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Nov 9, 2021

Farewell to Educator Alvina Cuellar

So far, there have been 519 deaths attributed to COVID-19. In a place as small as Belize, which feels more like an extended family than a country sometimes, each and every loss hurts us all in some way.  The staff of Channel Five, who like our media colleagues, have been covering the pandemic and helping our audience to keep up with the latest rules and regulations, advice and recommendations, never expected that the woman who has been a driving force in much of our COVID coverage, Marleni Cuellar, would have to experience the loss of her own mother to this terrible illness. Tonight we remember Alvina Cuellar, as so many of you may too.  Her 40 years as a teacher and an active unionist, endeared her to so many people. Marion Ali has more.


Alvina Cuellar, Beloved Educator

“This year what we’re trying to do, for the first time, is a summer school for standard six children, to prepare them for high school.”


Marion Ali, Reporting

What News Five found her doing in the summer of 1996, was precisely what Mrs. Alvina Cuellar always did– dedicating her time to the development of Belizean children. This beloved teacher died last Friday at the age of seventy-nine, and her passing gives us pause to reflect on who she was. She was educated at St. Ignatius Primary, St. Catherine Academy and the Belize Teacher’s College. Her career as an educator began early, at age of 17, and took her to quite a few primary and secondary institutions in the Belize and Corozal Districts. She was not only a mentor, but a friend, to her many colleagues and students. Our Minister of Education, Francis Fonseca, told News Five that Mrs. Cuellar had been a presence in his life.


Francis Fonseca

Francis Fonseca, Minister of Education

“She was a very, very close and dear friend to my parents, both of whom have departed and she was there with me at both of their funerals and supported me so I’m very deeply saddened by her passing. She was, of course an exemplary educator. She touched the lives of thousands of young people who had the good fortune of passing through her hands. She was firm, she was fair, but she cared deeply about her students.”


One of those students was Faron Smith Jr., who attended St John’s College where Mrs. Cuellar was the first female administrator as the Assistant Headmaster.


Faron Smith Jr.

Faron Smith Jr., Past student of Alvina Cuellar

“One day over the PA at school they announced that I have to go see Mrs. Cuellar. So I was like – okay – I got up and went on my way and when I got to the office she was like “Oh, you’re the guy that my daughters always talk about every day. And I was like afraid because everybody knows you don’t play around with Mrs. Cuellar.”


Smith said the visit to the office did not go as badly as he expected; in fact, he discovered that even as a teacher, Mrs. Cuellar was open to learning something new.


Faron Smith Jr.

“She called me in the evening – I was passing – and she called me. You know, back in those days I would always have a cassette on me and there were songs on there and I was always listening to these songs so that I could make another show or just practice new dances. I told her to press play and she did and I start dancing and back in those days the new dance was the “pepper seed” right so I knew a hundred zillion pepper seed (songs) and I just started to dance and by the time it was finished, Ms Cuellar had already learned how to do the pepper seed from watching me.”


While students saw her lighter side, discipline was a key ingredient in the way Mrs. Cuellar dealt with not only her students, but all the children in her life. Dr. Fernando Cuellar told us it was during their many home visits with his mom that he came to love this person he called his Tia.


Dr. Fernando Cuellar

Dr. Fernando Cuellar, Nephew of Mrs Alvina Cuellar

“What remains most in my mind is her discipline, which I think is something woefully missing these days. She was a disciplinarian. You had to do things right, you had to behave right and do things for the correct reasons, so that is what I will miss. She was pretty much the laugh of joy of the meetings, noh. She had a pretty unique laugh and when they were together – herself, my mom and my other aunts – it was like little girls getting together with their jokes.”


Mrs. Alvina Cuellar is survived by her six daughters: Tina, Celina, Melissa, Fidelia, Reyna, and CEO of Channel Five, Marleni Cuellar. They will surely miss her laughter, and so much more.  Marion Ali For New Five.


Alvina Cuellar will be laid to rest on Wednesday.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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