The Caribbean American community has lost a giant in the field of education – Jean Nesta Keizs – who passed away quietly on July 7 after a brief illness. His passing was as peaceful and quiet as his legacy is impactful, lasting and meaningful. His is a legacy not only for the Caribbean community and the general community of educators in New York State that must be praised and remembered, but it is a legacy that must and will serve as a model for educators today. today and tomorrow.
It is a legacy of service marked by a commitment to young people; it is a legacy rooted in the model of demanding high educational achievement goals for the underserved and often undervalued; it is the legacy of fifty years of active, tenacious and compassionate service in the field – thirty years with the Board of Education and twenty in retirement in the community colleges of the City University of New York. It is a model of education as a way of life.
Ms. Keizs, a graduate in languages and education from Howard University and New York University, could have chosen any field in the field of education, but she chose to use her training as an educator to serve in an underserved area of New York. , poorly organized – an educational wasteland – some would say – in the South Bronx. She, like others at that time, was making choices in the wake of the civil rights movement with all of its transformational leaders, goals and activities. Many were moved to action; John was one. In making this choice, Mrs. Keizs decided to make a contribution in the field of education, in the physical field, where it matters most.
With that determination and even that fearlessness for her own safety, she embarked on a career to help shape a community to power education and for more than 30 years she has served in this field in various capacities, d first as a language teacher, then as an assistant. principal and finally as principal. In all of these roles, she was known for supporting families and their children. During this time, she was also known as a great student advocate, a principal who challenged her students to aim high academically, and a person who encouraged excellent school-parent collaboration.
Jean Keizs was also known for having a very human and compassionate touch in selecting good teachers, mentoring them and bringing them to full maturity, while encouraging students to become leaders through collaboration, partnership, respect for others and the compromise. Upon her retirement from the NYC Board of Education, she helped struggling schools across the country organize and structure themselves administratively and through their curriculum to obtain better academic results for their students. And she also extended her contribution teaching at the college level, helping to prepare teachers and paraprofessionals for the job in New York’s public schools.
Jean Nesta Keizs was born in Jamaica, had her early education in Jamaica at Ardenne and Excelsior high schools, and comes from a family known for its community involvement and commitment. And so, in the critical time of the late sixties and early seventies, a period in the seminal history of the civil rights movement with all its transformational educational endeavors, we found that this sweet lady/ distinguished, this pleasant, soft-spoken lady, with determination and drive, chose to settle in an area to make a difference; and a difference it has indeed made.
Awarded and praised by New York City educational institutions and New York State authorities, Jean Keizs was an outstanding educator whose loss we mourn. but we look with admiration to his legacy which we know will serve as an inspiration to us, telling us that we can take the path we have not taken and, in doing so, we can be effective, productive leaders, yes, transformational.
Beyond the formal working structure within the NYC Board of Education (District 10) and later at the college level (Queensborough and Bronx Community College/CUNY), Miss Keizs was instrumental in the also informal community education programs. These were programs in NY City boroughs for students, parents, teachers, and community leaders. At first seventies, when large numbers of immigrants from all over the Caribbean were flocking to New York, there was no immigration advisory service to guide them, and there was no educational program for them.
Ms. Keizs and a group of like-minded educators and community advocates (Edna Collins, Arnold Anderson, Petulind Blake) working under the auspices of the Jamaica Progressive League, organized an informal high school graduation program , the GED program and without any government support, funded solely by themselves and the Progressive League of Jamaica, they set out to run an evening and weekend program where arriving immigrants could study for the GE D ., Of course, this program would have the duration and life- altering impact of putting these new immigrants on the path to success and integration into NYC society.
For the duration of the program, hundreds of individual immigrants were helped, and the record shows that for every student they sent – the hundreds of students they sent – everyone was successful. There were no failures, and it is credit to the dedication and organization of the program that Jean Keizs and others put into this program, that he has helped so many people. It was that kind of dedication, that kind of interest that Jean Keizs had for the community.
Beyond strictly academic activities, Miss Keizs and her colleagues also provided free consultation to parents and students coming from the Caribbean without proper educational documentation or with documentation misinterpreted by the system here. Miss Keizs and several other volunteers have worked with the system to provide the kind of guidance that has saved so many students from being left behind. There is a special story that illustrates this important work.
The Ministry of Education was prepared to assign a particular student to a special education program because he was reluctant and did not speak. Miss Keizs and Miss Petrin Blake intervened and instructed the young man; he continued to stay in the regular classes, graduated at the top of his class, and went to Dartmouth College on a scholarship – dual masters and doctorate. This is the kind of success that Jean Keizs has contributed to, and it is the kind of success that is part of his legacy.
Of course, there were even more informal settings that are part of Miss Keizs’ legacy. From her family home in the Bronx to her summer home in Dutchess County, every outing to the pool, basketball court, tennis court, or garden watering was punctuated by lessons. math, reading homework, a little writing exercise or other academic treats. Everyone – friends, family, neighbors, visitors – everyone who came under his spell was prepared to learn for life.
Forty years ago when Carib News was organized, Jean Keizs was one of those people who supported the organization by joining as a founding contributor with a focus on education. It helped bring that awareness and commitment to education of our people, even through thick and thin, knowing that this was the future and that we had to face the future.
By laying these foundations of education, the system today reaps the rewards of students, teachers and parents.
Jean Keizs dedicated his life to education, to the right to a decent education. She was able to organize around this effort to indicate the opportunities for students, parents and teachers, as to what education means, and the emphasis that needs to be placed on education as we seek to raise the family as a whole and society in general.
These heroic efforts by individuals like Ms. Keizs have helped so many get on the right path to transforming an immigrant community by being guided to the best academic paths leading to academic, economic, social, civic and even in the long term. success for life. It is this kind of devotion that we mourn, but we note in mourning the value of the life lived – the value for our community, the value for our society, the value for our humanity. This is why today we write the name of Jean N. Keizs in this editorial.
For Jean N. Keizs, education is not only a preparation for life; education is life itself. We owe her so much because she gave so much to educate our society. May she rest in peace and may her example be an inspiration to those whose lives she touched and those who will come to know her through her good deeds.