Teachers in Cayman hail from all over the world bringing new ways of teaching, experiences and knowledge. To gain further insights into the trials and tribulations of teaching, we asked four teachers to break it down for us.

Andy Allom

Andy Allom

Andy Allom, originally from Newcastle, UK, teaches at Clifton Hunter High School and has lived and worked in Cayman since 1994.

Who was your favourite teacher at high school and why?

Mr Chris Allom, my Maths teacher. He was my cousin and had not long started teaching when I began high school. He was young, enthusiastic and fun. Plus, I used to get a ride home every evening in his old Austin Cambridge classic car. He only retired about nine years ago. At least he outlasted his car!

How do you handle or deal with disruptive behaviour in class?

I use ‘behaviour boards’. These are poster boards with photos of each student and small envelopes underneath. Rather than writing student’s names on the whiteboard, I just drop a slip in the envelope. It is a visual reminder to stay on task and usually needs to go no further than that. However, second and third slips result in consequences. It works very effectively.

Which of your current or previous colleagues do you admire the most and why?

Mr Steven Clark. Steve is an incredibly gifted and devoted teacher, with a special quality of understanding and patience that makes him perfect for his role as Deputy Principal at CHHS. His approach to potentially difficult situations is always to defuse first, then deal with the problem after.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give older students?

Think about what YOU want to do and plan accordingly. It may be college. It may be work. It may be travel. Don’t feel as though you have to journey a path you haven’t chosen for yourself, but don’t blame anyone else for your choices.

You want to take your students on a working holiday. Where would you take them and why?

My son missed out twice on working school visits to Guatemala with “Habitat for Humanity”. Once because of panicky parents and the second time because of Covid travel restrictions. I would take my students there, with my lad as a team leader.

Jon Clark

Jonathon Clark

Jonathan Clark, from the UK, set up a new Sports College in conjunction with the 2012 London Olympics, and he was seconded by the British Council to help build a
school in Tanzania as part of the Olympic Legacy Project, before becoming Principal of John Gray High School.

How has teaching changed or evolved since you first became a teacher?

I have been working in education for over thirty years and the value of good teaching, and teachers, has always been important. Expectations are higher for all students now and we aim for nobody to be left behind. The use of technology has transformed the world, so it is important that we incorporate it into teaching and learning.

What’s your favourite way to spend your time off on the weekend?

Time spent with family is very precious to me. If I have a free day, you can usually find me sailing my boat, enjoying a sunset, or grilling steaks and fish for friends.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give older students?

Make sure you learn something from everyone you meet, not just parents and teachers. Dream big and follow your dreams relentlessly.

Who was your favourite teacher at high school and why?

My Physical Education teacher, and high school basketball coach, David Conway, was my favourite teacher. He was firm but fair and helped me to appreciate that individual differences bring strength to a team. He encouraged us to pursue our dreams but taught us that it was hard work that would make us successful. He eventually moved on to teach children with special needs, and his journey helped me to learn the importance of no child ever being left behind.

Who is your favourite author and why?

In recent years, I have enjoyed reading books by British Author, Matthew Syed, including Bounce, Black Box Thinking, The Greatest, and an empowerment book for students called You Are Awesome. Much of his work is based on the ideas of Malcolm Gladwell, but also aligns closely with my philosophy of education, the power of a positive mindset, and my passion for improving lives.


Mairead Joannou

Mairead Joannou is from Northern Ireland and teaches Religious Studies to Years 7-13 at St. Ignatius Catholic School.

When did you decide to become a high school teacher or work in education and why?

I decided to become a teacher when I was a teenager. This came from conversations that I would have with mum while she would do the housework. Growing up in Ireland in a working-class family, my parents wanted more for their children than what they had growing up and so we were taught the value of education, of being able to make a better life for ourselves born out of hard work and dedication to our studies.

Do you think there should be more opportunities for high school students to do work experience in a variety of companies on island?

Absolutely! We are constantly preparing our students for future jobs, some of which have not even been created yet, to solve problems that have not even arisen! It is a competitive market out there and we should equip them with more opportunities to exercise the skills that we teach and encourage. For example, showing initiative, resilience, collaboration, empathy and capitalising.

Your ideal two months summer break — where, doing what and who with?

This would most certainly be with the immediate and extended family. After Covid-19 restrictions I feel that the ‘where’ and ‘what’ no longer matter so much.

Do you think financial planning should be part of the school curriculum?

Yes, financial literacy teaches students the basis of money management, budgeting, saving, debt, investing and giving. These are the foundation to building strong money habits that help avoid mistakes that lead to financial struggles.

You want to take your students on a working holiday. Where would you take them and why?

Zambia, Ecuador and Honduras have missionary opportunities for teens to get involved with construction, helping finish the building of dormitories or classrooms as well as helping fit children with new shoes. They would have opportunities to engage with local children and to share the Gospel.

Mike Neeland

Michael Neeland

Michael Neeland, from the USA, is a Grade 8 teacher at Cayman International School. He has lived and taught at American or International schools in Spain, Taiwan, Dominican Republic, China and the Netherlands.

How do you handle or deal with disruptive behaviour in class?

I try to develop relationships early to lessen the amount of disruptive behaviour. Mutual respect goes a long way with most students. Understanding that behaviour isn’t always personal — we all have our moments. Pulling a student aside to check in when things seem off helps.

Which famous comedian would you invite to entertain your class?

Trevor Noah. He adapts his comedy to the audience and comes from an interesting background. I think he would be able to connect with the students.

What competitions and programmes would you recommend students take part in?

I have been impressed with the opportunities like Minds Inspired, which includes the Math Challenge and Robotics Challenge offered to students on the island. The CCMI programme is also amazing.

What’s the best piece of advice you would give older students?

Keep your options open early as you go further in your education. You never know what opportunities might happen.

Do you have any tips for parents who struggle to get their teenagers to study for exams?

Make it about the learning not the grades.

What is your favourite movie and why?

October Sky. Great movie that shows the true story of a group of boys striving to succeed using science.

If you hadn’t become a teacher what career might you have chosen?

Working at a big zoo. I enjoyed my electives that involve animals — ornithology and mammalogy. I have some friends that became zoo educators.