Fifth Company Baptist School Standard five teacher Ingrid Charles-Johnson takes a selfie with her students, who surprised her on her birthday at her home on Saturday.

Sascha Wilson

Ingrid Charles-Johnson, a teacher from Moruga, got up Saturday morning with no plans to celebrate her birthday. She had planned to run errands and go about her daily routine.

Little did she know that later that morning, she would be standing in front of her home crying tears of joy. Charles-Johnson’s Fifth Standard students, from the Fifth Company Baptist Primary School and their parents hosted a drive-by birthday celebration as an expression of their love and appreciation for her.

As the cars honked horns and blinked lights as they passed by her house, the children and their parents waved to Charles-Johnson, who lives a short distance away from the school. The cars then turned around and stopped off in front of her house. One by one, her students showered her with hugs, gave her birthday cards, balloons and presents. She also got a birthday cake.

During the event, which lasted less than an hour, the parents also paid tribute to her, played music and serenaded her with the happy birthday song.

Rhona Small-Modeste, one of the parents who was instrumental in putting the event together, said they wanted to show their appreciation for the care and love she shows their children.

“She is a teacher that goes way beyond the call of duty and she is a blessing to Fifth Company Baptist School and we just wanted to acknowledge her and let her know that we see and know and acknowledge everything that she does for us and we appreciate her for being the loving teacher that she is.”

With school closed since March due to COVID-19 and many parents facing financial woes, Small-Modeste said Charles-Johnson had found ways to reach out to the children.

“She visited each student’s home. She dropped off grocery hampers, actually, she visited twice. She said she came to look for her babies,” she said.

“The first time she dropped off fries and hotdogs and juice for them and then a month later she returned with grocery hampers and those who were in dire need, she gave personal items like juice and cornflakes and snakes just for them.”

She said Charles-Johnson is not only accessible to parents at any time of the day, but she is always willing to listen and give advice on work or non-work-related issues.

“She is just always there for our children,” Small-Modeste added.

Overcome with emotion, Charles-Johnson said she was completely surprised. She said she only realised something was up when her daughter made her change into a jersey and then her husband kept preventing her from leaving the house.

“I was really, really taken aback to see all my babies out here this morning to wish me a happy birthday and I really do appreciate it. I am overwhelmed this morning by all your sentiments and just the fact that you did this for me,” Charles-Johnson told Guardian media.

Charles-Johnson, who has been a teacher for 30 years, said she also missed being in close contact with her students.

“I really do miss being with them and I miss the face to face and all of that. I miss all the hugs and …”

Noting that she also enjoyed doing activities for her students for Christmas, she said COVID-19 had thrown off her plans.

However, she added, “Just as you found a way to celebrate me today, it is the same way we will not let COVID spoil our Christmas. Right children?” (SW)