Michael Stewart
Years Served: 
2009 to 2010

His calm demeanor belies his power, his passion and his happiness, but Michael Stewart celebrated a major achievement of a successful year as the 45th president of an organization dedicated to the advancement of the profession he has come to know, to love and to trust.

It was not an easy year as president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), but Stewart persevered to attain several of the goals he had set at the start of his sojourn in August last year.

“It was a year that was characterized by an equal mix of challenges and opportunities,” Stewart said on reflection. At the top of his agenda was to reposition the JTA to a more transparent and focused organization, locally, regionally and internationally and Stewart believes his arrow found the target. “We are one of the most respected organizations in the country and we are the leading teaching organization in the Caribbean,” he boasted. Beneath that attainment is a story of perseverance and patience, commitment and consultations, care and craft as Stewart continuously undertook the delicate balancing act of pursuing the professional advancement of his members while at the same time pressing for an improvement in the salaries and conditions of service for teachers.

He took the reins of the JTA a year after an agreement between the association and the Government to increase the remuneration of public school teachers to 80 per cent of what obtained in the private sector. Stewart’s predecessors had wrestled with the issue but the job was never done. So in August 2009, when he received the baton to carry on the pursuit, he knew there would be hurdles to climb. “It is still not settled and that is one of my greatest disappointments at this time, to know that, we, having negotiated a settlement for such a long time, now have to haggling over the payment.” But Stewart is not giving up and he will be providing all the support to the President to continue the effort in his new role as Immediate Past President of the JTA.

A diligent administrator himself, Stewart’s education conference last April focused on middle managers as he sought to intensify the drive to improve the administrative capacity and accountability in Jamaica’s education sector. He believes the conference was particularly timely since new opportunities for advancement continue to arise in the system as more teachers are recruited. In fact, among his successes is an increase in the membership of the JTA last conference year by just over 2,000 taking the tally to more than 23,000. This increase exceeded Stewart’s target of 1,500.

But with all the rush and crush and crowd, how did Michael Stewart manage to successfully remain in command? “It was very hectic,” Stewart said with a heavy exhale but noted that the support of his family, his friends and his colleagues was very crucial in his attaining 75 per cent of the targets he had aimed for. According to him, the level of expressed support was overwhelming coming from unusual quarters like the music fraternity with DJ Shaka Shamba, penning and recording the song: Treat the Teachers Right. Then there were phone calls, text messages, letters and embraces of encouragement from Morant Point to Negril point which fuelled the flame that had always blazed within Michael Stewart. “For God did not give you a spirit of fear, but of love and of a sound mind, and I am thankful that God kept me through. I am leaving with a sound mind to give support to the president and the president elect as they work to transform the educational system.”

Michael Antonie Stewart: Patient, persistent, patriotic… Powering always to the finish.

Other promises MADE, KEPT:

JTA’s library and Resource Centre fully functional.

Complete the reconfiguration of the JTA website and add new features.

Strengthen relationships with international teacher and the other organizations.

Leadership workshops for Young Leaders in the JTA.

Identify and Implement strategies/activities to strengthen District Associations.

Implement Institute for Contact Teachers in another region.

Make greater improvement in the tertiary Sector membership.

Work closely with “trouble” schools to improve relationship between academic staff and administration.

Promote and encourage Parish Association to create newsletters and releases to publicize events in their parish.

Complete the closure of the Development loan Scheme.

Continue the effort to secure suitable tenants for 95, 97 and 97A Church Street.

Facilitate and monitor teachers’ application for the Twickenham Park Housing Project.

Re-activate the computer training programme for teachers.

Identify a corp of competent facilities for the New Teachers’ Seminar and provide suitable training.

Mr. Stewart is currently serving as the principal of Porus High School.

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