As an educator, Mrs. Mills not only served the population in the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis, but she also served the population as far south as Guyana. She is the other education stalwart that will be honored by the Sandy Point Benevolent Society this year.
E. Sylvia Mills nee Francis was born to Thomas Francis and Sarah (May) Francis in 1928. She attended the St. Paul’s Government School from 1933-1939 and the St. Kitts-Nevis Girls’ High School from 1939-1946, having won the first Government Scholarship to that school.
Mrs. Mills began her teaching career as an uncertificated teacher at Bethel Government School, in Parson’s Ground, in September 1946 and became a certificated teacher in December of that same year. In 1947 she attended the Spring Gardens Teachers’ Training College in St. John’s, Antigua and returned the following year to Bethel School as a Trained Teacher.
Mrs. Mills transferred to the Sandy Point Junior School in 1955 and taught there until 1964 when she was offered the opportunity to act as Headteacher at the St. Paul’s All Age School. With the introduction the Comprehensive System of Education in 1966, Mrs. Mills was promoted to become the Headteacher of the Sandy Point Infant School. In 1969, she attended Nottingham University in England where she focused mainly on infant teaching methods, specializing in the Teaching of Reading. On her return, she was posted at the newly formed St. Kitts-Nevis Teachers’ Training College (now the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College), where she taught budding student teachers how to teach Reading. She continually upgraded her skills in the art of teaching, including pursuing a course of studies in Primary Teaching Methods in Ottawa, Canada in 1972.
By 1975, Mrs. Mills had achieved such success as a teacher of teachers in St. Kitts that she was invited by the Government of Guyana to meet with teachers and give demonstration lessons in the teaching of reading across Guyana. At the same time, her Integrated Approach to the Teaching of Reading was so renowned that samples of her program were introduced into schools in Dominica, in St. Eustatius, and into a school in England where many West Indian children were attending. She was also tapped in 1975 by the Canadian Organization for Cooperation in Overseas Development (OCOD) to be host country tutor for St. Kitts-Nevis and for many years thereafter she was integrally involved in the planning and development of topics and materials needed to conduct annual OCOD summer workshops aimed at improving the skills of teachers in St. Kitts-Nevis. Mrs. Mills’ versatility further showed itself when, in addition to with her teaching commitments, she performed during the period 1975- 1980 the duties of Island Coordinator for the United States Peace Corps Volunteers who were stationed in St Kitts, many of whom were themselves functioning as teachers.
Well beyond her retirement from the Civil Service in 1983, she continued her commitment to the teaching of the very young by coordinating the plans for the formation of the George Dixon Preschool at Manchester Hall in Sandy Point.
Mrs. Mills has also always been actively engaged in community work, including the teaching of needlework classes in Dieppe Bay, St Paul’s and Newton Ground, and running women’s groups in Sandy Point. Additionally, she was organist at the St Paul’s Anglican Church for many years and is a founding member of the Robert Llewellyn Bradshaw Memorial Fund.
In 2007, the Ministry of Education of St. Kitts-Nevis awarded Mrs. Mills with the Medal of Appreciation for Service to Education. That same year, on National Heroes Day on the 16th of September, the entire Federation showed its gratitude for her many years of service with excellence to the nation when she was invested as a Companion of the Star of Merit by His Excellency the late Sir Cuthbert Sebastien, Governor-General of St. Kitts and Nevis.
Teacher Miss Mills – as she is fondly called by her many past students – is a lifelong teacher who was, and is, tireless in advocating for good teaching. Her motto is to always be of help to others. But the teaching of Reading has always been her passion.
Don’t miss the opportunity to celebrate this achievement in person at the SPBS Awards Gala event on August 31 st at the Maestros Ballroom in NY.