1. How did you get involved with The Joseph School? What is your role and how long?
I got involved with TJS in March 2016. I went on my first trip as a grad student with Dr. Josh Hayden (previous board member) and his servant leadership class at Cumberland University. We visited TJS on that trip and they only had first graders. I then went on another trip in June 2017 to help Dr. Natalie Inman (previous board member) with hiring teachers, testing new students, and other educational needs. TJS started looking for someone to be a part-time education coordinator who would help oversee the purchase of curriculum, hiring & training teachers, and have consistent communication between Haiti & the U.S. I was hired for this position in August 2017 and realized all of the educational needs of the school. I went to Haiti 4 times a year for 2 weeks at a time to help the principal and teachers coordinate things like an attendance policy, tracking grades, creating calendars and exams, buying books, professional development, etc. I became full-time in December 2018 and then became education director in May 2019. During this transition, I became more of a supervisor to the principal and less hands on with the day to day tasks of the school. My main goal is to empower the principal and teachers to do everything that is needed for TJS students to be successful. I believe this goal is being achieved and we are continuing to grow our leadership on the ground in Haiti.
2. Can you tell me about what goes into providing our curriculum for the school? What makes our curriculum different than other schools in Haiti?
The TJS curriculum has come a long way, turned back, went in circles, and changed over and over again. When I was first hired at TJS, I realized the incredible need for books! Not just at TJS, but in Haiti in general. I looked at their science workbook for TWO grades that had only 100 pages total. I was in disbelief. I knew our students would need more material for extra practice and to be able to go deeper into critical thinking. Therefore, I started looking and asking other organizations in Haiti what they did for curriculum. Most schools do not even have books and those that do use the small workbooks from Henri DeShamps. We found an organization that created their own books online by compiling resources from all over the world and turning it into what their specific school needed. Therefore in 2018-19, we purchased these books for TJS. By the end of the school year, TJS teachers asked why couldn’t WE do that for our school. Therefore, I started collecting material from Haiti, the U.S., Canada, & France and did the same model, but for TJS specifically. In Fall 2019, TJS had their own books created by me and the lead teacher at the time (she is now the principal). After the first year, we found a printing company in Haiti and started adding more and more Creole in the books. For the past 2 years, the main focus has been Math and Creole. I added extra practice material for each lesson in the math books in Creole and for the older grades I added mostly French. This is due to their national testing in Haiti being in all French. However, our goal is for our students to truly understand the material and be able to go deeper in their mother tongue. In the Creole books, I added sound comparisons, spelling practice, writing prompts, and a reading passage. For Social Sciences, I have added labeling worksheets and extra practice, but they are still a work in process as the school continues to grow and add a grade each year. However, our printing company has moved so TJS curriculum is once again changing for the upcoming school year. This year, we will be purchasing multiple books from everywhere and continue to use the books we have made over the past two years. We are hopeful to find a printer and start back using new and improved material created not just by me, but by TJS teachers and even students one day!
3. You are going to Haiti later this summer for teacher training? Can you tell me more about that trip?
This summer, I will be attending a summer conference hosted by P4H in Cap-Haitien. This conference is where they invite US educators to share their expertise of research-based strategies with Haitian educators. This year, the conference will have an emphasis on trauma-informed schools. I will be collaborating with P4H staff member, Grace, and presenting on early childhood SEL competencies. This will cover strategies in the classroom to help students who experience trauma at such a young age. TJS teachers have attended this conference (when able) since 2017 and they love having a partnership with P4H. I look forward to attending the conference for the first time along with being able to speak to hundreds of Haitian educators.
4. How do you work with teachers to get what they need in the classroom? What are the current needs?
When I traveled to TJS multiple times a year, I made a point to always talk to our teachers in a group and individually. I would have a meeting with all of them to discuss any needs or changes that should be made. They also had time to discuss their feelings on the same topics. I would then have one-on-one meetings to make sure we were able to have a personal relationship where they could trust me. I have created multiple surveys to get feedback from teachers and students. Since Covid and unrest has prevented me from going to TJS, I have communicated mostly with the principal. She took over the meetings and now communicates any needs to me. However, every teacher has my contact information and is able to reach out to me about any specific concerns. I am also in all the group messages on whatsapp with each grades’ teachers and parents’ so that I stay informed. Our current needs would be wrapping up this year and preparing for the 22-23 school year! This consists of an EOY program for this year and buying books, uniforms, renewing contracts/salaries, and placement of teachers and students for next year.
5. What do you want our followers to know about our students?
I would love for our followers to know more about them specifically. What their interests are, how they do in school, what they want to be when they grow up, what they like to do for fun, who they are, who their family is, etc. They are so much more than a poor black child who needs money from donors. I would love to see the narrative change to how amazing they are and what they CAN do, not just what they need.