COMMENTARY: Dr. Kay Polydore – Nation Builder

Dr. Kay Polydore, March 3, 1940 – December 31, 2021 our principal at the Dominica Sixth Form College

I first became acquainted with Dr. Kay Polydore in 1972 when I  entered the Dominica Grammar School (DGS).   At that time Mrs. Polydore presented as a stern and effective Spanish teacher. She was born on March 3, 1940,  in the early days of the World War II when Hitler’s Nazi hordes swept mainland Europe and German U-Boats torpedoed ships in our Caribbean waters. Inspired by the lofty ideals of liberty, DGS students like Osmund St. Clair Alleyne and Lacombe Alphonsus McCoy  made the ultimate sacrifice, when they volunteered to stem the tide of fascism by joining the Royal Air Force.

Victory in World War II for the Allied cause in 1945 transformed the old colonies of the British West Indies, expanded democracy and the bounds of opportunity. As a result,  the 1950s/1960s saw more Dominicans graduate from university than at any time prior.  Kay Polydore formed part of that early cohort of post-World War II Dominican women who had gone on to earn a university education. Some of those female graduates I remember from that period are Frances Harris, Josephine Josephs, Cecilia Green, Candia Cauderion, and Kathleen Pemberton (Ma Karam).

Prior, the Dominican woman was restricted to the role of mother, housewife, plantation worker, elementary school teacher, servant, or nurse. Now, our education system was being crafted at the high school level by female teaching professionals such as Kay Polydore who had scaled the highest rungs of tertiary  education. The pioneering work of our university educated teachers of that time opened doors so that we now have female doctors, engineers, and scientists.

A tall and erect teacher of purposeful gait, Ma Polydore, as we called her (or simply “Ma Po), was a no-nonsense person who spared no effort to impart discipline to us. She expected excellence from us and did not suffer fools lightly. In those days she wore her hair in well pressed waves, aided by the hot-comb,  as was the custom of the times for women of African descent.

In 1977, I entered the Sixth Form College  (SIFOCOL). This was a stirring time of Black consciousness, Pan Africanist philosophy, the increasing popularity of socialist ideas and talk of national independence.  The Sixth Form College Student Council on which I served as president was considered by those of the older generation to be radical and left-wing in orientation. We supported the call for independence made by  Rosie Douglas’ Popular Independence Committee. The SIFOCOL Student Council was the tip of the spear of the insurgent Dominica Federation of Students.

Although she moved from pressing her hair, to donning an afro hairstyle, Ma Po maintained a firm hand. She was like a mother hen and sought to bridle our radicalism where she felt it would undo discipline at SIFOCOL  and/or otherwise sabotage our academic pursuits. Ma Po’s mission was our success and she did not bite her tongue in once describing one of our student leaders as resembling in speech a “semi-literate politician who was trying to fool the illiterate masses.”

In that period the SIFOCOL was housed at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Extra-Mural Center at Elms Hall. The UWI Tutor was the radical firebrand and independence advocate Bernard Wiltshire. In that ferment, Ma Po strived to have us be inoculated from the virus of radicalitis.  By ensuring balance in our affairs and managing the college best she could with the limited means available, Kay Polydore executed her mission well. She was a school principal with dignity and a degree of gravitas. She was an effective teacher and a role model grounded in rectitude. Those of my generation owe her, and  the teachers of that era such as Dorothy Leevy, Henry Volney, Hubert Charles, Anita Astaphan (Bully), Alwin Bully and others a debt of gratitude.

Kay Polydore passed away on December 31, 2021. We extend our condolences to her family and friends at this time. It is also right and proper that we render a warm and affectionate salute to our teacher and Sixth Form College Principal, Dr. Kay “Ma Po” Polydore.  She served us well and was a nation builder. We shall remember her.

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13 Comments

  1. January 12, 2022

    Dr. Polydore was the most effective pedagogue in my secondary school career. When I entered DGS in 1966, she taught me Civics in the first form. In the second form in 1967, Spanish was introduced in place of Latin. She was my first Spanish teacher in the second and third forms. I studied French with her in the fourth and fifth forms and she was the BEST. In the sixth form, she taught Spanish again. So it is no wonder that I became a Spanish and French teacher from which I finally retired in 2017. I owe my educational direction to Dr. Polydore. Today, I am proud of my fluency in Spanish and French all due to her fantastic pedagogical skills. Thank you Dr. Polydore. You were the greatest. May you rest in eternal peace. You earned it.

  2. Addie
    January 9, 2022

    She was a great teacher. I will never forget the Spanish words rolling off her tongue as she taught us to conjugate the Spanish verbs. Although I never saw her again after my days at DGS I have never forgotten the name (Miss Polydore)
    Condolences to her family.

  3. The Calabash
    January 8, 2022

    I cherish our DGS teachers of the 70s. They made me who I am, even today!

  4. Claude Bellot
    January 8, 2022

    I’m so sorry to hear of Kay’s passing. I’m sending my sincere wishes for peaceful moments and comfort that I trust will come in time.
    With sympathy, C

  5. Candia Alleyne
    January 8, 2022

    Rest in Peace Kay. Your work is appreciated by many. Your students success and their contribution to the development of our region and our world, will be proof of your contribution among others, to the development of mankind.
    Candia Alleyne

  6. Nugent Thomas
    January 7, 2022

    I was struck with the news of the passing of my teacher at DGS – Ms Kay. A member of the genetically coded family who rose to full her potential. I join in salute.
    One of the teachers of the super team ( Ms Sorhaindo, Ms Brand, Mr Clayton, Mr Alexander, Mr Richards, Mr Leevy…. So many thoughts raced through my head just like many of you who sat in her classroom.
    Although many decades have passed since we all encountered this phenomenal educator – the feeling we had when she entered the class and greeted us and ask that we take our seats, has not faded one bit from my memory of her.
    Our minds and hearts were deeply touched by her. Dr. Polydore will forever remain a timeless icon as an exceptional teacher. She so expertly and tirelessly taught the quick and slow minded ones in her classroom. I would expect a Thumbs Down from the latter group.

    May My Earthly Written Words Be An Accolade To Her New Place Of Rest.

  7. Dr Clayton Shillingford
    January 7, 2022

    My condolences to the family of Kay Polydore.. We shared brief time at the Dominica Grammar School when I was science teacher there also with other female teachers Olive Brand and Joan Sorhaindo..graduates in arts from UWI..As mentioned there was strict discipline and standards were high..I was sorry to hear of Kay’s passing

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  8. The Truth Be Told
    January 6, 2022

    Sincerest condolences to the family the Clarendon’s and the others. I never heard of her passing. Thanks for the information

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  9. January 6, 2022

    Please accept my deepest condolences

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  10. En Ba La
    January 6, 2022

    My condolences to her family. I remember Dr. Polyore as the Tertiary Education Advisor at the Ministry of Education where I worked in the 90s a well respected.

    I had the pleasure of working with her and they helped shaped or instil in me a work ethic that I took everywhere asidefrom my family. I was young my first job and met her. I remember her always sending poems to be published instill he paper weekly.

    I remember when she published her book I felt honored when I was given an autographed that I have to this day.

    Knowing people like her really helped me keep my self grounded having worked with her while I was in my late teens.

  11. January 6, 2022

    A bit of correction to Mr. Christian’s piece regarding female graduates.

    The name should be Josephine Josephs and not Joseph. Thanks

    ADMIN: Thank you for letting us know.

  12. Zandoli
    January 6, 2022

    I was reading this fondly until the last paragraph when I read of her passing. This one hit me very hard.
    I was planning to visit Dominica in February (but the idea was since scrubbed on account of the high covid numbers) and I was planning to visit her.
    I have the greatest respect for Mrs. Polydore.
    I remember in 1977 when I was a first year student at SIFOCOL, I went into her office with the intention of dropping A-Level Math. She encouraged me to push through the difficulty and I did. I got the highest grade in math in my class when I sat A-Levels in 1979.
    I have done very well for myself and I owe much of my success to Mrs. Polydore. She taught me perseverance and tenacity. To this day, I remember that meeting. It was a turning point in my life, not so much about math, but no letting difficult situations stop you from achieving your goals.
    I am sorry I will not get the chance to tell her how meaningful a part she played in my life.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 1
    • Bane
      January 6, 2022

      who is this arse that gave this a thumbs down?
      ten fold back to you!

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

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