25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
First of all, what is a pupil teacher? A pupil teacher was a person who had just graduated from primary school or Standard Six and entered the teaching profession in the same school. It was the principal of the school who acknowledged that such a person was smart and had the characteristics to become a teacher. This happened because there was a shortage of trained teachers, so it was a remedy to a situation. Pupil teachers existed all over the country and in San Pedro we had some that we shall never forget. Of course a pupil teacher had to study. She had to take the pupil teacher’s examination and then third class teacher, second class teacher and finally first class teacher. Some pupil teachers passed all their exams, but others repeated the exams year after year and never got to become First Class Teachers.
Some of the most popular pupil teachers were Leonor Paz Trejo, Marthita Forman Leslie, Eloina Cardenez, Nila Aguilar Muñoz, Pinita Gomez Verde, Bertha Gomez Graniel, Gaspar Lara, Eiden Salazar, Emerita Nuñez Graniel, George Kumul and Amelia Guerrero Nuñez. Of these, perhaps the most remembered pupil teacher was Marthita Forman because she is said to have been the best reading teacher ever. Many parents talk about how good she was in teaching phonics and sharing an easy way to teaching spelling and reading. She was a dedicated teacher for over 25 years and when she left the teaching profession at the R.C. School, parents became very sad about this. Another dedicated pupil teacher who helped many children learn the Three R’s (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) was Mr. George Kumul. He too dedicated a lifetime to children until he decided to work at the Caribeña Fishing Cooperative.
We used to love our pupil teachers more than the principal. At recess time we used to want to clean his/her desk and be near him/her. In the evenings we used to fight to hold his/her hand and walk down the street. They were all neatly dressed and the village looked up highly at them. They were the best you could find in San Pedro at the time. We were proud of them and they were proud to be pupil teachers.
Some pupil teachers we remember were very mean. They would put us to kneel on bottle stoppers, beat us with sticks, placed books in our hands held out horizontally, hit our knuckles with sticks, pinched us until we bled, kept us locked up during lunch break, and the worse one, put us over a bench to warm up our buttocks with a rope or whip. It seemed like they were there to punish more than to teach. We remember one who used to pinch us until our skin was under her nails, and then she would say: “You see; that is why you should not have long finger nails.” Others were caught romancing with the principal. Others spent more time gossiping with colleagues, rather than teaching. Some really did not care if we learned, but others were very diligent and caring. That is why we cannot forget Marthita and George. They really touched the children’s lives.
Some pupil teachers in the 1950’s were earning about twenty dollars a month. If they passed their examinations, they would receive an increment. Some pupil teachers built up a good relationship with everybody, while others built hatred and many of them were threatened by parents. They were young and not trained. But that is all we had and the schools had to make the best use of them. Twenty Five Years Ago salutes the pupil teachers of the past.