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.
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.
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.