September 28, 2020

Tears amidst praises as Chief Education officer retires from Education Department

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Shirley WahlerExemplary, inspiring and motivating were just some of the sentiments echoed by staff of the Department of Education Services, to describe Chief Education Officer (CEO) Mrs. Shirley Wahler, as they bid her farewell at a retirement dinner held in her honour.

At the celebratory yet tearful function held on January 31st, at Casanova Restaurant, Mrs. Wahler was commended by all members of her staff who applauded her tremendous leadership, dedication and professionalism while at the Department’s helm.

Some of the very touching sentiments expressed were,

“You are firm, fair and transparent in all that you do and you have earned our respect because you operated by the Golden Rule of ‘Treat others the way you wish to be treated,'””You look for the excellence in each one of us, and have a special magnetism that makes us all feel equally important. By replacing fear and power with encouragement and respect, and by trusting instead of micromanaging, you have continually inspired and motivated us to achieve. Although we will miss you more than it is possible to express, it has been our pleasure to work under such a fantastic boss, leader and role model as you.”

Although retiring early from the Cayman Islands education system, Mrs. Wahler has been identified for an unexpected opportunity with the Government of St. Helena, and will assume the role of Director of Education in March. In this position, she will be responsible for driving educational improvements across the directorate, and will also be required to develop training opportunities to meet the changing economic needs of the small Island state, situated in the South Atlantic Ocean.

For over 20 years, Mrs. Wahler has been an instrumental part of the education fraternity in the Cayman Islands. She served as Principal of the Cayman Brac High School from 2000- 2007 as well as in various senior roles at what was formerly the Community College of the Cayman Islands. During her noteworthy career, she has served as lecturer, librarian, Department Head and Registrar at the Community College; and in her capacity as Head of General Studies, played a key role in the introduction of higher level academic studies including ‘A’ levels and the Associate Degree Programme.

Under her tenure as CEO, external examination results for High School students attaining 5 or more Level 2 ‘O Level’ passes have more than doubled so that at least two thirds of students in Government schools now achieve this standard. Results for literacy and numeracy at Key Stage 2 have also shown impressive improvements year over year.

During the dinner, on behalf of the entire Department, Mr. James Watler, Senior Education Officer, presented Mrs. Wahler with a small token of their appreciation in the form of locally crafted artwork. The gift was a creative depiction of a book and apple, which are iconic symbols of education, and was crafted out of Caymanite by local artisan Horacio Esteban. Mrs. Wahler’s team also recorded their individual tributes as a video presentation which was played at the event.

“You have always gone above and beyond the call of duty and have held the strain when changes occurred and resources were limited,” stated Mr. Watler. “With your levels of performance, dedication and professionalism, you have set the bar high for future leaders and employees to follow. There is no question that our team will be severely disadvantaged without you, because you were the one that made things happen around here. Although we will miss you more than it is possible to express, we are heartened by the knowledge that few leaders can retire with such grace and dignity, as you,” he said.

As news of Mrs. Wahlers departure became public, tributes have poured into the Department and each school has submitted a contribution to a commemorative scrapbook. On Thursday, February 5, students from John A. Cumber Primary School including the Brownie pack, visited the CEO to thank her and wish her farewell. Mrs. Wahler vacates her post as Chief Education Officer at the end of February.

 

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