with Matthews. Wilson saw her presence at the fundraiser as a humanitarian gesture and said she felt obliged to lend her support because of her roots in the local Red Cross organization.

Vice Principal, Philbert John, remembered Matthews as a committed teacher who, worked up until the beginning of her maternity leave in early January without complaint.

Earl Bennett, a Social Studies teacher at the school, said the teacher’s passing marked a double bereavement for him. He said he heard of the news while making arrangements for memorial activities for the late Sports enthusiast, Larry Bascombe. Bennett praised Matthews as a “consummate professional.”

“If I had to look in the dictionary for a graphical representation of a teacher,” he said, “I would put Miss Dionne there.”

He insisted the best way to honour Matthews’s memory would be to emulate the sterling qualities she displayed while she was alive.

Twenty seven-year old Matthews held double duties as lecturer and form teacher of Form 1 Room 1 (1Rm) in the junior school. 1Rm student, Zavel Edwards, 12, spoke on behalf of his classmates and urged the Matthews family to keep the faith during this sad time.

Past students of Matthews were also still trying to come to terms with the passing of the much loved educator.

Sixteen-year old Nikita Seaton said Matthews’s death “left a gap within everybody”. Seaton, who first met Matthews when she was appointed her form teacher two years ago, admitted she “didn’t really believe it until they announced her death” at a special general assembly last Thursday, 12 March 2009.

Another former student, Krystal Hadaway, 15, said, “Of the many teachers I’ve come across, I’ve never met anyone like her.”

Geovanni Williams, 18, said Matthews made learning a great experience for him. Her passing, he said, “burned his heart,” as she was a teacher whom he really loved.

Kimberly Rodney, 14, who met the deceased during her first year at J.P. Eustace Secondary, said Matthews was “the best teacher [she] ever had” and declared that no one could ever replace her.

A five-year veteran of the school, Matthews developed many friendships outside the staff room. Adina Bushay who works in the school’s tuck shop described Matthews as a teacher who looked out for the welfare of all students and said she would be “greatly missed.”

The school’s Office Attendant, Golda Lewis echoed sentiments, commenting on Matthew’s amiable and approachable nature.

Latana McLean who replaced Matthews as Form teacher when she left on maternity leave is expected to remain in that role for the foreseeable future.

As part of the day’s activities, a number of teachers and other school personnel were expected to visit Ever Ready Funeral home, where Matthews’s body would be available for viewing before scheduled interment on Sunday, 22 March 2009.

Dionne Matthews will be laid to rest at the Kingstown Cemetery, following a 2:30pm funeral service at the Kingstown Seventh Day Adventist Church, at Sharpe Street.

She leaves behind her husband of almost a decade, Cammie and their two children.

In related news, account 130912 has been set up at the National Commercial Bank for persons wishing to provide financial assistance to the Matthews family.