Rose blossomed when she got an education

  • Rose Douglas with pentas, a plant that attracts butterflies (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Rose Douglas with pentas, a plant that attracts butterflies (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Close to nature: Rose Douglas with an injured monarch butterfly at the Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Close to nature: Rose Douglas with an injured monarch butterfly at the Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Rose Douglas admiring roses at the Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Rose Douglas admiring roses at the Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Rose Douglas admiring roses at the Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Rose Douglas admiring roses at the Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Rose Douglas admiring a rose at the Botanical Gardens. (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Rose Douglas admiring a rose at the Botanical Gardens. (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Rose Douglas plants different types of milkweed in her garden to attract monarch butterflies (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

    Rose Douglas plants different types of milkweed in her garden to attract monarch butterflies (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)

  • Close to nature: Rose Douglas guides her primary school students during her teaching days (Photograph supplied)

    Close to nature: Rose Douglas guides her primary school students during her teaching days (Photograph supplied)


Rose Douglas longed to become a teacher but her father made his views clear — he did not believe in educating girls.

It did not stop her from dreaming.

As a teenager she started “pretend teaching” on Suffering Lane, the St George’s street she lived on with her parents and three siblings. Once older, she decided she would educate herself.

“He thought girls were only going to grow up and get married anyway, so it was a waste of money,” the 76-year-old said of her late father, Clarence Smith.

The St George’s cricket team captain was the head of their household and had the complete backing of his wife, Grace.

“Education was really important to myself and my sisters,” said Ms Douglas. “We’d done well at East End Primary and we wanted to see how far we could go.”

At 12, she enrolled at the Girls Institute of Arts and Crafts. May Francis’s Angle Street, Hamilton school offered a range of classes, but was particularly known for dressmaking.

“I really wanted to take the speech classes they offered,” Ms Douglas said. “I was always terrified of public speaking.

“I wanted to learn how to speak properly and at least be able to stand up in front of people and read the scripture in church.”

She babysat, cleaned houses and worked in Wrights Candy Shop in St George’s to pay the £5-a-term tuition.

“Being so young, that did seem a lot of money to me,” Ms Douglas said. “Ms Francis always taught us to have respect for ourselves. I remember her saying, ‘Your body is the temple of the Lord. Look after yourselves’. She always wore the most beautiful clothing. She always taught us to excel.”

In her final year at the school, the 17-year-old taught a few classes; the next year she returned to East End Primary as a student teacher.

Looking around to make a little more money she applied for another job.

“I don’t even remember what it was now,” she said. “Sir John Sharpe was on the interview panel.

“He looked at my résumé and said it looked as if I really wanted to be a teacher. He recommended that I speak to Dr Kenneth Robinson in the Ministry of Education.”

Dr Robinson helped her apply to colleges in England.

“He really encouraged me,” said Ms Douglas. “He encouraged a lot of people. I wasn’t the only one.”

She saved for a year before she was able to enrol at Bradford Technical College in Yorkshire.

The 21-year-old worked on double- decker buses to earn extra cash.

“I was a clippy,” she said. “They called you that because you clipped people’s tickets.

“Sometimes people were resentful of me because of my skin colour; they wanted to know why I had this job. But other people were really good to me. I loved being in Yorkshire. I still miss walking over the moors there.”

After getting her general certificate of education she received a scholarship to Ottawa Teachers’ College in Canada.

She got her teaching certification there, and then did a psychology degree at Queen’s University.

She returned to Bermuda in 1969 and is proud to have taught at the preschool, primary and secondary level.

Nature was always a part of her teaching because of her love for the outdoors.

In 1976, while teaching at St George’s Secondary School, she would put plants in her classroom windows.

“The students would throw them away,” she said. “They didn’t think plants belonged in the classroom. But they soon realised that for every plant they threw away, I’d bring in two more.

“We came to respect one another. Eventually, they started saying to me, ‘You better water your plants before they die’.”

In 1987, she installed a butterfly garden at East End Primary. The living classroom concept was one she had learnt while at Ottawa Teachers’ College.

“I took my eight and nine-year-old students out there to learn different science concepts,” she said. “It also provided inspiration for their writing.”

She retired from East End Primary School in 2002 but continued as a substitute teacher for a few years.

Today her passion is her garden.

“I garden barefoot and without gloves,” she said. “I love to feel the soil. Sometimes I get thorns that way, or cuts, but that’s just part of it. I find it very relaxing.”

For the past six years she has volunteered at Project Action. The charity provides transportation for senior citizens and the physically handicapped. Ms Douglas helps schedule pickups and organises fundraising events, and gives presentations to raise money and awareness.

“The presentations are something I have learnt to like over the years as I still have a fear of public speaking,” she said. “I’ve gotten better at it, but I think the fear never really goes away. At least now I’m not up all night worrying about it.”

Ms Douglas has one son, Pushkin, and a grandson, Kristopher.

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Published Feb 6, 2018 at 8:00 am (Updated Feb 6, 2018 at 7:17 am)

Rose blossomed when she got an education

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