KC old boys shower praise on former chemistry teacher



You know that you are held in high esteem by your former students and that you have played a large part in shaping their lives when they bring you to their adopted North American homeland to shower you with praise.

Kingston College Old Boys Association’s New York chapter did it in 1999 and it was the Canadian chapter’s turn last Saturday to pay tribute to extraordinary chemistry teacher, Opal Branche, at its 38th annual awards banquet in Scarborough.

She’s the longest serving teacher at KC, having joined the staff in 1972.

Local chapter president, Lawrence Prendergast, a student of Branche for three years, relished the honour to present her with the President’s award.

“She’s an excellent teacher who is loved by all of her students,” he said. “I think I was turned on to chemistry because of the way she taught the subject which made it easy for us to learn. When I left her class and was taught by another teacher, I struggled with the subject. That says a lot of Opal.”

Several of Branche’s students are doctors, engineers, university professors and heads of chemistry departments in the Caribbean and around the world. They include Dr. Paul Reese and Dr. Sean McDowell, who are chemistry professors at the University of the West Indies Mona and Cave Hill campuses respectively. McDowell did post-doctoral studies at the University of Western Ontario from 1993 to 1996.

“I am proud of the impact I have made in so many lives and honoured that students over the years have thought so highly of me,” said Branche, who graduated from UWI with a natural sciences degree. “I tried to make the subject exciting…I did not only teach chemistry, I also taught my students life skills.”

Branche also has a Diploma in Education from UWI and a Diploma in School Administration and Management from Mico University College.

For nearly four decades, the local chapter has raised thousands of dollars for various KC projects, including the refurbishing of the library and the breakfast and scholarship programs. Last month, the chapter purchased close to $5,000 of equipment to refurbish the chemistry lab.

“Over the next few years, our focus will be on making significant contributions to the expansion of the Douglas Forrest Building on the North Street campus,” said Prendergast. “This expansion will provide, among other things, much needed additional classroom space for sixth formers. In recent times, this shortage of classroom space has seen qualified KC students asked to seek admission to sixth form at other schools.”

Opened in April 1925 with 49 students, KC’s enrolment is close to 1,700.

Jamaica-based lawyer, Churchill Neita, who was the Master of Ceremony at last Saturday’s event, and the late Olympian, Dr. Lennox Miller, are some of KC’s prominent alumni.

Other distinguished old boys include Ontario court judge, Eric Lindsay; ex-West Indies cricketer-turned-TV analyst, Michael Holding; former Jamaican Consul General in Toronto Stewart Stephenson and mathematician/theoretical biologist Dr. Lloyd Demetrius who is best known for the discovery of the evolutionary entropy concept which is a statistical parameter that characterizes Darwinian fitness in models of the evolution of life history.

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