January 2019 Volume 15

Remembering Mrs. Sylvia Barber

Dr. Hugh Vaughan
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Mrs Sylvia Joyce Barber (nee Ho-Shue) was an outstanding teacher who spent several years at Kingston College. She taught me zoology and Botany and is probably the most influential teacher in my life.

I recall my joining Mrs Barber’s classes after Senior Cambridge when I started Zoology and Botany in sixth form in 1963. She was every schoolboy’s ideal teacher, pretty, soft spoken, pleasant, helpful and keenly interested in each student’s wellbeing.

She prepared for her classes and introduced to us field trips. She marked our essays with in depth comments, which indicated that she knew whose paper she was marking. Her writing on the blackboard was neat and almost perfect. Those days we did not have audio-visual projectors and diagrams and tables had to be drawn on the black board with chalk. The biology lab soon became the favourite place for our group.

Collection of specimens for practicals were adventures which we all anticipated eagerly, from Palisadoes road for semi-desert environment to the water commission plant at Cavaliers on Maurescaux Rd for toads for dissection.

Most of us were shamed into bravery when we saw how comfortably she handled the toads while we were squeamish about touching them. We had to “man-up” to match her.

She was the kind of teacher for whom you put on your best behavior and manners. You wanted her to think highly of you. As a result she had no disciplinary problems.

Some concepts which she introduced to us I can still recall her voice saying them like internal homeostasis, chloroplasts embryology, and mesenchyme. palisadade cells, root pressure, transpiration pull, respiration, and stomata.

Years after I left school she asked me to help with the science magazine, which she was producing -- my heart swelled with joy in helping after so many years.

As a medical student, I witnessed her at her lowest ebb when her son was brought in to Casualty UHWI for attention. I witnessed then her human frailty, a mother devastated by the loss of a son.

At one of the KC Choir concerts I saw her and expressed our gratitude to her for her teaching years. Mrs. Barber loved music and took it up at a late stage in life demonstrating her ability to continually strive for improvement in life.

I recall Prof Wilks in his tribute at her funeral relating his recollections of her. The selection of subjects allowed to a student at KC gave some alternatives, e.g. Biology or Ad -maths, history or physics. He and some others did physics in place of biology. When he reached sixth form he realized that biology was a prerequisite for medical school, a group approached Mrs Barber and asked her to prepare them for A levels despite their not doing biology at “O” levels. She in her usual facilitatory manner agreed and taught them all successfully with all receiving competitive grades to enter UWI medical faculty and are medical doctors today.

Sylvia Joyce Barber was an excellent family person. Members of her family whom I met later are a direct reflection of her excellence.

Kingston College,, school, staff and the entire KC community was blessed to have her on our campus as a teacher for 20 years. God bless you Mrs. Barber, rest in peace.

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