Shouts and screams of excitement pulsated throughout the Stephanie Hall Auditorium in St Andrew on Saturday, May 4, as Andre Hewitt and Kimberly Rose made history as they were crowned the first ever “Mr and Miss JTA St Andrew.”
The two, who became early crowd favourites from the start of the JN Bank-sponsored competition, also walked away with several sectional prizes.
Mr Hewitt, a trained early childhood specialist, who teaches at the Shortwood Practicing Infant, Primary and Junior High School in St Andrew, said he was surprised, but grateful, to win the title.
“I am absolutely over the moon. I wasn’t expecting this, therefore, when I heard my name, I was shocked. I am thankful for the experience. I’m happy to win; and I’m looking forward to my year as Mr JTA,” he declared.
The 30-year-old, who also won the prize for “Most Talented,” quickly became a crowd favourite, after his surprisingly superb dance routine to the popular Michael Jackson song, Billy Jean.
Decked out in signature Michael Jackson attire, including one white clove, sequined fedora and his white socks visible under his cropped pants, Mr Hewitt skillfully moon-walked his way across the stage, and into the hearts of the audience and judges.
Rounding off the top three in the Mr JTA St Andrew competition were O’Neal Morrison, who finished third; and Marlon Richards, who was second.
Mr Morrison, representing the West Central Division, also won the “Viewers’ Choice” Award; while Mr Richards, from the Gordon Town Division, was “Most Aware.”
30-year-old, home economics teacher, Miss Rose, dedicated her title of “Miss JTA St Andrew,” to her students at the New Day Primary and Junior High School in Grants Pen.
“This title means so much to me, because my students are here this evening; and they are realising that when you dedicate yourself to a task and commit yourself to something, you can be successful. I wanted them to see that anything they set their minds to do, they can achieve,” she said.
It was no surprise to the audience that Miss Rose walked away with the title after winning four of the nine sectional prizes, including: Most Aware; Most Congenial; Best Smile and Best Formal Wear.
Third place in the Miss JTA St Andrew contest went to Tashana Clarke, who also won the “Viewers’ Choice” and “Most Poised” awards, while Danielle Haye placed second.
Miss Clarke represented the Eastern Division, while Miss Haye was from the Gordon Town Division.
Kaydia Wilks-McCalla, president of the St Andrew chapter of the JTA and organiser of the pageant, said the aim of the contest was to showcase the talents and skills of Jamaican educators to the public.
“We wanted to show a different side of our teachers, to give more persons a chance to see our teachers ‘outside of the classroom,’ and to get more educators to appreciate their talents outside of their teaching skills,” she said.
The pageant, held under the theme: “Promoting the Teaching Profession: A Beacon of Hope and Inspiration to Our Nation,” included the contestants being judged on their awareness and knowledge of current affairs, creative skills, talents and confidence.
Mrs Wilks-McCalla said she was impressed with the contestants whom she said were intelligent, exceeded expectations, and blossomed for the competition’s climax.
“All 15 contestants, eight women and seven men, did exceptionally well; and made the committee members proud,” she said. “It was hard work; however, all our volunteers and sponsors put everything into making this a reality; and next year it will be even bigger and better.”
The show opened with an exciting dance routine, in which the teachers moved to popular dancehall tunes, including: Buju Banton’s, Bogle Dance and Ding Dong’s, Genna Bounce and Lebeh Lebeh.
That segment was followed by the Professional Wear showcase, as the teachers introduced themselves to the audience, dressed in their work attire. They later graced the stage for the Trashable Wear segment of the competition, strutting in their costumes made from recyclable materials: including plastic bags, old newspaper, plastic bottles, old CDs, bottle stoppers and crocus bags.
Other segments of the competition included the Talent Showcase, Formal Wear and Question and Answer. Although there were a few technical glitches, including a one-hour late start, overall it was an entertaining competition. There were several memorable performances from the contestants and guest performers, including the Pembrook Hall High School Band, Rondell Positive, Bugle and Shane-O. The inaugural competition kicked off Education Week, which is being observed Sunday, May 5 to Friday, May 10, under the theme: “Empowering Educators: Retooling, Innovating, Networking for Sustainable Development.”