From ‘cash pot’ grades to math teacher - Troy Williams on a mission to empower students
Troy Williams has a vivid recollection of the day one of his primary-school teachers humiliated him because he could not solve a mathematics problem. He was in grade six at the time, and the teacher had given him a long division question which he was unable to solve. However, he did not understand the concept, much to the dismay of the teacher, who called him a dunce.
"I thought teachers were supposed to motivate you, but she noticed I couldn't get it and she said, 'Stand up here suh', and she left and she came back with my little sister, who was in grade three. And she solved it! I was in grade six at the time and the teacher said, 'See it deh, yuh dunce, man.' It was such an embarrassing moment," Williams recalled.
That experience haunted him, but it also became a turning point. In 2007, at age 14, Williams was baptised, and despite his disappointing performance in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), which saw him being placed at Rosemount Primary and Junior High in Linstead, St Catherine, he committed to improvement.
"Thank God for one teacher who saw that I took my work seriously. I worked hard, took the exams and passed to attend Jose Marti Technical High School," he recounts.
Determined to give himself the best chance to succeed in life, Williams immersed himself in learning. By grade 10 he was named deputy head boy, and a year later, he became the head boy of the Spanish Town-based institution. He visited the library daily and spent countless hours studying the various subject areas and practising mathematics. His dedication paid off, as he passed six subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations, including securing a grade two in mathematics.
In 2017 he enrolled at Shortwood Teachers' College, where he pursued a bachelor's degree in science education, specialising in mathematics. He completed the programme with a 3.1 grade point average, securing an upper second-class honours degree. This is a massive climb for the little boy who knew little to nothing in mathematics and was best known "for scoring only 'cash pot' grades" in the subject.
His choice to teach at Denham Town High School stems from a profound sense of empathy, as he recognises that many of his students face the same mathematical challenges he once did.
"Most of them remind me of myself, and I approach them with love, compassion, and care. Never have I said anything to belittle them or humiliate them, because I remember what I went through," the teacher said.