English historian Thomas Fuller must have seen it coming when he noted that those born to be hanged cannot be drowned. Why else would Ghana’s 2017 reigning National Best Teacher, Ms Faustina Coppson, who started at the age of 10 to teach her mates, would still be teaching at age 41, and conclude that teaching is the only career for her?
Not your typical child prodigy though, Ms Coppson says she discovered at the rather young age – 10 years – that teaching was a natural flair for her even before she herself could be taught enough, and so she decided to bear her cross in life that early.
Away from the national spotlight brought to shine on her upon winning the national diadem, the educationist cast a simple, lovable yet firm personality, tinged with a heavy dose of the missionary discipline now so acutely out of supply in Ghana’s educational institutions. She had agreed to speak to Graphic Online from close range, close enough to help us know her most underpinning principle in life – whatever you get to do, give it your all and do it the best way you can.
“I saw myself teaching way back in class four. I started gathering Sunday School children and teaching them any time our Sunday School teachers were not available. So they [Sunday School unit] realizing that I had the interest, created a very young class for me. So I started handling them, the very young ones, below five and six years,” Ms Coppson told Graphic Online in an interview.
Ms Coppson in an interview with Graphic Online
Her Methodist Church would encourage her further as she was handed leadership roles at the girls’ fellowship.
Now at age 41, married with a 13-year-old son and serving as Deputy Headmistress of the Richard Akwei Memorial Basic School at Agbogbloshie in Accra, Ms Coppson believes some divine hand was in control of her early life when she thought she was having fun.
Ms Coppson was born in the Northern regional capital of Tamale, on September 27, 1976 to Mr Charles Coppson (a soldier) and Mrs. Rebecca Coppson (a caterer) who both hail from James Town in Accra.
The last of five siblings - two boys and three girls - Faustina Coppson’s family was based in Tamale at the time of her birth because Mr. Charles Coppson, then a military officer, had been posted there. And as fate would have it, the family was on its way back to Accra only a few months after she came into this world, as father was once again put on transfer.
They settled at Dansoman where she has since lived with her family.
Ms. Coppson was first enrolled at the Most Holy Heart School and later continued at the Ebenezer Secondary School, both in Dansoman.
Upon completing her General Certificate of Education, GCE ‘O’ Level, she gained admission to the Holy Child College of Education in Takoradi.
Ms Coppson in class
After successfully completing Holy Child, Ms Coppson was posted to Bewuanum - Mfafo D/C Primary School in the Central region.
In her fourth year at Bewuanum - Mfafo D/C Primary School, she gained admission to the University of Education in Winneba to study Basic Education, whereupon completion, she was posted to the 28th February Road Mixed Primary School, Osu in Accra, where she stayed for five years. At the beginning her sixth year however, she was transferred to the Richard Akwei Memorial Basic School.
Deserving Best Teacher Award?
Ms Coppson prizes award to the Headmistress of Richard Akwei Memorial Basic School, Madam Emelia Larbie
She has no qualms about that. While the recognition might have been one way God is smiling at her, she says she has also given her all to the only profession she knows and loves.
The selection process is rigorous, she recalled, and nominees compete at the district level, then to a regional phase before facing off in the national challenge.
Teachers’ lesson notes, exercises books of the children, marking of the registers, and corrections of pupils are checked by retired educationalists. In addition, nominees must teach in the presence of a panel of judges, besides oral interviews.
“They need to know what you really know about your job, they need to know whether you know about your employer, what are some of your responsibilities, the kind of teaching aids you are using, whether they are useful to the pupil. You need to know beyond being a teacher, so they check on all those things”, she told Graphic Online.
Ms Coppson said the judges also watch out for the impact of the nominee in the community he or she lives as a teacher, and they visit the community to interact with community members without as much of a hint to the candidate.
Ms Faustina Coppson, currently a primary one teacher of Richard Akwei Memorial School at Agbobloshie, beat two others to win the coveted national prize – which comes in the shape of a 3-bedroom house, GH₵50,000 cedis, a scholarship to study abroad and a life insurance cover from SIC.
Investing in wards
One of Ms Coppson's pupils solving a maths problem
The most devastating realization in her career is that parents are not investing enough in the education of their wards.
Citing herself as an example, she said the chance given her by her parents paid off.
And she is convinced that that is definitely the way to go if parents would devote their time and finances to support the wellbeing and the educational needs of their children.
Ms Coppson would also want parents to follow up their wards progress at school and help suggest corrective measures for their holistic upbringing, saying it is not enough to secure admission for one’s ward.
“A child can come to school a whole term and there are no exercise books, no pencils, nothing and you are a teacher and you are preparing lesson notes every week to teach. How do you teach them?” she quipped.
This, Ms Coppson noted hinders the academic performance of the children and the evaluation process of the teacher.
A pupil of Richard Akwei Memorial Basic School presenting a bouquet to Ms Coppson when she visited school
The National Best Teacher for 2017 intends to focus on educating street children, in addition to her teaching. According to her, it has been her dream that most street children in the national capital would acquire at least, basic education.
And as first steps towards the realization of the long-held dream, she has adopted three street children she has put in school at the Richard Akwei Memorial School.
And she plans to use her position as the National Best Teacher to seek sponsorship to move children off the streets and put them in schools.
Ms Coppson lists listening to music and sightseeing as her hobbies, and when it comes to her favorite dish, gari with grounded pepper and fish must be on the menu.