HE was a teacher for more than half his life and his hundreds of students all cherish the lessons and values imparted while under his tutelage.
His name, for them, Teacher Forbes; but he introduces himself as Roydel C Forbes.
On Independence Day, August 6, 2022, Forbes was honoured during a special service at Jerusalem Heights Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) Church in Westmoreland by a group of his past students from Middlesex Corner School in Hanover.
The now 90-year-old, who lives in Jerusalem Heights, smiled brightly as he saw the faces of his former pupils. Among them were Calvert Larmond, now CEO of Larmond’s in Savanna-la-Mar; Sylvia Williamson Hickling, nurse; Evelyn Jones, retired education officer in the Ministry of Education; Myrtle Summers Powell, who lives in the United States; Hector Jones, retired Customs officer; Dr Sonia Jones; and Dr John D Kelly, educator, journalist, and author.
In his message, Governor General Sir Patrick Allen wrote: “Even as we mark Jamaica’s Diamond Jubilee, we pause to honour the work of Roydel C Forbes.
“Forbes, it is because of dedicated teachers like you that Jamaica can stand boldly in celebration of this our Diamond Jubilee. Teachers are a critical part of sound national development and are fundamental to the formation of ideologies and philosophies concerning nationhood, identity and character.
“…I join your [students] from Middlesex Corner School in Hanover in celebrating you today, with over four decades of teaching to your credit, 14 of which pre-dates Jamaica’s Independence. You are truly a stalwart of the profession.
“May the just reward of heaven be your potion. May God bless you, and may God bless Jamaica, land we love.”
President of The Mico University College Dr Ashburn Pinnock, in tribute, wrote: “Roydel Forbes, Teacher Forbes, you have [been] dedicated… to the most noble profession, and have positively impacted more lives than even you can imagine. Many celebrated Jamaicans, local and global movers, shakers, and wave makers; educators; policymakers; school administrators; scientists; entrepreneurs, have passed through your hands.”
Dr Pinnock noted that teacher effectiveness is crucial to student success, and the achievements of many of Forbes’ students are testament to his effectiveness.
“With excellence as your hallmark for almost half of a century you helped students find their purpose and maximise their potential as you moved from assistant teacher to pre-trained teacher to graduate of The Mico, and finally principal.
“Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” said Dr Pinnock.
Forbes served as assistant teacher at Middlesex Corner School 1948-1951, then as pre-trained teacher 1951-1960. He enrolled in Mico Teachers’ College from 1961 to 1963 and returned to Middlesex Corner School following his graduation. After two full years, during which he taught both academics and woodwork, in 1965 he was welcomed by Upper Rock Spring All-Age School in Westmoreland, where he eventually became principal until his retirement in 1996.
Dr Kelly, in presenting a tribute on behalf of the group of students, addressed Teacher Forbes:
“As children, in our tender years at Middlesex Corner School, some of us just in our second year at school, we remember you being firm in discipline, but [we experienced] the gentle, loving care you exhibited as a man, and your craftiness as a teacher in making us understand the lessons you wished to teach us. You were very patient, never ever shouting at us when we made mistakes, never making extraordinary big exes on our slates, and later in our books, in disgust, as some other teachers did; and our successes were highlighted by big bold hook sticks.
“We all, like Myrtle Summers, remember your distinct, deep tone of voice, your well-kept black beard, and your artistic gift of drawing and writing…
“Now that we are adults, and fully understand that some excellent teachers are not good human beings, and some teachers are excellent human beings, but not good teachers, we laud you for being an excellent teacher and an excellent human being…
“You have given your whole adult life in dedicative service to the teaching profession, having started teaching as a young adult in 1948 after you completed successfully your First, Second, and Third Jamaica Local Examinations…
“You have served our country very well in successfully educating its children entrusted in your care at one of the most delicate and difficult stages of their lives. [As an educator], you have presented Jamaica, and many parts of the world, with some of the finest professionals in many fields. Your service to Jamaica went beyond the classroom, you served as justice of the peace and lay magistrate since 1976, touching the lives of many people… without prejudice. You have also served Dias SDA Church, as first elder, as well as this church where you are being honoured in today.
“So we say with one voice, ‘Long live Teacher Roydel Forbes! We salute you. You are our giant of an icon in the field of education and in love for humanity.’ “
President of West Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Glen O Samuels, through his representatives — pastors A Wallace, LG James, and Delgardo Black — praised Teacher Forbes for faithfully serving his country and his God over these many years.
For his part, Jamaica Teachers’ Association President Winston Smith hailed Forbes as “a stalwart teacher in the profession” and thanked him for his service of example to generations of teachers.
In response to the tributes Teacher Forbes thanked his students and the others in attendance at the service.
In true form, he expressed disappointment that Education Minister Fayval Williams did not respond to the invitation to attend the service. He also lamented that administrations from both political parties seemed “out of line with the thinking of educators” and charged that greater effort needed to be made to have a teacher appointed minister of education.
Forbes said he had no regrets for his service as a teacher and would do it all over again.