Like Sister, Like Brother

Neika Charles is a part of the Inaugural 2015 Joseph School class. She is 10 years old and now in the 6th grade. Her journey began at our original location, a residential house, with 29 other pupils, four teachers and a much smaller support team than we have now. Neika has grown with the school, both in the literal and physical sense. She is an excellent pupil, one of the top three in her class, and has never been in trouble. She’s quiet and shy, but very sharp. 

A few weeks before our new academic year was set to begin, our Director of Operations, Bildad Michel, received a Facebook message from Neika. 

She wrote, “Hey Mr. Bildad! I just want you to know that I miss you so much, but I am also very upset.” 

Neika continued to explain, “COVID-19 has been hard on everyone. During the shutdown, I have been trying to tutor my younger brother at home. I want my brother to be able to attend the Joseph School as well. He passed the entrance exam, the first one. However, on the second entrance exam, he only made a 72. Sadly, there was just one student who scored higher than my brother. Therefore, TJS did not accept my little brother. I thought that because of me, his sister, and my being a good TJS student, the school would take him. They did not! I am sad. I am worried about the kind of education my brother will receive in Haiti. Mr. Bildad, I really wish that my brother could be in the same school as me. I really love my school and I want the same for my little brother.”

Neika and her brother, Jicknel

The pain and concern in Neika’s response was evident, and many aspects of her message were true. The Joseph School conducts two pre-assessments for children living in the surrounding Cabaret area, but can only accept 30 students per class. To be fair, TJS accepts the top 30 scores, regardless of the child’s relationship to a staff member, community leader or a sibling already attending the school.

Bildad, saddened by her complaint but having very little authority on academic decisions, advised Neika to share her views with Madam Rose Amede, the principal of TJS. She followed his advice by drafting an equally touching letter and delivered it to Madam Rose on the first day of classes*

After receiving the letter, Madam Rose met with the lead education team, shared the letter and explained the situation. It was a bittersweet moment for the team. Although Neika is considered a star pupil and her parents have never missed a service opportunity for the school, Madam Rose knew she was unable to grant Neika’s request. The team wanted to accept her brother, but knew they had to do the right thing. Oftentimes, leaders have to make decisions with their heads and not their hearts. 

Neika was told the painful truth, and the class roster remained the same. However, on the fourth day of classes, the parents of one of the new students withdrew their child for reasons known only to them. Losing a student is hard, but it also opened a spot for the next highest scoring prospect — Neika’s little brother. Perhaps God was touched by Neika’s letter, too. 

Today, Neika’s brother, Jicknel, sits proudly in the first-grade class, studying hard to make his sister proud.

 

The Letter

*Nieka’s letter, translated from her native Haitian Creole, went like this:

Good morning Madam Rose and all of the Administration of TJS! How are you guys? I pray all of you are doing great by the grace of God. I am doing really well. I write to you this letter which is concerning my little brother who came to test. His score was not accepted. I would like for TJS to admit him. I want my little brother to attend the same school with me. I was admitted to the very first class at The Joseph School. I always have great grades and an excellent grade point average. I never get in trouble. I promise you that if you give my little brother a chance, I will work with him at home. I will encourage him so that he will be a great student like me. I will make sure, his grade point average is good. I really love my school. I would like for him to receive the same level of education like me. I am counting on you. I would like to hear your answer to my request in a time that is not too late. Receive my distinguished salutation, Neika Charles


Back to School and Back Together

Despite the challenges of this year, The Joseph School (TJS) has returned to full operations with a new class of 36 first graders! There’s no question that this year has looked very different from what we had expected. COVID-19 led to a lot of changes for the end of the last academic school year. For the safety of our students and staff, the last few months of the 2019 school year were taught remotely. In addition, the borders of the U.S and Haiti were closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. This led to an increased difficulty in shipping new chairs and desks to Haiti. In-county closures also halted the printing and delivery of our custom curriculum workbooks. However, we are so proud of our incredible team for adapting to these changes and ensuring that our students had tables and chairs (lent from a local business) and digital books.

Our team, and especially the children, are excited to be back in-person, on campus for this upcoming academic year. Our team has been working hard to make sure everyone can stay safe and healthy while being together. We’ve implemented many new safety precautions to our classrooms. To start, every room on campus was thoroughly cleaned and prepped to maintain safe distances for learning. We added several new water stations — some for hand washing and others with fresh drinking water to help our students stay hydrated throughout the school day.

While these might seem like big changes, TJS is always working to grow and improve to give our students the best education possible. We are thrilled to be celebrating our sixth year! We’ve reached many incredible milestones since The Joseph School first started. This year we have 180 students enrolled in grades 1 through 6 (Kindergarten through 5 in U.S standards).

The impact The Joseph School has had on our students and the community is strong and steadily growing. One of the pillars of The Joseph School is to empower students to become leaders in their community. Our teachers strive to teach the students how to be thoughtful, considerate, and passionate leaders. We know that effective leadership stems from a strong educational foundation, which is why our curriculum is the key to our success. We value the basics of education, with great emphasis on strong reading and writing skills.  TJS also provides two meals a day to the students. Our kitchen team works hard to provide nutritious and delicious meals from local ingredients every single day for all of our students. 

This school year may look different from years past, but we have big hopes for what it will bring. We are so proud of the work our students have put in during these challenging times and can’t wait to see what they will accomplish in the future. It seems like just yesterday that we started in a rented house with just one class of students. Every year we continue to grow and expand what TJS has to offer through generous donations and devoted supporters. This year has already had a wonderful beginning, stay tuned for the exciting things to come at The Joseph School.

Our 2020-2021 Students and Teacher (all teachers are not pictured).

1st Grade A | Teacher: Rachel
1st Grade B | Teachers: Yveline and Nadia
2nd Grade A | Teacher: Kacendre
2nd Grade B | Teachers: Judith and Estagonia
3rd Grade A | Teachers: Sherley and Nerlande
3rd Grade B | Teachers: Ermionne and Frantz
4th Grade A | Teacher: Magdala
4th Grade B
5th Grade | Teacher: Achanta
6th Grade | Teacher: Carlo

 


Carlo’s Big Adventure

Do you remember your first job? Most teachers can tell you exactly where they were the moment they learned they had been hired to stand in front of a classroom for the first time. Carlo Nau is no different. Albeit, Carlo’s journey to the front of our fifth-grade TJS classroom is a bit unusual . . .

Carlo Nau is one of the brightest men you could meet. He received his teaching degree from Ecole Normale, the best school in Port-au-Prince, has a Masters degree in teaching, and is a certified coach. Carlo was prepared to teach. He was going places, he just didn’t know where.

Living in Port-au-Prince, Mr. Nau had never heard of The Joseph School (TJS is located in Cabaret roughly 25 km, or a 40-minute drive from PAP). However, after talking with a previous classmate who had scheduled an interview at TJS, he wanted to check out the school too. Carlo asked if he could tag along with his fellow classmate, but not surprising, his friend said, “No.” You see, jobs are hard to come by in Haiti, so it was no surprise his classmate did not want any competition.

Determined to Teach

Mr. Nau decided to follow his classmate to the TJS interview. He carefully followed through the crowded streets of downtown Port-au-Prince. Carlo lagged a block behind so he would not be detected by his friend. When his classmate took a tap-tap (the Haitian means of public transportation), Carlo took the one immediately following. Like a private investigator, Mr. Nau tailed his friend some forty miles. After arriving at TJS, Carlo continued to hide, checking out the school located in the heart of Cabaret. He was intrigued, the school did not look like the public schools in Port-au-Prince.

Since he did not have an interview appointment, he watched and waited for his chance. After noticing a decline in interviews, Carlo walked up to the staff and introduced himself. Showing his true grit, Carlo provided his list of credentials. He answered the questions and even laughed at his own unusual journey to the TJS interview table. Mr. Nau impressed the TJS staff with his determination and was hired on the spot. That was four years ago. Today Carlo still stands proud in front of his fifth-grade class. He constantly goes the extra mile, just as on that eventful interview day, as he teaches his students.

Outside of teaching in the classroom, he also coaches the students in exercise science, (what other school may term physical education). Last year, he started a newspaper for the school which covers outside sports, activities, and various special topics covered in the other classes. The paper even acknowledges the student’s birthdays.

Carlo is a godly, Christian man — a visionary. He often goes the extra mile, for himself and for The Joseph School students. His determination and leadership is respected throughout the campus and you may even catch him sharing the story of his hiring to anyone who will listen.

His success makes the Joseph School a success. He is one of the rocks of the TJS Foundation.

 


Teaching with Technology

Technology has transformed the world. “Smart” devices, like computers and tablets have molded the way we live, work, play and most importantly learn. Our Education Team has been seeking the right platforms and partnerships to establish a tech lab at The Joseph School; and we’re excited to share our newest teaching tool.

METL (Mobile Educational Technology Lab)

Earlier this month, we received 20 tablets from CTRL ALT DLT Poverty, an organization dedicated to providing learning tools through technology all over the world. Our tablets arrived in rainproof, mobile cases, allowing our teachers and students to use them in any classroom and transport them as needed.

Combatting Haiti’s Challenges

The METL kits are designed to have complete off-grid connectivity. This means our students will have numerous online learning materials without needing wi-fi!

Each kit has its own internet server with solar charging and USB power supply for each tablet. They also have the ability to run for 36 hours, with a battery backup, so our students can use them even without electricity.

CADP has collected numerous learning applications like Khan Academy (videos and quizzes for math and science), Bouquineux (over 2000 reading books), and many more. These learning applications have been programmed for our curriculum in French, Haiti’s primary educational language, and also in English. Another key learning application specifically programmed for us is PhET Physics. This application provides workshops from MIT on technology and learning methods in Haitian Creole provided by Michel DeGraff.

Not only does the METL take out concerns for internet and electricity in Haiti, it will also provide our students with technology so they can truly be globally competitive. The tablets also feature bluetooth keyboards and programmed typing applications so our students can learn how to type before we build our permanent computer lab.

Last but not least, the newest application on the tablet, Kolibiri, provides our teachers with the ability to monitor and track the progress of each student. They can create different learning groups, assign lessons, administer quizzes and view reports. This will be the first time we have had a classroom management application easily accessible for our teachers.

Our METL lab was made possible through financial contributions from the Marketing Research Education Foundation and Ipsos. There are so many exciting things about the METL and we can’t wait to see our teachers and students using them!