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Esther Tyson Bows Out

Esther Tyson Bows Out - Educator Closes A Long Connection With Ardenne High

Published:Sunday | August 14, 2011 | 8:00 AM

Mel Cooke, Sunday Gleaner Writer

Esther Tyson has already spent her final day with students at Ardenne High School, St Andrew, where she has been principal for 11 years. It was a send-off to remember, and Tyson who, after two stints at Ardenne (the first a brief return to her alma mater) after a couple years at Manchester High and over a decade at St Andrew High, does not wear the aura of a hard-boiled educator, says tears came to her eyes. 

"You know they clapped, because they were determined they were going to make me cry," she said in a recent interview.

"We usually have a closing ceremony the last day of school for the children. I figured they would do something because it was the last day that the students were going to see me. And it became one over-the-top something! They went on! They had my head prefects over the years lining the hall ... . I said 'How did they go and get all of these young people who are very busy in their jobs, and whatever, to be there?'" Tyson said.

Seasons of life

She goes on pre-retirement leave on August 31 and full retirement at the end of September.

"It's early retirement. I decided I needed be more flexible for my family, and I have other things I need to do. I believe life comes in seasons and I think it is time for me to go into another season of my life. I know I want to write. I have a number of writing projects that I want to do. I am going to do some online tutoring to keep my hands in there, and also some projects with the Ministry of Education. And I have more work to do with church," Tyson said.

But let's back up a few years. There were tears near to the starting point of her association with Ardenne, not because of students or teachers, but because of the boarding situation in which she, the typical "girl from country", found herself. She came from Chapelton, Clarendon, after finishing at Chapelton Primary, to a hostile living environment in Kingston.

Ardenne was an automatic choice not only because it was affiliated with the same denomination in which Tyson's father ministered and pastored 10 churches, but it was also his dream to see his children attend the Ardenne Road institution. He was trained at the Jamaica Bible Institute, the precursor to Ardenne High. Three of the six children did and the others went to Clarendon College.

He got his wish, but initially, it turned out to be a nightmare for the then Esther Simpson. "It was very traumatic, because the person that I lived with for my first year abused me - physically, emotionally, verbally. I ran away at age 11 from where I was living," Tyson said.

She took only one thing with her - the book she had borrowed from the library. The only place she knew in Kingston apart from "school, church, and the shop next door" was a cousin's home in Pembroke Hall. The boarding facilities were off Hagley Park Road.

"One Saturday, I just said I was going to the library, because I was always going to the library, and she had gone to the market, and I just started walking. Afterwards, I realised I had walked to Six Miles. And I didn't have any money. I stopped at the bus stop and asked this lady how to find Pembroke Hall," Tyson said. The lady not only gave Tyson directions, but also asked if she had money. "I said 'No, my mother never gave me any'. So she gave me 'truppance'," Tyson laughed heartily as she recalled, "and said 'is penny ha'penny for the bus fare'."

She eventually found her refuge, and in short order, Daddy turned up. The woman from whom Tyson had fled had sent a message on the bus that passed the family house in Chapelton - "Esther had run away."

Tyson ended up living with her form teacher, Laura Beckford, near the end of first form "and my life changed". That went for her "long, thick" hair, which Tyson had been unable to manage herself, to the uniforms which she could not manage, and, therefore, "did not look right" and moving in a small bed in the same room as the little girl to keep her company until she was settled.

A new beginning

"I went to school and everybody was in shock because this is Esther Simpson whose hair is now combed properly; my uniform is properly ironed; my lunch is packed. I felt so special. That woman has a space in my heart. When she died at 100-and-odd, they asked me to speak at her funeral and I told everybody what she did; how she changed my life. She made me feel like a person."

Not surprising, Tyson's grades also improved. Her favourite subject was English, in which Tyson later got her first degree.

But it was not all books. Far from it, as Tyson said, as an Ardenne student, choir was her life. "I did nothing else at Ardenne because in those days you went to choir at break time, you went to choir after school, you went to choir every day. That's all we did ... . It was our life."

Going straight to the University of the West Indies after Ardenne, Tyson lived on Mary Seacole Hall and had a run-in with the Chancellorites who came over to Seacole singing their version of At The Cross, and putting "bad word" to it.

"I took up a big ole rock from my room door and I fling it right 'round at them," she recalled, laughing. "They turned around and started singing 'Esther Simpson is a ... whatever." Undaunted, "The next day I walked straight through Chancellor and nobody could look me in the face."

Tyson joined the University Singers, did community programmes with Youth for Christ, and later, was full time with the Sunshine Singers gospel group for two years. That did not go down well with her father, as Tyson was the first person in her family to go to university and she had told him she was going to teach. "Daddy had high blood pressure, and had to take to bed ... . I was afraid to go home. People were down on me (saying) how mi wicked; all mi want is fame and popularity," she said.

Still, teaching was always on Tyson's radar. "I always wanted to be a teacher - from I was a little girl. I read all the time," Tyson said, promptly producing her Kindle (an electronic book-reader device) for brief inspection.

"When my mother sent me to tidy a room, I read every book in there before doing anything. So she used to quarrel with me. I always wanted to teach English because I just loved books and I loved reading. I never dreamt of being a principal, I simply wanted to teach," she added.

Now when the 2011-2012 school term begins in a few weeks, for the first time in over two decades, Esther Tyson will not be heading off to school. So how does she intend to spend that first morning?


Without hesitation, Tyson says: "I am going to spend a longer time talking to God. That's very important to me."

Esther Tyson
A Class Act

Esther Tyson- a class act

Friday, July 18, 2014

Dear Editor,

Ardenne High School has benefited tremendously from the stewardship of Esther Tyson and she has been equally dynamic in her short stint at Tarrant High School. Some people are just class acts no matter where they go. She did a very great job in establishing a seemingly efficient and effective system at Ardenne High School.

Ardenne has been voted as the number one secondary school in the Caribbean in 2013. This is unprecedented, remarkable, and certainly a part of her continued legacy. She has encouraged a system of leadership which is hard to ignore and disregard due to the kind of ideals which she has effectively conceptualised. She has achieved these enviable programmes due to the astute administrational policies which she has formulated and constantly executes. The unique leadership acumens and credentials she presents are timeless as such most appropriate for this modern era. Her transformation of Tarrant High in one year as it stands currently is enviable even to some traditional high schools. She has overall the entire logistics with appropriate implementations.

Her problem-solving skills are second to none and she has an aura which she uses to command the interest of her subordinates. Mrs Tyson doesn't act as the superior personnel, in spite of the fact that she was the most senior person of the teaching staff. As principal, she employs a measured approach in the running of the school. She is such a fantastic individual who demand only the best from her staff to ensure that the best is disseminated to the students under her watch.

She should have spent a more protracted time at Tarrant, but due to her significant and invaluable contribution what she has done in her short timeframe is best termed as spectacular. She is magnificent in ensuring that discipline is an integral part of the ambience at the institution, hence was loved and adored by everyone. The selfless mannerism plus the magnitude of her impact on education in Jamaica she should be given something from the Government to compliment her great efforts and successes. I don't subscribe to the idea that people are given accolades when their best years have passed.

She deserves a national honour in education for her tireless efforts towards nation-building and hersterling contribution.

Paris Taylor

Greater Portmore

Esther Tyson
Wife, Mother, Overcomer

Esther Tyson – Wife, Mother, Overcomer

Published:Saturday | February 20, 2016 | 2:00 AM Cecelia Campbell Livingston

When Esther Tyson signed on to forever seal her life with Rawle Tyson on December 29, 1979, she had already determined that she was in for the long haul.

Married to a very busy pastor and businessman, while she, at the time, was vice-principal at the St Andrew High School for Girls, Esther had her hands full being a career woman and wife. Looking back, she shared with Family and Religion how they kept the family unit intact.

"We used to have regular lunch dates. He would pick me up at school and we would go out to eat and catch up. In addition, we ensured that the children went to bed at 8 p.m. each night, so if Rawle was not out at a meeting, we would spend time talking. We did that a lot. We enjoyed being friends with each other," she reminisced.

Six days away from celebrating yet another anniversary, Tyson's world was shattered when her husband was attacked and shot by a gunman. One of his workers was killed in the incident.

She still remembers the shock and pain she went through during that period.

Her husband, intending to give the workers a Christmas bonus, allowed for cash payment that morning, diverting from his usual habit of having them deposit the payment and taking the payment slips. The secret must have been let out as gunmen struck that morning, leaving Pastor Tyson a paraplegic.

"I did not cry. I think I went into coping mode. I had to manage. I asked God to help me," she shared.


She had prayerful support from friends and fellow church members, including those her husband had impacted during his time as a pastor of their church, Christian Life Fellowship, then Mona Fellowship.

"The church activated a plan to get financial support for Rawle so that he could be taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital for rehabilitation. We went in January 1998 after his lung and diaphragm had healed. We spent three months in Florida, with Rawle being an in-patient for six weeks and an outpatient for another six weeks. We came back to Jamaica, and our lives changed forever," she said.

Esther, like her biblical namesake, was determined that she would not crumble under a challenge. She decided that their lives would go on once her husband went through, what she termed, "his dark night of the soul", and determined to continue with his life. On the first Sunday when he returned from Florida, he spoke from his wheelchair at church on the topic: 'God is Absolutely Good: Holding On'.

In 2000, when she took up the position as principal of Ardenne High, her alma mater, she did it with the full support of her husband.

"I had to make deliberate choices as to what I could be involved with since my children were still in school and I also had to give Rawle support personally as he was now a paraplegic."

With those situations facing her, Tyson was conscious of those responsibilities, and it proved to be the motivating factors in helping her to determine how she managed her time and the activities in which she became involved.

Time wasn't the only challenge for her as she was constantly having to make decisions that determined the future of lives and the institution while, at the same time, submitting to her husband at home on matters about which we might disagree.

It helped that she truly believed that God's order was that the man should be the head of his family. "I choose to submit to my husband where we disagree, but that hardly happens," she said.

Just when life had settled into a routine, her husband graduated with his doctorate from Columbia Theological. Tyson's world was again smashed in April 2004 when they were preparing as a family to go to their eldest child, Mikaela's, graduation from Princeton University. Her husband suffered a massive stroke that resulted in him having Broca's Aphasia. This means that all his communication skills had been damaged.

Tyson had yet another challenge on her hands. This time, she was devastated.


"When I realised that all my dreams of us ministering together after our children were grown had been obliterated, that Rawle had suffered a second major damage to his body, I was devastated. I quarrelled with God. I asked Him, 'How could you allow this? We have served you from our youth, we do not desire worldly things, we only desire to build your Kingdom; how could you'?"

She had questions, especially as she was told her husband would never speak again, his peripheral vision had been damaged, and 90 per cent of his understanding had been damaged.

"I cried and cried in that hospital in a way that I had not done when Rawle had been shot. All my dreams had come to nought," she said.


With her husband in a partially vegetative state, she asked God why He didn't take him, as it made no sense!

She regained focus when Carron Gordon, his committed physiotherapist and friend, asked her bluntly, "Whose report are you going to believe?" even as she assured her that her husband would speak again.

Through fasting and prayer, she regained her faith and positive outlook on life.

Today, she has reason to thank God for yet another miracle as her husband defied the doctor's prognosis.

A member of Christian Life Fellowship, 21a Gordon Town Road, with her husband serving as one of the pastors, she serves in various capacities.

Tyson, who hails from Chapelton, Clarendon, is now employed on a contractual basis by the Ministry of Education in a consultancy role, working with the JN Foundation iLead project as a school improvement coach.

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