Karen Barber Olajuwon, originally from Porus in Manchester, Jamaica, and a teacher at George Mason Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia, has been recognized with an award for excellence in teaching. She is one of several Richmond Public School teachers to be so honored. Sixteen winners were selected from a group of 116 nominees for the Ruby & Esther Bunzl (REB) Awards, which are given every year. The awards were presented to the winners at an event held at the Virginia Historical Society on November 13. Olajuwon received a grant of US$12,000 to attend workshops in Barbados and the United States designed to promote poetry writing and the use of poetry as a tool for instruction and an outlet for traumatic experiences.
Olajuwon traveled to the US as a participant in the Visiting International Faculty (VIF) teaching program in 2007 and was placed at George Mason Elementary School, Previous to this, Olajuwon attended the DeCarteret College and Alpha Academy and was a teacher at Jack’s Hill infant and All-Age School in St. Andrew. She also taught at Angels Primary in St. Catherine.
Even before receiving the REB Award, Olajuwon had been honored for her excellence in teaching with the Teacher of the Year award for 2016-2017. She has served as grade-level chair at the school since 2016, as a mentor teacher in 2017, as a lead teacher from 2013 to the present in history/social science, and has been the coordinator of the Red Cross committee since 2010.
Olajuwon was she was delighted to be recognized for her teaching, saying that what motivates her is the “look of wonderment that lights a child’s eyes when a breakthrough is achieved.” She is excited by students who appreciate the extra tutoring she gives and by former students who return to visit and tell her she was the best teacher they ever had. She wants to inspire her students to become lifelong learners and to become contributors to building the nation. Olajuwon says teaching is more than a profession for her; it is a vocation that is closely linked to her identity.” I consider myself to be much more than a teacher who imparts academic knowledge. I am a motivator, a molder, and an inspiration to my students.”
The RPS winners of the 2017 REB Excellence Award were (pictured l to r, with Interim Superintendent Tommy Kranz) Christine Muse, Frenishee Smith, Karen Barber-Olajuwon, and Tiana Addai-Mensah.
Information and Photo Source: Richmond Public School