By Dr. D. Elwood Dunn
|Josephine Greaves Shannon|
A mentee to educators as diverse as A. Doris Banks Henries (1913-1981), Bertha Baker Azango (1935-2010), Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman (1926-2004), George Flamma Sherman (1913 -1999) and Jackson F. Doe (1934 -1990), the death in Raleigh, North Carolina (USA) on June 12, 2015 of Mrs. Josephine Greaves Shannon marks the shedding of yet another of the older generation of Liberian educators. She actually accomplished two careers, one in Liberia in excess of 20 years, and the second in New York for a similar duration. On her retirement from Brooklyn Public School 38 in 2002, one mentor, Dr. Mary Antoinette Brown Sherman spoke glowingly of her contributions to education in Liberia. And upon learning of her passing, a colleague at PS38 recalled to me on the phone her collegiality and professionalism, as she referenced a “really good teacher.”
Born October 15, 1936 to David N. and Francis Johnson Greaves in Lower Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, her father who was of the Barchue Clan and later made their home at Newcess, was ward of the Thomas H. Greaves family of Grand Bassa County. Josephine was herself given at a tender age for rearing to Mary Ann and Thomas A. Mason also of Buchanan. Mary Ann was maternally a Barchue and thus a blood relative to Josephine’s biological father. Her early social and educational formation was in the home of the Masons from where she attended the St. Peter’s Claver School before subsequently continuing her education at St. Teresa’s Convent School in Monrovia. Strong Christian principles were inculcated in her during those early formative years.
Josephine was present at my birth in the home of my maternal grandparents. She would later use some of our mutual exile years in the United States to regale me interminably on the phone about her hand in my infancy and early life.
Her father later sent her to Lewis Barchue, a cousin, in Monrovia. There she continued her education at St. Teresa’s Convent High School beginning 1952, subsequently transferred to People’s College, a preparatory school of Liberia College/University of Liberia where she completed her high school education. She then was among the first set of enrollees of Teacher’s College of the University of Liberia. In 1959 she was awarded the B.Sc. degree in Education, embarking immediately into the education business, to which she remained steadfast. A scholarship award took her to Indiana University (Bloomington) in the United States where she completed the M.Sc. degree in Elementary Education.
She returned home shortly thereafter and joined the Ministry of Education but further certification and advanced training were a hallmark of her career. She qualified in 1965 for an advanced certificate in text material preparation and production under a USAID program at Indiana University. In 1969 she underwent training in editing textbooks and instructional materials at Collier-Macmillan International (USA). At Achimota College in Ghana she underwent advanced training in systematic curriculum development and evaluation. In Nigeria she was trained in the techniques of data collection and analysis in education research and curriculum development (Sept. 1976). Shannon was undergoing at Indiana University advanced training in elementary education curriculum development and instructional system technology in 1979/80 when the military coup d’état, which brought down the government of President William R. Tolbert, Jr., occurred.
Her career of half a century began inauspiciously as a teacher at the Monrovia Demonstration Elementary School in 1960. She served briefly as a teacher at the Sanniquellie Elementary and Junior High School (1965). In 1967 she joined the Department of Education (later Ministry) as a Curriculum Developer, remaining in that position to 1973 when she became at the Ministry National Curriculum Coordinator and Director of Instructional Materials and Curriculum Development. She remained in that position to 1979 when further training took her back to Indiana University in the United States.
Following a period of difficult adjustment in the United States, she joined in 1984 Brooklyn Public School Number 38 of the New York City Department of Education. There she taught Kindergarten, First and Second Grades with professionalism and dedication until her honorable retirement some 22 years later.
Her professional associations included the following: Board member of the West African Examination Council; Chairperson Executive Council of the African Social Studies Programs; Executive Board member of the African Curriculum Organization; member World Council of Curriculum and Instructional Material, member Science Education Program for Africa; member, Society of Liberian Authors; and president in the late 1970s of the Liberian Association of the United Nations.
Under the auspices of the Ministry of Education Mrs. Shannon wrote the following booklets: “Naveh and Somah” (1976), “Holidays of Liberia – Grade Four Supplementary Social Studies,” (1975), “Our Rope – Grade One Supplementary Textbook “(1972), and “The Authors Team” In The Reading Teacher, volume 23, no. 7, April 1970, (International Reading Association). Among her Papers are two unpublished manuscripts: “My Catfish”, and “A Visual Geography of Liberia.”
Among a host of relatives, friends and colleagues mourning her loss is her only child, Mrs. Murrey Bernard Dionne of Wendell, North Carolina, her grandchildren, her siblings: Martha Greaves Borner, Nathaniel Greaves, J. Barchue Greaves, and the Barchue, Greaves, Bernard, Johnson, Shannon, Dionne and (The Late) Thomas A and Mary Ann Mason families.
May her soul find a peaceful repose!