Biography of Mrs. Alice Swanston- First Principal of the Charlestown Primary School

Mrs. Alice Chapman Swanston is originally from Clay Ghaut, Gingerland but resides in Jessups Village. She attended the Gingerland Junior (Chapel) School, and the Gingerland High School for one year before transferring to the Charlestown Secondary School. She was married to the late Autnell Swanston and is the mother of one daughter, Kimala Swanston.

Mrs. Swanston started her teaching career at the Charlestown Boys School in September, 1972. The Headteacher then was the late Mr. Sanford Boncamper. She taught Grade 1 for one year and was then transferred to the Gingerland Infant School where the late Mrs. Gwendolyn Manners Richardson was the Headteacher. She received her teacher training at the St. Kitts- Nevis Teachers Training College in, St. Kitts. This was during the first three years of her teaching career.

In 1975, Mrs. Swanston was assigned to the St. John’s Primary School where the late Mrs. Helen Hood was the Headteacher. She worked at that school for 11 years. During that period, the late Mrs. Myrtle Guishard also served as Headteacher. In 1986, she received a USAID scholarship to pursue a 1-year course in Mathematics at the Texas Southern University. At the end of that year, her Mathematics tutor, Mr. Westbury, secured a scholarship for her from the International Student Office. She received credits for her Teacher Training and was able to complete a Bachelor of Science in Education, with a minor in Mathematics and graduated with 1st Class Honours. During her career, Mrs. Swanston also participated in a 3- week Educational Course in Chile in collaboration with other Caribbean Headteachers.

In the early part of 1989, Mrs. Swanston was assigned to the St. Thomas’ Primary School where she worked until the end of the school year, under the leadership of Mr. Melford Ward, who was the Headteacher. Later, in September of that same year, the late Mr. Franklin Morton, who had recently retired from the Charlestown Junior School, handed the mantle to Mrs. Swanston and she took up position as the new Headteacher. The school back then, was situated downstairs the Charlestown Methodist Church. During that same month, Hurricane Hugo severely damaged the church, and the school had to be relocated to the New Testament Church of God on Bath Road and the Roman Catholic Hall in Craddock Road.

In 1992, a new school, Charlestown Primary, opened its doors in Ramsbury and Mrs. Swanston was appointed as the Headteacher. She was a pioneer during her time of leadership, introducing Black History Program, Report Books and P.E uniforms. During sports time, she rallied behind her athletes securing a 5- peat win, twice at the Inter-primary Championships. She boldly sported the school’s orange colour, along with her teachers decked in orange braids and chanting the sports songs. Under her leadership the school also won many other competitions in the form of SJCIC and Tourism quizes and Spelling Bees. Mrs. Swanston also initiated the End of Term “Teachers’ Get Together and Picnic which were largely enjoyed by the staff, students and parents. These enjoyable moments will surely be remembered in years to come.

Mrs. Swanston was a very supportive headteacher and instilled lifelong lessons in her staff and students alike. She worked diligently at the school, mainly the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at afternoons. She often checked the premises unless she checked each classroom. She ensured that the doors and windows were properly secured for the night. When she retired in 2009, Mrs. Swanston celebrated with her staff by personally financing a night out at the Nisbets Plantation Hotel, where she received a joyous yet emotional farewell.

At the 2008 Independence Celebrations, she was duly awarded by the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) for her significant contribution to education. In 2019, she was bestowed with a Medal of Honour by the Federation of St. Kitts- Nevis for Education and Community Outreach.

Mrs. Swanston is actively involved in the Church and Community. She is a life-long member of the Gingerland Methodist Church and has been in the Choir for over 40 years. She is the present Captain of the 1st Nevis Girls Brigade and has been with the Company for 54 years. She is also an Officer in the 1st Nevis Boys Brigade and was instrumental in reviving the Company in 2009 when she retired from her duties as a Headteacher.  She enjoys teaching the younger generation her skills in baking, cooking, music (steelpan) and needlework. As a retiree, she enjoys working in her garden with plants that include fruits, vegetables and flowers and delights in sharing her confectioneries with the staff and students of the Charlestown Primary School and her brigaders.

Mrs. Swanston has fond memories of all the schools she worked at and gives high commendation to all the Headteachers and Staff she has worked with. She confirms that parents of the Charlestown Primary School were supportive and the Staff was co-operative, collaborating well to ensure the success of the students of C.P.S. Mrs. Swanston gives the glory to God for all her achievements: “I thank God for the way He made me. He filled me with a great love for children and gave me lots of energy and talent to work with them. I trust Him and He guides me. All praise and glory unto Him.”