May 8, 2009 — Gov. John deJongh Jr. proclaimed this week as "Nurses Week" and LaVerne Terry, commissioner of education, noted that it was "PTA Teacher Appreciation Week." That means Audrey Bacchus gets a double dose of plaudits.
But Bacchus, a nurse and teacher at St. Croix Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC), said recognition by the powers that be isn't what motivates her.
"The results of my teaching are basically what the students think of me," Bacchus says. "The kids' evaluation is very important to me."
Students in the Nursing Technical Preparation (NTP) program at CTEC were quick to give her high marks.
"Mrs. Bacchus is a great nursing teacher, giving me a head start in preparing me for college," said Merlissa Nicholas, a senior. "She teaches the basis on ethics."
Shelita Sykes was making a hospital bed, with a fellow student in bed as a patient, and said Bacchus is right there to guide them in everything they do.
"Mrs. Bacchus is a very helpful teacher, and because of her I've learned a lot," said Sykes.
Bacchus, originally from St. Lucia, said she always wanted to be a nurse even as a young girl. She said she wanted to take care of people holistically — acknowledging emotions, mental and physical and spiritual health.
"No other profession does that as well as nursing," she says.
She attended Andrews University in Michigan, getting a bachelor's in health and a master's in public health. But she became pregnant before she did her practicals in nursing, and she and her husband, Denston Bacchus, moved to St. Croix where he was recruited to teach at a private school here.
She began teaching health, biology and life sciences in the public school system.
But getting her nursing degree still wasn't out of the picture even after teaching for years.
By the time her son Duane decided to become a nurse himself, he said since she gave up her career as a nurse he wanted her to attend Inter American University in Puerto Rico with him.
"With encouragement from my son and my husband, I finally became a nurse getting a bachelor's in nursing in 2005," Bacchus said.
"They needed nursing teachers really badly here so I decided to work with young people as I had all my life, and introduce them to the wonderful profession of nursing," says Bacchus. "The students become like my children. I cry with them, I play with them and I punish them."
She says the school offers a solid, well-planned and organized nursing program. The NTP program she teaches is an introduction to nursing to determine if it is a career the student should pursue.
"The good news is most of the students want to stay in nursing," Bacchus added.
On average CTEC has 10 to 20 students enrolled and next year she is looking forward to having two boys enrolled. The students graduate as certified nursing assistants.
She credited colleagues with outstanding contributions to the program, singling out CTEC principal Willard John.
"I see the program as a table that needs four legs to stand and I'm only one leg," she says.
Bacchus proudly noted the high percentage of students she has taught who have gone on to be certified nursing assistants. She has kept in touch with a number of girls who have gone to the States to continue their educations, in one case attending a mainland wedding last year.
Bacchus says when she retires she would like to travel, volunteer and do missionary work for the Seventh Day Adventist Church. She concluded that her belief in God and the Christian faith motivates everything she does.
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