An assemblage of the past presidents. *Pictures courtesy of Shawn Simmons -  FOTOGENIK Photography and DiBBs BDA
An assemblage of the past presidents. *Pictures courtesy of Shawn Simmons - FOTOGENIK Photography and DiBBs BDA

Hearts were touched, spirits lifted and tears cascaded like the waters of Niagara Falls as the Bermuda Union of Teachers celebrated its 95th Anniversary on Saturday, February 1st 2014. Member, Johnny Woolridge received the prestigious, first time ever unveiled, Founders Award of Excellence.  His ground-breaking song “Proud to Be Bermudian” quickly became the highly acclaimed people’s anthem, stirring the souls of all Bermudians during difficult times.  This landmark melody and lyrics encouraged the nation to rise to its’ inheritance of resilience, becoming our “unofficial” anthem.   The Teacher's Union paid tangible tribute and said thanks to one of Bermuda’s cultural icons.

The keynote was delivered by the dynamic, relevantly insightful and inspirational,  Rev. Nicholas Tweed.  This remarkable spiritual leader said, “The burden is ours to inform our children of the great and noble past that is ours.  To inform our children that education is not a commodity to be sold and marketed in the labour place… there is a greater burden placed upon them beyond just making a living but they have a burden to contribute to the advancement of their community and the liberation of our people.”  He captured the hearts of all in attendance and challenged them to practice the awesome tradition of struggle and leadership that their founders bequeathed. 

Members, Nishanthi Bailey, Dean Foggo, Laurel Burns and Nicole Grant drew members into a historical vortex through their dramatic enactment of the Union’s intriguing timeline.  Starting from 1919, at the graveside meeting where the seed was planted, bringing us right up to the present, their dramatized pieced was remarkable.

BUT’s new President, Shannon James issued the following statement: “Our anniversary today was about the legacy of teaching well.  It’s about shaping lives for this life and the life to come, it’s about encouragement, it’s about overcoming, it’s about working together and it’s about tilting students’ energies towards greatness.  As architects of society, this is mandatory, especially now in these uncertain times.”

In attendance was an assemblage of the past presidents whose presence was a shining light.  Each reminded attendees of the public service and grace that being a teacher and a leader requires. As living memorials, they motivated the Union to climb every mountain, cross any valley and ride through every storm.

The 95th anniversary was an intergenerational experience.  Emcee for the event, Mrs. Rochelle Bean acknowledged special guests such as the Hon. Dr. Grant Gibbons, the Minister of Education & Economic Development, Past Presidents and General Secretaries of the BUT, Dr. Eva Hodgson, Glen Fubler, Clevelyn Crichlow, Joann Adams, Anthony Wolffe, Dr. Joseph Christopher, Dale Butler, Ellen-Kate Horton, Keisha Douglas, Walter Stevens and Milton Scott. Those in attendance commented that this experience was a mixture of recollection, envisioning and bridge building.  It was observed that retirees were radiating with wisdom and present teachers were vibrating with energy in what was clearly an unforgettable connection.

Principal Gladstone Thompson opened with a prayer in which he challenged Union members to evoke God’s guidance.  Vice President, Anthony Wolffe led all in attendance, who, with a sense of readiness to face the future, sang heartily the words of the song "Solidarity Forever - For the Union Makes Us Strong!"