Aspiring architect finds fulfilment in teaching
Though she now happily teaches building and furniture technology, growing up, Sanjii Fraser was inspired to be an architect and even started pursuing that career at the tertiary level.
"There was something that struck me when I'd see high-rise buildings in MoBay, the wooden houses in Westmoreland, and even the ones scattered across Jamaica that my nine- or 10-year-old self declared 'ugly'," she recalled. "The true awakening came in Grade 10 at Jose Marti Technical High [School] when my technical drawing teacher, Mr Jermaine Taylor, and my building technology teacher, Mr Omar Hemmings, kept lauding my drawing skills. That, coupled with my genuine liking for the field, just drew me to pursue the career."
She enrolled in the University of Technology Jamaica (UTech Ja) in 2011 at age 19, and was "pumped" in her first semester.
"However, after a while, things just got hard. My drive was not there. I just started to fail. If failing was to be a trend, I would have set it from 2011 to 2016. I felt like a huge disappointment to my family, church family and friends," she said. Fraser says she stumbled upon teaching as a last resort for income and soon fell in love with the profession.
"At the end of August 2016, I needed to do something with my life, as studying architecture, to me, was not an option for that academic year. I saw a posting for a building and furniture technology teacher at Denbigh High [in Clarendon] in October and leaped at the opportunity. I had nothing to lose," she said. While working as an untrained teacher, Fraser says one of her best moments came when a student told her that he had received a grade one for the subject. Fraser felt like she had won the lottery.
"I was elated. It was then that I fully realised teaching was not only what I wanted to do but it was what I was called by God to do," she said. "I realised my love for the discipline when I would see students grasp concepts that seemed difficult. The love also grew when I got feedback from students saying 'Miss me rate you, enuh. You different'."
But Fraser said that attaining a degree was important to her because she wanted to set a standard for her nephew for whom she is the guardian.
"I wanted to show him that, no matter what happened in life, you can overcome and achieve your dreams. I wanted to get that paper in my collection to know that 'Yes, I did it'," she said.
So, after four years of rigorous study, long days and even longer nights, Fraser graduated with a bachelor's of education in technical and vocational education and training in industrial technology, with honours from UTech, Ja.
"It was hard as I worked from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. as a freelancer and teacher at Papine High. I had my student loan to repay from the first degree and needed income to sustain myself, but God showed me I couldn't do it in my own," she said. "It feels amazing to have found my purpose and passion. I look forward to teaching my Grade 10 and 11 babies at Papine High. Yes, my babies. My young gentlemen and ladies. I am happy to wake up to shine my light into whatever darkness they might be going through the moment they step into my class. I know that I am called to educate, I am called to be a light for young persons. I know that for a fact."
Fraser is now eyeing the future, specifically a master's degree in the same field.