Grade 6 Teacher of the Year – Paul G. Knowles – was the moderator for ‘Mr. Thompson Day,’ which was held at Central Abaco Primary School (CAPS) on Dec. 2.
Following the entrance of the most distinguished honouree, Leroy Thompson, and his guests, the ceremony commenced under the theme: “Central Abaco Primary celebrates Mr. Leroy Thompson – ‘An Educator Worthy of Honour’.”
Thompson, who retired earlier in the year after 45 years of teaching excellence, was emotional throughout the ceremony as the staff and students celebrated him in grand style wearing aquamarine T-shirts brandishing the occasion’s theme.
The National Anthem, Pledge of Allegiance and prayer by Grade 6 student Faith Francis were the first items on the program complimented by the welcome and purpose by students of Grade 4 Clarke.
Cheri Rolle, whose son attends the school, sang an inspiring song to Thompson before pre-schoolers and Grade 1 students were invited to the stage for their presentation.
As the first speaker, Teacher Neulessa Major gave a tribute to Thompson, a man whom she calls her best friend.
“For more than 40 years, Mr. Thompson taught and transformed lives throughout the length and breadth of The Bahamas. He is sadly missed by this institution,” Major expressed. “He is much more than a teacher to me. He is a true friend, an inspiration, a prayer partner, a guardian angel, a counselor, a shoulder to lean on in good times and in bad, he is a comforting phone call and a future partner.
“Leroy Thompson is an extraordinary man.”
There was an outstanding selection performed by the school’s Culture Club, a powerful liturgical dance by Malena Liberal, and a tribute in song by the Staff Chorale. Another presentation was given by students from Grades 2, 3 & 4.
Next, there was a skit called: “Who is Dis Mr. T?” performed by the school’s Fine Arts Department, which was written by Rodney Smith. The skit involved four ladies sitting in a beauty salon setting trying to find out who Mr. Thompson is because they always heard people talking about him. One of the ladies who was attracted to Mr. Thompson could only report back to her friends that he was indeed a family man, who worked hard, and that he was also a good teacher to the students and got along with his colleagues.
After the skit, more presentations of gifts were made by students of Grades 5 and 6 as well as members of the PTA Board members to Thompson.
Final remarks were made by Leroy Thompson, who was overcome with emotion after the show of love and gratitude by Central Abaco Primary.
“I looked around for a coffin, and I realized one was not there. Then, I realized that I was not dead. I also looked around, and I didn’t see Jesus because if I was dead, I would have been beholding Him in all of His glory.
“This kind of setting, this kind of show and array of love normally happens when you are laid out in front of a church service, and they are giving you the flowers and the roses, but you can’t smell them. But today you have showed me love beyond measure, love beyond depths, love beyond heights, I mean love that goes beyond any words that we can pen,” he ended as tears shone in his eyes.
Thompson thanked all who attended the ceremony in support of him before sharing several experiences as an educator over the years. One memory stayed with him concerning a student who needed his shoes tied. Thompson said that although he did not want to tie the boy’s shoe, he heard a still voice instructing him to tie the shoe.
“The moral of the story is you never know whose shoes you are tying.”
Another powerful moment was when he followed a little boy who kept disappearing around lunch time at school to consume bread blackened by mold in hiding. Every day after that, Thompson would provide lunch for the boy.
Years later, Thompson pulled up into a gas station where he noticed a man who kept staring at him. As he looked back at the man puzzled, the gentleman introduced himself as the same little boy who he assisted with lunch all those years ago. He was now the owner of the gas station.
As a boy himself, life was not always easy for Thompson, who grew up in Fox Town. He recalled having one kerosene lamp in the household, and he could only use the lamp to complete his home-work once the adults were finished using it. He had to go next door to borrow his neighbour’s geometry set when he had math home-work. He was most grateful to his teacher who paid for his examinations, so he could graduate.
“No matter the environment, you can be the best you can be,” Thompson assured the students. “So when I blow my whistle three times, I want you all to stand up and say, ‘Yes, we can!’”
He particularly thanked his colleagues Geoffrey Victor, who he taught alongside as a physical education teacher for 12 years; Eunice Mills, former principal at CAPS; and Principal Beatrice Moxey, who he shares a special relationship with.
The vote of thanks was given by Moxey, who told Thompson that the staff and students have great love for him.
“You have a precious gem; treasure him while you have him,” Moxey said to all in attendance. “Mr. Thompson on your retirement, you are just beginning.”
The ceremony ended with a motorcade from the school grounds to Latterrain Ministries Inc. where a luncheon was held for Thompson.