Roland Gaspard Branch, a beloved retired teacher of the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School (CCSS), has passed away.
Reports are that Branch, who was ailing from a stroke, passed away at a local hospital at about 9 p.m. on Saturday, July 11.
Tributes have begun pouring out on social media from past students of Branch, who was well known as a disciplinarian and an avid sports lover, being a member of Oriole house at the school.
Stephan Regis, a CCSS past student, told St. Lucia News Online (SNO) that Branch, also called ‘Starry’, was “loved by a lot” of people.
“He would always visit the school. He was passionate about his inter-house sports. He taught social studies and geography and was well known for going around to ensure uniforms are in check, especially the girls’ skirts are long enough,” Regis said.
Writing on St. Lucians Aiming for Progress (SLAPS) Facebook group page, another past student, John Alvin Sealy said: “Now I really did not expect that. Just this afternoon our group (CCSS class of 79) were at the school and the good times we had with you were part of the discussion. You were certainly one of my teacher role models. I tried to master the content of whatever I taught in the same manner you did with Geography.
“I tried to draw the world map and the circle without a compass the same way you did. I tried to familiarize myseIf thoroughly with whatever text books my students were using in the same way you did. I tried to get in involved in my school house in whatever school I taught at in the same manner you were part of Oriole, your House. I have told you so personally and i have written it elsewhere however I will say it again. You Roland “Starry’ Branch was an inspiration to me. RIP my teacher. Sometimes, life can be so cruel. Just over one year ago I lost one of my best friends, Cyprien Jose Gouloo Simon, the best Common Entrance teacher I knew. Now I have lost the best secondary school teacher I ever had.”
In an online interview with SNO, Sealy said Branch was one of the first local teachers at the school in 1974.
“He retired three years ago. He was both football and cricket coach at one time. Mind you, he could not play football and his cricket was limited to bowling softball (wind ball). As a geography teacher, he was a tough marker and it was always said that if you can pass his exam then you can pass CXC or GCE,” Sealy added.
The past student further stated: “His house at the school was Oriole with yellow as its colour. He turned his homeroom yellow. His rag in his pocket was yellow, his blackboard duster was yellow. All classroom objects that could be yellow was yellow. He probably had the largest private local collection of the National Geographic magazine. He had the ability to quote the text book by page and paragraph from the top of his head. He was more than just a teacher, he was a friend and counsellor.”
Sealy, who went on pre-retirement leave four days ago, was a communications officer at the Ministry of Education. Prior to that, he was a teacher at the RC Boys Primary and Vide Bouteille Secondary schools.
Meanwhile, Carlton Roberts, also a CCSS past student, told SNO that Branch was a “superstar teacher” who was “bigger than teaching itself”.
Roberts, chief executive officer of Rush Transport and Business Services and CEO of RiddimNation Ent., who works and resides in Toronto, Canada, said Branch’s passion drove him to a lot of boundaries.
Roberts added: “He was as down to earth as igneous rock itself. He would walk around in his slippers and his yellow Oriole colours. That was his pride and joy. Oriole solid gold, as he used to say. A very no-nonsense, humble, direct and fair man. In his retirement, his re-enforcement was evident in that he would always let his past students know how proud he was of them. I’m one of the lucky few who got the chance to actually thank him for his service.
Roberts posted a poem in tribute of the late teacher on Facebook.
As Tiny Tim embarks on his latest journey
he leaves those of us he taught with a story
be it the battles of Oriole solid Gold
or plate tectonics, he gave his heart and soul
a true man amongst men.. unafraid of institution
every ready to help mould a generation
i remember our last conversation..
in which i thanked you for your contribution
you told me that you were proud of me..
but it was you who armed me with the tools to break free
i feel proud to be one of your soldiers
and this poem is dedicated to you.. so that everyone remembers..
The man,The legend.. Our teacher.. Our friend
…. Dr. Roland Branch..
lol as u would say “aye boy what u doing dere”
Have a safe journey.. Tiny Tim Rides again –
– Carlton Roberts