Guyanese woman breaking barriers, opens her own school in Trinidad

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Charlene and some of her students

– credits CPCE for her teaching success

By Brandon Corlette

The world recently celebrated International Women’s Day, and Guyanese Charlene Emanuelle Hernandez has continued to break barriers by opening her own school in Trinidad and Tobago. From years of teaching in Guyana to being the principal and owner of her own school, it is certainly a testimony of growth.

The journey

When COVID-19 struck in 2018, an idea came to her after she had completed 20 years of teaching. “I said to myself, ‘Why work with people when I can administrate?’ and now I have a wealth of experience and I have the qualifications. So, I had that discussion with my husband, he did not see the vision clearly because of finances, but I pushed myself,” she said.

Charlene was born on January 1, 1980 in Georgetown, and spent her childhood days in Beterverwagting. In 1995, she relocated to Berbice, where she attended the Central Corentyne Secondary School. On October 29, 1998, she started her teaching journey at Wellington Park Primary School, where she taught at all levels.

She got married and gave birth to her son, but that marriage ended. After 12 years of teaching, Carlene, equipped with her teacher’s Diploma from the Cyril Potter College of Education (CPCE), migrated to Trinidad and Tobago in 2010.

She needed a degree to get into the teaching profession in Trinidad, so she eventually reached out to the University of the West Indies (UWI) and applied to pursue her Bachelors in Education. Financially, the journey was difficult, but Carlene got married for a second time, to a man whom she describes as supportive. During her studies, she worked at a private school in Maracas Beach, Trinidad.

Students in their costume at C&S Brightstar Daycare and
Pre-School

Today Charlene is the owner of C&S Brightstar Daycare and Preschool, and she is beyond thankful to God for her growth.

In October 2018, she began searching for a building to open the school. She eventually got a location, and opened the doors to her school in January 2019. After three months, she was not seeing a big profit, and then she moved her school into the capital of Trinidad, Port-of-Spain.

“There is when things turned around for me. I started the school with two children – my daughter and nephew. I started summer camp, I got help from my husband, my children and some friends, we did flyers and we promoted the camp. I got my training from the CPCE, so I knew to myself I was doing a fine job.”

Charlene noted that the camp was very successful, and in September 2019 the breakthrough came, the school opened, and there was significant growth. Enrollment at her school rose from 15 to 75 children mainly because of marketing.

“I love what I do, so I teach with a passion. It is about setting that foundation, so when children transition into a next level, that will take them to the University level. I would have started with daycare and pre-school, now we are at the primary aspect,” she explained.

Then, in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and her schools were closed.

Charlene described that moment as challenging, but she was hoping that the pandemic would be over in a month. She began online teaching, which was new for her. Charlene Hernandez took the leap of faith and, with advice, started virtual teaching in September 2020.

The online teaching was a fresh start, and she restarted her marketing. She also introduced the shift system, wherein a small amount of students would engage in face-to-face teaching.

With a target audience of more than 350 students, Charlene moved to her third location to provide service for the entire Port-of-Spain area. She has had good reports from her award-winning students who graduated from her school.

“I would always give credit to my Cyril Potter lecturers. They did a fantastic job, and I am happy to see that I would have leave Guyana, struggle and did well in Trinidad. Persons like Miss Garret from New Amsterdam, Mr Bajan, Miss Woodruff, Miss Beverly Moore, Viola Ben, Curtis Bourne, Sir Dindyal from Auchlyne, they helped to shape me to become the person I am today.

“Never in my wildest dream I would have dreamt of becoming a principal, more so an owner of such a huge business in the childcare and Education industry,” Hernandez has said.

Response

C&S Brightstar Daycare and Pre-School is a diversified school, with students from different parts of the Caribbean, in China and Nigeria. After Easter, schools should reopen for the full population, and Hernandez is looking forward for more growth, and to mould more children for the future.

“Nothing is impossible, do not give up on your dreams. Once you put your mind to it, you will achieve. I would encourage young people to qualify themselves, take your studies and let everything else fall into place. When I started my degree, I was given a lot of exemptions because of my performance at Cyril Potter College. I must give them credit, so when I get these exemptions, I saved a lot of money,” she said.

Schools have reopened in Trinidad and Tobago, and Charlene’s school continues to prosper.