My mother, Cecily Haynes-Hart, who has died aged 95 from Alzheimer’s, began her teaching career at the age of 16 in Guyana. After emigrating to the UK, she taught in south London schools, and was a cornerstone of the Caribbean Teachers’ Association, determined to raise achievement and foster leadership in young people of African-Caribbean heritage.
She was born in Georgetown, the third of four children of Clementina Pollydore, a housewife who also reared and sold poultry, and her husband, Joseph Jordan, who died when Cecily was young. It was apparent early on that Cecily was gifted academically. She had a photographic memory and could remember an entire book, practically word for word, after reading it once. She topped the country in national examinations as a child.
Cecily became a pupil teacher at 16, teaching children of her own age and younger at her school, Carmel Roman Catholic school, in Georgetown. She subsequently graduated from the Teachers’ Training College and returned to Carmel to teach, then moved to Mackenzie All-Age school in Linden and finally St Pius Roman Catholic school in Georgetown, where she prepared children (including my sisters and me) for the common entrance exam for secondary schools. She was also the deputy headteacher and acting headteacher, and specialised in choral speaking.
In 1955 she married Basil Haynes (whom she had met at the doctor’s surgery), an insurance salesman who later formed his own insurance company. They had three daughters and a son. In 1971, she emigrated permanently to the UK, settling in south London; first in Balham, then New Cross, where the rest of the family joined her. My father emigrated to the US in the mid-1970s after they had divorced amicably. My mother then became Cecily Haynes-Hart, following her union with RBO (Robert) Hart, a barrister and fellow educator; they had a happy partnership until his death in 1984.
Cecily lived in New Cross for nearly 46 years. She was the head of maths at Peckham Manor school and then South East London school, in Deptford, which later became West Greenwich school.
After retiring, she became the headteacher of the Robert Hart Memorial Supplementary school in Peckham, created to raise achievement and self-esteem in children deemed failures in their schools, a post she held until she was nearly 80. She was also a Foundation Trust member of King’s College hospital and was a mainstay of the Caribbean Teachers’ Association and its off-shoot, the Teaching and Educational Project, which through effective teaching and mentoring guided young people into employment. She was chair of governors at several schools.
A brilliant teacher, mentor, friend, sister, mother-to-all, orator and mathematician with a degree in statistics and calculus from the Open University, Cecily also loved to play the piano and the violin, to sing and to dance, and was known for her warmth, elegance and deep faith. She moulded many students who attributed their success to her influence and wanting to emulate her.
Cecily was predeceased by her son, Basil, and her granddaughter Chénee. She is survived by her three daughters, Wynette, Sharon and me, seven grandchildren, Aren, Kady, Xanthea, Joel, Jordan, Siobhan and Bryony, and her sister, Joyce.