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Aug 24, 2016

Remembering Education Pioneer, Jean Bennett

Jean Bennett

The education system has lost a pioneer in early childhood education movement. Jean Bennett, the well-loved and highly respected educator passed away on Sunday morning inside the Intensive Care Unit of the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. She left a mark on thousands of outstanding Belizeans, and touched many more lives of persons who had the privilege to attend her preschool, City Early Childhood Education Center in the King’s Park area of Belize City. For six decades, she was in the classrooms and during her lifetime, she was highly decorated. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

It started several decades ago and was a novelty for the well-to-do, but now preschools are a regular feature of Belize’s educational system. It’s a tool used to enhance and expand positive results in the formal development of a child. And most recently, the comprehensive care for children up to age eight saw the collaboration between the Ministries of Education, Human Development and Health.

Jeanette Bennett, better known as Jean Bennett, was a pioneer in the early childhood education movement. A mother of seven children, one girl and six boys, she was first and foremost a teacher.


Hilaire Bennett, Son

“Although my mom was an excellent mom, she was first and foremost a teacher. I always thought that it was because of my father’s influence as an educator that she got into teaching. Talking to my dad, I realized that he met her at Holy Redeemer teaching. It’s there they met and eventually after they got married, he had a teaching assignment in Succotz and they moved with their only child Phillip, which is the oldest boy to Succotz to do a stint there. And my dad always wanted to do pursue further education outside and eventually he came back and he got, I think it was through the Jesuits, the assignment to go outside to study further in the field of education.”


Miss Bennett was born on April eighth 1934. She started teaching in the early fifties where she met her husband and educator, J. Alexander Bennett. They got married on August twenty-seventh, 1956. Miss Bennett, as a single mother with four kids at the time, endured the 1961 Hurricane Hattie, holding down the fort. She then got employed as a teacher at the Saint Catherine Elementary School, before taking on her private practice with four students.


Hilaire Bennett

Hilaire Bennett

“She ended up without a job from St. Catherine’s and what happened is that she had taught a parent’s child at St. Catherine’s and the parent got to know the unfortunate situation and she ended up allowing my mom to school four students. She only had four students starting her private practice, so to speak. And it was at the upstairs of Eric Bowen Yuletide House. And it was Barry Bowen’s wife, Carol that helped her. Eventually she moved on and started renting two places before she came to 5759 corner Meighan and Goldson, where the institution is still at.”


That was in 1979 and that move gave birth of the City Early Childhood Education Center, a seven-classroom institution on the lower flat of the family home, that has seen many prominent persons graduate from her preschool. In an interview with News Five on March fifth of 2005, Miss Bennett spoke about the importance of early childhood education.


Jeanette Bennett [File: March 5th, 2005]

“These early years are critical years. So if the child is not properly nurtured both physically and mentally, we will be failing.”


But during summer, following the 2016 graduation of CECEC, Miss Bennett got ill and was hospitalized initially at the Belize Medical Associates and then at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. Sadly, she passed away on Sunday morning.


Hilaire Bennett

“It was a complication of both hypertension and she had like a blockage that was causing her to breathe abnormally. She went through the medical process. She went to both medical associates; she was in the ICU at K.H.M.H. I could tell you, no care what kinda flack they give K.H.M.H., that ICU is one of the tip of the line because the way I saw that institution operating—it was not just my mother, but whoever was in there. Doctor Arriaga did his best, and eventually God took her hands; a cure was not meant to be, come with me. She died on August twenty-first between the hours of eight and nine, she had a cardiac arrest. The doctors tried to resuscitate her, but unfortunately it was not meant to be.”


Up to the end of this school year, Miss Bennett was still active in the school. On the walls, inside her office, are the various accolades and education merits that she’s received over the years. It is almost like she was just there; her second eldest son, Hilaire Bennett, says that her passion remained in the success of her students and didn’t focus on the awards.


Hilaire Bennett

“Although you see those awards and stuff, she never put that in front of her. That was on the wall; that’s where it should be and she forged on. She was recognized. She was to receive an award sometime but I think they postponed the date. How I want my mom to be remembered is by simply saying that every year she gave six scholarships to needy students. This year she gave seven. She has been doing that silently and that’s how she is. She is not in it for the money, but she is in it to give, to impact knowledge to her students. She was a humble lady, she was caring. She went beyond her call.”


A humble, caring lady that went beyond her call; Miss Bennett, dead at age eighty-two, will be remembered by many. Duane Moody for News Five.


Jean Bennett will be laid to rest on Monday. Funeral services will be held at Saint Joseph Church at two p.m.

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2 Responses for “Remembering Education Pioneer, Jean Bennett”

  1. Beverly Usher says:

    Rest in Peace Ms. Bennett. God truly blessed us when he made you our teacher…Thank You!

  2. Teacher says:

    Thank you for your positive inspiring contributions Ms Bennett!

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