JC’s Diego Hines — short man with heart of a giant

MONTEGO BAY, St James — Although being regarded physically as short, Diego Hines managed to achieved many things that giants could not.

The teacher of chemistry at Jamaica College who died last week after suffering a stroke, aged 36, has been described by his father, Horace, a reporter at the Jamaica Observer, as one who was passionate about whatever he found favour with.

The older Hines was among those who spoke with the Jamaica Observer last week, while offering chronicles of a young man who promised much more.

Hines is remembered fondly for his passion for basketball. His father stated that he developed this love for sports as a boy.

“He was very athletic. He represented William Knibb High School in basketball and when he went to Cornwall College for sixth form, he also represented them,” Horace said.

“He used to play cricket and football, but he excelled in basketball [though] he was a very short individual. He was instrumental in organising a basketball club in Falmouth,” he added.

The deceased teacher was also remembered as a well-rounded individual who exemplified a good spirit and showed love in everything that he did.

“He was fun-loving and very supportive of his family. He loved people as a whole and he got along well with everybody. A lot of people don’t know this, but he would write a lot of songs and he loved to rap,” Horace said of his eldest son.

Horace told the Sunday Observer that the Hines family remains devastated by the loss. The chemistry teacher was found unresponsive on the floor of his Kingston home on December 20. He died six days later.

Hines, who celebrated his 36th birthday earlier in December, is the second JC teacher to die in a week. The school’s Visual Arts teacher Jeovannie Baxter died of COVID-related illness.

According to acting principal of Jamaica College Wayne Robinson, the school has been dealt a hard blow due to the untimely deaths. He, too, shared fond memories of Hines who was also the subject coordinator for chemistry at the all-boy institution.

“He was an excellent teacher. He taught the love for chemistry and he exemplified good skills. He was engaging and he made chemistry come to life. He had a very good sense of humour and some very dry jokes, but that’s a part of what endeared him to us,” Robinson said.

Robinson added, “This has been the most difficult period for Jamaica College. We have lost two teachers within the space of a week. We are all confused, hurt, and grieving. The whole school has been rocked by this.”

He told the Sunday Observer that the love Hines had for basketball followed him throughout his professional life as he was the staff representative for the school’s basketball team.

“Every match he would be there with the boys,” said Robinson.

But Hines wasn’t only dedicated to his students through sports, the acting principal pointed out.

“Last year we had 24 boys sitting CAPE Chemistry Unit 1. Nine of them got a grade one…some got a grade two, but nobody [failed]. He was a champion teacher and an excellent man. Jamaica College will have a significant void. We don’t know what we are going to do,” Robinson told the Sunday Observer.

Head of the Science department at Jamaica College Wayne Phinn dubbed Hines as his “brother”. With the fond times they shared now memories, Phinn said the chemistry teacher will be greatly missed.

“I encouraged him to sign up to become a CXC [Caribbean Examinations Council] marker in chemistry and he got through, and he was just constantly blooming in his craft. He was also recommended to be named Teacher of the Year. He was just excellent. He prides himself on being one of the best chemistry teachers in Jamaica. He was very passionate about the subject area and his students,” Phinn said.

Noting that Hines was deeply loved by his colleagues at Jamaica College, Phinn told the Sunday Observer that teachers were in the process of organising a strategy to ensure that they lent assistance to him after receiving news that he suffered a stroke.

“It was touching. We immediately thought about how we could help to support him back to health. We were also planning chain visiting,” he said.

Hines’s colleague Chueyen McIntyre will now have a hard time picking up the pieces. The two shared a relationship that went far beyond the four walls of their workstations. Though Hines was his supervisor, McIntyre told the Sunday Observer that their enrollment in a Master’s programme saw them growing closer and developing a personal bond.

“We were sharing materials and discussing different things about education and how we can improve teaching chemistry. We would call each other for advice sometimes,” McIntyre said.

“There was never any moment of tension or disagreements. He was always motivating. We helped each other when it came on to strategies for teaching. It was always a good experience being around Diego in the department because he was never loud or angry,” he added.

McIntyre told the Sunday Observer that he will never forget when he learned of Hines’ passing. He said that after learning that Hines suffered from a stroke last week Tuesday, he was hopeful that he would have pulled through. However, he passed away in the wee hours of Monday morning, December 26.

“I was at home when I saw the message in the staff WhatsApp group that Diego had a stroke and was in the hospital. I rushed there because it didn’t seem real. I live close by so I visited him and tried to support the family, along with the rest of the school. We were there Sunday night when he was discharged from the hospital and we were quite hopeful that he would have recovered. But around 2:00 on Monday morning I got the call from his brother and it is still in my mind right now the crying that I heard,” McIntyre said.

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