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Angelina Sampath with one of her successful students, Isaiah Ali.

Teaching is more than just a job for Angelina Sampath. The Chaguanas Government Primary SEA teacher considers it a vocation and her passion for education has yielded success for the students she steered through the rigours of the pandemic to ensure they were properly prepared for the exam.

For the 2021 SEA exam, where most of the preparation took place online because of COVID-19 restrictions, 25 of her 32 students secured placements in their first-choice schools and 28 of them got into first-choice schools in general.

“She eats and breathes teaching,” said Sampath’s husband, Andrew, who is also an SEA teacher

Reflecting on his wife’s successes as an educator, he added: “She’s extremely dedicated, she goes beyond the call of duty, she’s online sourcing info, even during vacation. She would have camps for the children privately, she is so dedicated to her job.”

He said when the pandemic started, his wife tried to secure devices and phone cards for students who weren’t able to access the internet and also spent a lot of time working with them to make up for any class time they missed due to technological issues.

“She goes all out, you can tell that she loves this. She embraced COVID-19 in an innovative way. She sourced her own equipment, she was getting some of our family members to donate devices to students, she was 100 per cent available at home too.

“Sometimes students and parents would message, even after school hours, to ask for help and she was there putting in those hours.”

Those sentiments are also being echoed by students and their parents.

Mickelle Guilland, who has just started classes at her first choice school. St Joseph’s Convent, St Joseph, said Sampath helped her to adjust to online learning.

“She used to help with anything we didn’t understand, we would sometimes do over topics. She would give us art things to do as well and videos with fun exercises. She would let us talk to each other if we didn’t have anything to do in class, which was nice. I got to be with my friends that way,” she recalled

Mickelle’s mother was full of praise for the teacher, saying she was very supportive of the children.

“She acted as a parent, she functioned as one. She would listen to our concerns, issues we had with connectivity, if there was lost time during a regular school day she would make up the hours and the kids love her, she’s their go-to.

“They would say, ‘Let me see what Miss thinks,’ they really trust her,” she said.

Another student, Isaiah Skyler Ali, said he missed seeing Sampath.

“Me and Miss Angelina had a good relationship and I missed actually seeing her. Sometimes at lunch, because I was a slow eater, she would call me over and we would talk, she’s very friendly,” he said.

His mother said she appreciated the support she got as she was working outside the home during his preparation for the SEA and was not able to monitor his online classes.

“She made the learning process easy for them and enjoyable so they weren’t too stressed. She would talk to them, let them talk to each other, get an idea of how they were feeling, she would do online field trips and send baking videos. It was a stress reliever on a Friday for them,” she said.

Isaiah now attends Presentation College, Chaguanas, his first choice.

For Ariana Dharmandass and her parents, the biggest concern was health and safety.

Her mother said: “Miss Angelina was very supportive and understanding when children identified problems in coping and adapting to the online classroom sessions.”

Ariana, who got into the school of her dreams, St Augustine Girls’ High School, recalled that before the pandemic shut down in-person classes, Sampath would call students to her desk to assist them with problems they didn’t understand.

She said when classes shifted to online, Sampath would do numerous practice tests with the class and when a student didn’t understand she would go over the topic.

She added: “The increased time spent on the computer negatively impacted my eyes so Mrs Sampath would give her students break intervals of ten minutes to lessen the strain on our eyes.”

All were full of praise for Sampath, not only for the way she conducted classes, but also for ensuring that her students had opportunities for fun and relaxation, with her baking creativity, art classes and Friday field trips, as well as allowing the students to talk with each other via Zoom.