Teach­ing the teach­ers

Shearstown ed­u­ca­tors to share their ex­pe­ri­ences, skills with col­leagues in Nicaragua


A duo of veteran ed­u­ca­tors from Bay Roberts are mak­ing plans to share their ex­pe­ri­ences and skills with some of their col­leagues in one of the poor­est coun­tries in the Western Hemi­sphere.

Pa­tri­cia Ge­orge and Trudy Hutch­ings have been teach­ing young stu­dents for a com­bined 60 years.

This sum­mer, they will join eight other teach­ers from across Canada on a mis­sion to San Mar­cos, Nicaragua, where they will pro­vide pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment ses­sions to lo­cal teach­ers over a two-week pe­riod, be­gin­ning in late July.

Pa­tri­cia is a sci­ence teacher who re­cently re­tired from the prov­ince’s school sys­tem, hav­ing worked the last 16 years of her ca­reer at As­cen­sion Col­le­giate in Bay Roberts. Trudy, an English teacher, spent most of her ca­reer in Corner Brook, re­tir­ing in 2001. She spent the last decade teach­ing English in places such as Nu­navut, Eng­land and China, and also spent a year in the north­ern On­tario First Na­tions re­serve of At­tawapiskat, which has made na­tional head­lines in re­cent months for is­sues re­lated to sub­stan­dard hous­ing.

They will rep­re­sent St. Mark’s Angli­can Church in Shearstown, and are now ac­tively seek­ing sup­port — both fi­nan­cial and school/teach­ing sup­plies — for their mis­sion, which will take place at the Skylark Re­treat Cen­tre, which is op­er­ated by 3-Fold Min­istries.

The idea is that by im­prov­ing the teach­ing abil­i­ties of teach­ers in Nicaragua, most of whom are women, the fu­ture will be a lit­tle brighter for young peo­ple, said Pa­tri­cia.

“In rais­ing the ed­u­ca­tion lev­els of the chil­dren, in the long-term they will get bet­ter em­ploy­ment and be bet­ter able to look af­ter them­selves,” Pa­tri­cia stated.

Limited re­sources

The idea for the mis­sion took root dur­ing a trip to Nicaragua sev­eral years ago by a youth group from On­tario. Among those on the trip was Cindi Olsen, who is a school ad­min­is­tra­tor.

She was asked if such a mis­sion was pos­si­ble, and agreed to do some re­search. She did a sur­vey of teach­ers in the San Mar­cos area to get a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the needs, and then put the word out to some of her col­leagues in Canada.

Pa­tri­cia im­me­di­ately signed on, and Trudy was quick to fol­low.

It’s ex­pected that up to 100 Nicaraguan teach­ers — 50 in the first week and 50 more in the sec­ond week — will take part in a se­ries of pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment sem­i­nars, touch­ing on a wide spec­trum of the cur­ricu­lum.

Pa­tri­cia said the school sys­tem breaks for just two weeks in the sum­mer, and the Nicaraguan teach­ers tak­ing part in the train­ing will be giv­ing up half their va­ca­tion.

And since there are so few teach­ing re­sources in the coun­try, Pa­tri­cia and Trudy will have to be creative in the way they pass along their knowl­edge and tech­niques to their col­leagues in Nicaragua.

Pa­tri­cia plans to pro­mote sci­ence con­cepts through the use of games, and em­pha­sis the ad­van­tages of co­op­er­a­tive learn­ing tech­niques, such as work­ing in groups.

Trudy will con­cen­trate on lit­er­acy de­vel­op­ment, and will also use games to pass along some teach­ing strate­gies.

Both will be learn­ing as much Span­ish as they can in the com­ing months.

“If I can help just one woman im­prove her lot in life, it will be worth­while,” said Trudy.

Seek­ing as­sis­tance

They will be trav­el­ling to an area rav­aged by so­cial prob­lems, in­clud­ing gang and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, teen preg­nancy and poverty.

The coun­try has un­der­gone pe­ri­ods of po­lit­i­cal un­rest over the years, in­clud­ing a dic­ta­tor­ship, and a fis­cal cri­sis that led to a rev­o­lu­tion in the 1960s and 70s. It has ex­pe­ri­enced eco­nomic growth and po­lit­i­cal sta­bil­ity in re­cent years, but nearly half of the pop- ula­tion con­tin­ues to live be­low the poverty level.

So why would two two women from this area want to travel to Nicaragua?

Both say they have been af­forded many ad­van­tages in this coun­try, and feel a deep de­sire to help those who are less for­tu­nate.

“We’re all our brother’s keeper,” Pa­tri­cia stated. “Ev­ery­one should be look­ing out for one an­other.”

Trudy said those who have a roof over their head, food in the re­frig­er­a­tor and a warm bed to sleep in are very for­tu­nate. Many in the world are not so lucky.

“I feel very blessed be­cause I’ve had so many ad­van­tages. And maybe you have to pass on some of those ad­van­tages that you’ve been given,” Trudy said.

It’s ex­pected that Pa­tri­cia and Trudy will need up to $3,000 each to take part in the mis­sion. They have also started a cam­paign to col­lect school/teach­ing sup­plies.

They are or­ga­niz­ing a March 4 gospel con­cert for St. Mark’s Church, are sell­ing tick­ets on a hand-made gui­tar, and a flea mar­ket is be­ing planned for this spring. They are also mak­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to any group that would like to hear more about the mis­sion.

All funds will be pro­cessed by St. Mark’s Church.

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