When Gina Mullings was diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy 13 years ago, she began questioning her mortality, her family’s future and her chosen profession.
The condition causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in the hands and feet, and has essentially caused Mullings to be categorised as disabled. Thanks, however, to the love and support of her immediate and extended family, as well as her village of loyal friends, she has found the strength to continue giving her best to the people in her life and her students at St Catherine High School.
It is this drive and determination to be both strong and great, which led to her being awarded the LASCO, Ministry for Education and Youth, Jamaica Teaching Council Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Teacher of the Year for 2022/2023.
“I am very agile; I am adaptable and flexible. I love children. I love it when the children do well because I am cognisant when they do well, their success is mine. In the same way I feel that when they don’t do well, their failure is mine also even if I would have done my best. I believe that I have worked really hard and I am deserving of this award,” Mullings said in an interview.
JOURNEY INTO TEACHING
The 30-year veteran and master home economics teacher didn’t always know she wanted to be a teacher, and found herself at the then MICO Teacher’s College (now, The Mico University College) after high school largely due to her father’s persuasion.
“It wasn’t until I went to Mico that my potential really started to burst out there and I saw that I’m a teacher. I’m a natural teacher. When my father died tragically in my second year, it was devastating and I realised that I really had to push because he was the breadwinner for the family. So, I doubled down and did the very best that I could and I came out doing very well,” she said.
But even after copping two of the Mico’s prestigious awards en route to graduating, Mullings was still unsure about entering the teaching profession. She was on the verge of taking a job at a chemical company, when one of her teachers called and told her to march herself to St. Catherine High School for an interview. She went, aced the interview and started the following week. The rest, as they say, is history.
“If you know that you don’t love to be a teacher, leave it alone because it burns you out if you don’t have that kind of ‘stick-to-it-iveness’. Leave it alone and go find what you love.”
CAPACITY BUILDING AND POURING INTO SELF
She continued: “Pour into yourself personally, build yourself professionally. You have to complain a little, because you can’t go around pretending that everything is perfect. But I believe in walking with my own sunshine, so that wherever I go and it rains, I just pull it out. I also can’t stop talking about professional development because that helps too in dealing with your emotional and psychological development.”
The wife and mother of four stresses the value of personal development in building a successful career, noting that it helped her carve out her own niche.
“My friends call me the PD junkie because if it is free, I am on it. If I have to pay a little for it I consider it an investment because it helps to build me as a person. I realised early that the horizontal reach was my way of progression, because the vertical reach was very slim at the top. And so, I invested very much in personal development. And it caused me to develop into the kind of teacher that students crave to have. I believe that I bring value to my students and my colleagues with whom I work.”
To young teachers looking to follow in her footsteps Mullings advises carefully crafting and curating their electronic portfolios so they can readily take advantage of opportunities that come their way.
“It’s very important from now to start putting the body of your work in a central place so that when opportunity comes knocking you have it in a central place. Build your capacity, build your portfolio so that when the master teacher opportunity comes up, you can take advantage. There are many avenues of growth and development and remuneration,” she said.
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