For almost 42 years, Michelle Beache poured herself into her career as an educator in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) who strived to impart not just knowledge but life skills into each student she encountered.
On March 31, Beache, the headmistress of the Girls’ High School (GHS) was honoured by the staff and students for her years of service with a surprise farewell ceremony as she ventures off on pre-retirement leave.
After working for more than four decades, the educator told SEARCHLIGHT that she was relieved to be starting this next journey of her life.
Beache, who is known to be an exceptional teacher of French, began her career in teaching at the Emmanuel High School, Mesopotamia in 1980.
She also taught at the St Martin’s Secondary School before joining the staff at the Girls’ High School in 2002.
Madame Beache, as she is affectionately called, served as the deputy headmistress at the all-girl institution before later being appointed headmistress.
“One of the things I liked in terms of teaching, or I did was to try to make my classes as lively as possible and to make children like the subject that I taught because I felt my enthusiasm for my subject area should be visible and should rub off on my students,” she said.
It is this same enthusiasm, her little chuckles at things that happened in class, and gentle encouragement that redound to the fond memories of many of her past students.
There are also many memorable moments scattered throughout Madame Beache’s career.
These include being chosen to represent the Caribbean at an International Congress for French Teachers in Greece, and escorting several students to the Défi Lycéens French Singing Competition in Martinique — a competition won by GHS student, Kelsie Haynes in 2012.
She also recounts being able to assist in the commencement of the new wing of the Emmanuel High School Mesopotamia and at one point, being the only female teacher at the St Martin’s Secondary School.
But the educator told SEARCHLIGHT that the highlight of her career was “the students who have been most troublesome; that you would’ve had to work with a lot, to see that they have moved from one stage to the next, and you see the progress they have made in their lives and then coming back to say thank you for the help you’ve given to them”.
Beache noted that in the three schools at which she has served she has witnessed many of those students excel and move on to contribute meaningfully in a wide variety of careers.
The headmistress noted that her faith and prayers have helped to keep her grounded in her profession over the years, and encouraged teachers currently in the service, and those who will enter, to consider making it a part of their routine.
“Some people downplay that a lot but it is one of the keys in being successful in anything that you do. I wake up at 5 o’clock or before, every morning to pray because teaching is an extremely challenging profession and unless you have that divine help and strength, sometimes you will not be able to make wise decisions. You will not be able to keep a level head, you will not be able to contain yourself in some situations that present themselves,” she said.
Madame Beache said that teachers must be convinced that the path they have chosen is in fact where they want to be “because if you don’t love what you do, then you’re going to always have a problem”.
“As a teacher, it is not just the academics. That is just one of the important parts of the profession. However you must teach the entire person. By that I mean you must not just look at educating the students with the various subjects on the curriculum but educating them for life,” she said. “So you must teach them if you teach them about manners, you have to teach them about God, you have to teach them about fairness…empathy, appreciating life and the value of working hard, honesty.”
Beache has already commenced her pre-retirement leave.
The educator expressed her sincerest gratitude to deputy headmistress of the GHS, Athalie Caine-Soleyn, and the staff and students of the school for what was truly a surprise when they hosted a special farewell ceremony for her on March 31.
As she goes off into retirement, Beache foresees that she will be spending quite a bit of time doing community work and nurturing her love for gardening by working on her plants.