By Chelsea Baranowski, Special Contributor to News of St. John
We recently caught up with the lovely Ms. Jeune Provost outside the St. John School of the Arts, one of her two places of work. Luckily, Julius E. Sprauve School – her other place of employment – and the School of the Arts are only two blocks away, caddy-cornered across from the police station, near the band stand and in the center of Cruz Bay. While we chatted about Jeune’s life as an esteemed teacher, a native Virgin Islander, a mother, and her other various roles, she continued to attend to students, assist with their rides home, and watch her daughter finish her dancing class (before she began her own). Jeune’s ambition and light shine through from the moment you meet her.
Like everyone on St. John, Ms. Provost’s life was disrupted and required some concessions and alterations after the storms. However, as a native of St. Thomas, a strong career woman and dedicated wife and mother, Jeune had no plans of letting Irma get in the way of her future. Jeune’s husband had lost his business, and her in-laws left island after the storm. So with a daughter to think about, she was forced to reconsider her position at the Department of Education in St. Thomas. Jeune made the decision to teach over at the Sprauve School where she had worked and thrived for the three previous years. We’re all happy to have Jeune back on island teaching our children.
Every part of Jeune emanates patience and kindness, which is what we all look for in a teacher, a molder of a community’s young minds. So it’s no wonder she was nominated for the State Teacher of the Year (in this case state refers to territory) in 2015, an honor that Jeune attributes to her unorthodox teaching methods, and those that led her to the district position at the Department of Education.
“I was going from classroom to classroom, I loved helping teachers and helping them improve their craft… I loved my job!” But that same enthusiasm doesn’t lag when she tells us how happy she is to be back at Sprauve. “I am where I am supposed to be right now,” she said. And we couldn’t agree more.
Challenges abound at Sprauve School, for its students and faculty, and for the children of St. John as a whole. A large portion of classrooms were destroyed in Irma, and Sprauve remained closed until October 16th. And at that time, children were only able to attend school for half days. That is where other governmental and non-governmental groups, like St. John School of the Arts, stepped in.
The School of the Arts has had tuition-free classes all year, from art classes to language classes to singing and performing, and they have been able to take a huge burden from the community as we continue to rebuild, as well as an immense responsibility of caring for and serving the children of St. John. Here, at the School of the Arts, Jeune teaches a Caribbean Movement class, as well as one called Acting for Radio, TV, and Film.
As her daughter Melania practices her moves in the background with incredible grace, especially for a 7-year-old, Jeune and I discussed the future of Sprauve school: the idea of putting modular classrooms in the ball field so that full-day classes can resume next year (the governor recently announced this would occur within the next few months), the need for students to return to school, and for qualified teachers to fill positions left empty. There are still many kinks to be worked out, but Jeune encourages me. If there are teachers like her, and outside programs and opportunities available to the kids of St. John, we will get through this. She also asked me to let readers know that Sprauve’s principal has an open door policy, and is wonderful, and they encourage anyone who is interested to check out the school for themselves and connect with these children directly. In the meantime, Jeune will continue to work two jobs to ensure that her students have the best opportunities available.
Again, we are all very fortunate to have people like Jeune living here on St. John.
Chelsea Baranowski is a lifelong St .John resident. She owns the popular Lime Inn restaurant in Cruz Bay with her husband Richard. The couple has two adorable young boys.