Tenniel Carew knows the benefits of wise investments – financial and otherwise.
A sixth-form teacher of accounting and management of business (MOB) teacher at Bishop Anstey High School East & Trinity College East (BATCE), she has been investing her time and knowledge in her students for the past seven years and it has borne rewarding fruit.
This year was no different, as 11 of her students placed on the Caribbean Examination Council's (CXC) regional merit list – a list of the top ten students in every CAPE subject in the Caribbean.
“In unit one, my students secured four places: one in first place, two tying for second place and one in eighth. In accounting unit two, two tied for first and four for fourth,” an elated Carew told WMN.
One of her lessons students from another school also tied for fourth place in accounting unit two. The unit one exam is done in lower six, and unit two in upper six.
She wasn’t expecting a merit list this year, as a result of the structure of the exam.
“The exams were multiple choice and I wasn’t sure if CAPE was going to issue a list. But I raise my students to be great, so there was no surprise that they did so well,” she said.
The school also got seven national scholarships in total, three of which were copped by her students – one open and two additional.
Carew, 30, said she understands the importance of having people believe in your potential and pushing you to be your best, as she too had that advantage. Her parents George and Marjorie Carew, her accounts teacher at Arima Central Secondary School, Cynthia Langdon and captain of the Exodus steel orchestra Julie Williams are among them.
“Miss Langdon lit my passion for accounting because she made it relatable. She was a teacher inside and outside the classroom, and gave us her number to call her if we needed her to explain anything.”
Carew went on to do accounting at sixth form at BATCE, majored in accounting in her first degree at UWI, and she is now completing her ACCA certification.
“And I played pan throughout it all. Most of my studies was done at the Exodus panyard,” in St Augustine. Eventually, she said, she intends to do a master’s degree and move on to lecturing in tertiary education.
She started playing pan at nine, and at 13 became an Exocubs member. In 2005 she played “on the road” with Exocubs, and in her first Panorama in 2006 as a member of Exodus.
“I play the cello pan, and we played Max it Up. Listen! It was amazing. Moving from the little league to playing with the big band. The older band members used to take really good care of me.”
She laughed as she recalled a time when a teacher told her father she was falling asleep at school, and he threatened to stop her from playing pan until she learned to balance both.
“My parents were always very firm when it came to my schoolwork. They supported me in whatever extracurricular activities I chose to do, but I had to maintain good grades.
"He told Julie (Williams) that he was taking me out of pan, but she told him to send me an hour before practice and she made sure I did my homework in the panyard. I would be playing pan with my books right next to me so I could study during breaks.”
Before becoming a teacher, Carew decided to test the corporate waters. She worked at the Ministry of Justice for two years as the accounts officer for the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board, and a year with chartered accountants Ernst & Young as an auditor. She soon realised she was not cut out for corporate life.
“I teach because I am an investor and my currency is people. My students and I work very hard,” and they know the difference between when it’s time to work and time to play.
“I attend my students’ graduations and I go with balloons. I have footballers in my class and I go to all their football games.
"But the next day I expect them to show up in class and perform. They can’t tell me they were tired and couldn’t come to class, because we were both at the same game.”
For her, transitioning from in-person to online classes has been a challenge.
“You are basically teaching a blank screen, and most times their mics are muted. Because I teach numbers it is hard to keep them engaged.”
And in order to avoid inequity, she did past papers and notes packages and delivered to them.
“So they can have all the resources and everyone can be on the same page.”
She said after exams she usually treats her students to a non-alcoholic-wine and cheese celebration.
"We didn’t do anything this year because of the pandemic. We will wait it out until we get some restrictions lifted,” by which time she expects to be fully inoculated.
Apart from her classroom duties, Carew runs the school’s business lab, which is used to bridge the gap between the classroom and the world of work. The lab offers students real-life opportunities to practise what they learn in classroom.
“We do sales of books, stationery, etc. Students assume positions such as CEO and marketing managers, which they hold for a year…We run it like a business, with financial reports and all.”
She said the lab also offers financial literacy courses, with lectures on selected topics once every month. Students are taught about things such as investments, how to read payslips, and to calculate the National Insurance table.
“We do game-based learning on things such as stock exchange trading. We play the Wolf of BATCE, similar to the movie The Wolf of Wall Street, where we give students virtual money to invest. We make it real and exciting so the knowledge is etched in their minds.”
The movie is based on the true story of Jordan Belfort, from his rise to being a wealthy stockbroker to his fall as a result of crime and corruption.
Carew loves the culture of the school.
“We have the best blend between academics and holistic development. At BATCE you get a taste of everything.”
But Carew’s love for and dedication to youth and development is not limited to students of BATCE. She oversees the financial aspects of her theatre group, Milwaz Productions, founded by her friend Janieka Tudor-Baptiste. And she does administrative work for the Powerful United Football Academy in her La Horquetta community.
She is currently working on a proposal that she hopes will enable the young people in her community to have access to work experience while they are at school getting an education.
“I intend to send it to the MP (Foster Cummings), corporate sponsors and the Ministry for Youth Development and National Services.”
And Carew is big on DIY projects, one of which has led to her small business Everything Cute.
“I do grazing or pairing boxes, in which I put wines, olives, cheese, things like that which can be used on date nights, celebrations or just because.”
She also enjoys baking, going to the beach and spending time with her parents.
“Every year we do a shopping trip and a tourist trip. Mom is my bestie. I’m really looking forward to when we can do that again.”