Only Uphill From Here: Smith’s Story

If you take a moment to chat with our teaching or operational staff about their educational journey, you may find some similarities: things like overcrowded classrooms, various ages and a small library of learning materials. At TJS, we’re combating many of these challenges, among others, but  . . .  what about how they got there? How did they get to school each and every day?

When chatting with our Director of Operations, Jean Bildad Michel, he shared how he walked to school, sometimes all the way to Bon Repos, ten miles from his village of Minotrie. Yes, he walked up hill both ways! His parents simply could not afford transportation.

A Gentlemen Willing to Help

Enter Smith Guerrier. Mr. Guerrier drove a tap tap as his business venture, the Haitian mode of public transportation. Most days, Mr. Guerrier would pass a young Bildad trekking to class. Knowing Bildad did not have the financial ability to pay, Smith would stop his vehicle and allow him to ride for free. Each time, Bildad would thank him with promises to repay him one day.

Haitians often refer to their nation as a “relational country.” Such an allegiance is exactly what they mean. When the Joseph School was blessed with a school, Bildad went looking for Smith. He discovered that Smith was still driving in Haiti, with a wealth of experience and a great safety record. Due to his past Samaritan spirit, he was favored for the position, but was also the most qualified for the job. The Board of TJS did not hesitate. In 2015, Smith was the fifth person hired to the team.

When TJS first began, Smith would make multiple trips back and forth with his Tap Tap. Thankfully, TJS was blessed with its first school bus in 2018. Smith is our full time bus driver for our students as well as the guests who frequent on mission or vision trips.

More than a Driver

Smith and his wife have four children together, and one of his children also attends the Joseph School. He’s highly respected in the community, always on time, takes pride in his work, and is willing to help. When our security guard, Fritznel, was diagnosed, and later died, of lymph node cancer, Smith volunteered to drive him wherever he needed to go at no cost.

He’s very intelligent, yet humble. On one recent trip with a team of guests from Tennessee, the bus broke down one hour from Cabaret. Smith tended to the bus while reassuring the team everything was going to be okay. After hours of maintenance, they were back on the road. With a shiny disposition, Smith laughed and joked the whole way home. In total, it took seven hours to return safely to Cabaret, but Smith drove the team without complaint. He loves what he does, and we love him.


A Stronger Team: Our Second Professional Development Training

Last week, our teachers participated in a three day hands-on training with P4H Global; our second training with the organization committed to equipping Haitian educators through professional development. 

To kickoff the training, the P4H team reviewed our current professional development strategies. Then they transitioned into the importance of educational assessments, specifically the use and role of proper evaluations in the classroom. The P4H trainers spent considerable time discussing critical thinking and how to write quality test questions in order to accurately measure student comprehension. Critical thinking is an educational element many Haitian schools lack, and therefore our teachers really enjoyed these sessions.

For the second day, the P4H trainers explored the components of a lesson plans, learning objectives, and student engagement strategies in order to help our teachers tailor their methods to meet each student’s individual needs.

On day three, the main focus was reflection. According to our teaching staff, these sessions were the most beneficial because reflection, as a learning tool, is not usually taught in Haiti. The reflective sessions enabled our team to connect meaning with the knowledge they learned, and create professional growth goals. The P4H trainers also discussed how much stronger a team can be by working together to grow professionally and that this is the key to transforming education in Haiti.

At the end of the training, the teachers completed a post test to properly measure their knowledge gain. The Joseph School teachers did the best in regards to growth out of any school that P4H has trained up to this point. They scored an average of 38.41% on the pretest and a 99.68% on the post test. This is also the highest post test score they have ever seen!

After the training, Madame Rose (TJS principal), sent a message to P4H that said, “I wanted to personally thank you and the entire P4H staff, in the name of TJS, for the beautiful training. We spent great time together, we reunited and we learned abundantly more than what we knew before the training. In the five years I’ve attended P4H trainings, I’ve never regretted one day that I’ve crossed your path. Your trainings have made me STRONGER and more INTELLIGENT. P4H, you have created change in TJS. I am so happy for your presence. I send kisses to your brain!”

Our principal said it best! We are so blessed to have a partnership with an organization that is dedicated to equipping our teachers, who can better equip our students. 

You can learn more about P4H Global here.