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Bethel School History
History of the Bethel Elementary School
The Bethel Elementary School was begun in 1940 but officially established in 1946 under the direction of Elder Wellington Clarke and Mrs. Jennie Clarke. It began with two rooms housing 4 grades in each one (1-4 and 5-8). The early teachers were Ms. Gloria Norman (Garrett) with Professor Smallwood teaching the higher grades. There was no preschool or nursery at this time. However, over the years the school experienced much growth which saw an expansion of the physical facilities and the academic offerings.
Uniforms for the students in grades 1-8 were introduced in the 1970s. Enrollment also increased at this time. Students staged many performances for the church community at large. Their performances included singing in English and Spanish and the use of musical instruments including Bells.
The student population at Bethel consisted chiefly of a large number of non-Adventists students, students from other SDA churches and students from the Bethel Church.
The name Bethel was chosen for the school soon after it was founded. Bethel means “House of El” or “House of God”. Bethel was a border city described in the Old Testament as being located between Benjamin and Ephraim. Eusebius, Caesarea and Jerome described it in their time as a small village that lay 12 Roman miles north of Jerusalem, to the right or east of the road leading to Neapolis.
Bethel is mentioned several times in Genesis. It is first mentioned in Genesis 12, but the best known instance is probably Genesis 28, when Jacob, fleeing from the wrath of his brother Esau, falls asleep on a stone and dreams of a ladder stretching between heaven and earth and thronged with angels. Yahweh stands at the top of the ladder, and promises Jacob the land of Canaan; when Jacob awakes he anoints the stone with oil and names the place Bethel.
Bethel Elementary School’s history and legacy was built on the shoulders of two visionary leaders who allowed the Spirit of God to lead them into establishing a House for God where the children of God could be taught of God. The missionary team of Mr. and Mrs. Wellington and Jennie Clarke answered the call of God on their lives to establish a work in Bethel so that His children could be taught of Him.
Pastor Andral Wellington Clarke was born October 30, 1896 and died August 30, 1995 in the beautiful island of Kingston, Jamaica. Pastor Clarke was educated in a number of places including West Indies Training College now Northern Caribbean University, in Mandeville Jamaica, Oakwood College, now Oakwood University, and Atlantic Union College. He envisioned the great need for the children of the church to be educated at the feet of Jesus and as a result established the Bethel Elementary School in September 1946 with his wife serving as one of the first teachers. As a result of his initiative Bethel became the first black parochial school in Brooklyn. Pastor Clarke has the distinction of serving in a number of our churches in America, and has served in the SDA church for over 40 years.
His wife, Jennie Bowman Clarke, was born July 01, 1892 and died March 01, 1986. She was born in Laurins, South Carolina. She attended Fisk University and is a graduate of Clarke University. She has assisted her husband in his ministry serving as organist wherever they went. She was an excellent teacher and high achiever who did not accept mediocrity.
Together Pastor and Mrs. Wellington had five beautiful children; one son and four daughters.
The Bethel Elementary school was the first and only Afro-American S.D.A. School in the Brooklyn area and served as a spring board for all of the other S.D.A. schools that followed.
Bethel S.D.A. School is affiliated with the Northeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and has been a beacon of light in the Bedford Stuyvesant community in Brooklyn, New York for all these many years.
Some of the teachers and principals of the school included: Ms. Gloria Norman (Garrett), Professor Smallwood, Mr. George Timpson, Ms. Helen Belt, Ms. Henrietta Jackson, Mr. Wilfred Hall, Ms. Buckner, Ms. Forde, Mrs. North, Ms. Daly, Mr. Benito Hodge, Ms. Virginia Green, Mr. Vernal Earle, Ms. Childs, Mrs. Davis, Ms. Shelia Johnson, Ms. North, Ms. Best, Pastor Andrew Philbert, Mrs. Recilla Forbes, Mr. Joseph Anderson, Ms. Laborde, Mrs. Barbara Wallace, Ms. Esbrand, Mr. Medford Brown, Mr. Edward Jackson, Mrs. Paula Deane -Ryan, Mrs. Unice Hibbler, Mrs. Eulena Moses, Mr. Samuel Livingstone, Ms. Pauline Williamson, Mrs. Rosie Worrie, Ms. Leshawn Anderson, Ms. Olevia Senior, Ms. Elizabeth Viales, Ms. Jennifer Daniels, and Mrs. Celestine Creighton.
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