BHS salutes long-serving teacher
Last week, in a room packed with colleagues, former colleagues, family and former students, Mrs. Julie Downey gave thanks to a career that spanned 43 years at BHS. After graduating from the Chelsea College of P.E. in Eastbourne, UK in 1975, Mrs. Downey began her teaching career at BHS and never looked back. “When you start at the best, there is nowhere else to go” she told the assembled crowd, to a huge cheer!
From a young age, Mrs. Downey knew that she wanted to be a P.E. teacher, and her own schooling began at Sandy’s Grammar School (now Somerset Primary), followed by Dellwood and then Mount Saint Agnes. Her teachers always encouraged her love of sports, but they also instilled in her the importance of focusing on her academics too, if she planned to become a teacher. They encouraged her on and off the sports field, something which she says she brought to her teaching at BHS, “I always tell my students to be the best they can be; both in the classroom and on the playing field.”
As a young student, her favourite sport was Netball, and she is very proud of the great success the BHS Netball teams have had over the years under her guidance. Having dedicated her whole adult life to developing female student athletes, Mrs. Downey is a strong advocate for the inclusion of sports in girls’ education. “I think the most important aspect of P.E. for me, is learning good sportsmanship. Athletes must be able to win gracefully, and lose knowing what it took to beat you. I also think there are many leadership opportunities in sports for girls, and it has been great to see those skills develop in my students over the many years I have taught at BHS.”
Since she began in 1975, Mrs. Downey has seen many changes at BHS. The one with the most impact on the P.E. Department was the building of the Jessie Vesey Sports Centre (JVSC) in 2003. Before that, Mrs. Downey and her team were limited in what they could teach due to the small indoor athletics space available to them. Once the JVSC opened, the P.E. programme saw big changes. “We instituted a full basketball and volleyball programme and we were able to play netball inside on a hard surface, which sped up our game and made us more competitive. The upstairs fitness area meant students could choose a fitness option in the Upper Years. The new facility also included a climbing wall which meant we could offer something totally new to students.” The robust girls’ football programme is also something which she has watched develop over the years, along with a sailing programme, and she is thrilled to see more students given the opportunity to try these sports.
Mrs. Downey is going to miss the students the most, along with her P.E. colleagues, Ms Kath Davis (a former student) and Ms. Val Young. She is looking forward to new “freedom to come and go on my own” as well as being able to spend more time with her grandchildren, and go to their sports days!
Head of School, Linda Parker stated, “It is truly remarkable to be able to celebrate a member of staff who has spent her entire career at BHS. Julie Downey has been a much loved and respected teacher for 43 years, and BHS is forever indebted to her for her service and commitment to educating girls in Bermuda. It has been an honour to work with her, and we all wish her much happiness in this next phase of her life.”
• Press release from Bermuda High School for Girls