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Nandi Stewart – student, parent, teacher – My 42 Years at Immaculate

I was so excited to start Immaculate Conception High School in 1972; it was my Enid Blyton boarding school stories come true, not that I was going to board but it was a Catholic all girl school run by nuns and what on earth was a “Jippy Jappa Hat?”

I was coming to Jamaica from Wales via Englewood High School (USA). There were three life changing things I learned at Immaculate Conception High in the two years I attended: I learned to love Jamaica from the civic classes, I learned to love the Lord from the religion classes and I learned to accept responsibility for my actions. Sister Maureen Clare was a strict disciplinarian but she was fair.

At 16, however, it hadn’t seemed that way. I remember going home and complaining to my mum about something. My mum came to school to defend her poor little darling. Well, by the time teacher’s point of view was stated I quickly learned about half truths, perspective and accountability.

I forgot about Immaculate until I had my first child – but there was no question which school she would attend, I rushed to register her at the “Best Prep. School in Jamaica” and so began another chapter of my life at Immaculate, this time at the Prep. School. My oldest daughter was quite a character so I was advised to join the HSA as a measure of good faith.

My youngest daughter started ICPS three years afterwards. She was a “softy” and cried after lunch every day for the first term. I was taken aback by how caring the teachers were and how patient, I received many helpful tips for managing my darlings. I was thrilled with the Christmas concerts, the Friday assemblies, the Easter stories, and the values and morals exemplified by the staff and inculcated into the daily lives of the girls they influenced. Teachers expected a high standard of work from the girls, who always delivered. In those days, Common Entrance was taken in Grade 5, my youngest was not at all happy when the decision was made to add a grade so that Common Entrance would be sat in Grade 6 so she had another year of school.

By this time I was school librarian working under the watchful eye of Sister Basil who was ready for retirement. I knew the school’s values and was thrilled to become a staff member; imagine my delight to find that Mrs. Harrison was still in the office, Miss Mendes, Miss Mitchell, Miss Petrie, Miss Reid (art) and Miss Reid (grade 6) Mrs. Lewis, Mrs. Jackson, Miss Haye and Mrs. Williams, – they were all still here, it was like coming home. All was wonderful until I attended my first teacher training session with none other than Sister Maureen Clare. Honestly, she walked in looking exactly the same as 30 years before; I swear her right eyebrow raised just a little as she said “Yes, I remember Nandi Wilson!” There I was, a big married woman with three kids feeling just like a stuttering 3” inch tall pupil standing in front of her principal.

Anyway, my life has come full circle on this beautifully manicured property. This school has represented an oasis of calm in an ever changing hectic world, a garden of nurturing for teacher, student and parents who would allow the lessons to permeate their hearts and minds. In my tenure here, I have known several principals, Sister Maureen Clare, Sister Mary, Sister Mary Catherine, Miss Mendes and now Mrs. Jackson. What a joy and privilege it is to be a part of a child’s formative years, we are thrilled when a past students comes back to share their success, it means we are doing something right. Immaculate Conception Prep School is a “Pillar of Character” school. The morals and values taught, discussed, exemplified and lived here help form the moral character of your daughter. Here she meets Jesus and is assured of His loving kindness. Invisible values and emotional security that can’t be bought in a shop yet form the basis for each decent human being on the planet.

I am grateful for Immaculate Conception Schools, I love my job, I see how important it is for parents and teachers to work together to mold a happy successful child. I take great pleasure in the women my daughters have become through the influence of their teachers at Immaculate. It has not always been rosy but even in adversity there are lessons to be learned. My daughters are taking their place in Jamaica’s society and making a difference in their fields of endeavor. They are disciplined, they have strong opinions, excellent work ethics and high moral values all imparted at home and duplicated here.

Immaculate is still a relevant school, good ethics and core values will never go out of style no matter how much technology progresses. You have chosen Immaculate for your daughters; trust us to do right by them. Don’t be too quick to fight their battles for them, let them learn the tough lessons of responsibility and accountability here in this loving environment; it’s a tough world that we are preparing them for; always remember Immaculate Conception Schools are in the business of creating “Phenomenal Women.”

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