The Joseph School recently completed our teacher training with P4H at the National Educator Professional Development Conference (EPDC)! We sent our team leaders this year to Cap-Haitien to do the in-person training and Madame Rose will train the remaining teachers back at the school. A few new things being taught this year at this event is early childhood trauma, trauma-sensitivity training, and social and emotional learning! Our Executive Director Annita D’Amico says “TJS is serious about the critical need to invest in the professional development of our teachers. Each year they prepare so that they know their subject matter well and better understand the needs of their students. Educators as in other fields, such as business, medicine, and the media, are recognizing that investing in professional teacher development should be the number one priority. We have an incredible training team through P4H and the benefits of the professional development is evident as our students have shown the strongest academic success yet in the life of TJS.”
P4H is committed to the training and equipping of Haitian educators through professional development. Their 72-hour School Quality Assurance program provides participants with research-based, student-centered strategies that transform classroom culture. This training is conducted over a three-year span. All materials and trainings are hosted in Haitian Creole and are designed to engage educators in collaborative learning structures. Learn more about P4H here!
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.
The Joseph School staff first met Wilson when he was only fifteen. When asked about where he went to school he shared that he’d never been to school. His family could not simply afford it. His mother had died when he was young and his father was 80, and not well enough to take care of him and his family. Wilson then took on the responsibility of taking care of his father, sister, and brother from a young age.
Daily life was a struggle for Wilson like many children and teens growing up in Haiti. Children have little time to just be children; There is work to do no matter their age. They have jobs to do each day just to survive, leaving no time for school, and little money to pay for daily food. More than a half million children and teens in Haiti are out of school for a multitude of reasons. Like Wilson, some are without parents or without healthy parents, educational costs are too expensive, no transportation to schools, and gang violence.
Wilson was invited by our staff to come help with some of the clean-up tasks after a soccer game. He began to come to The Joseph School after that day offering to help out with whatever he could. He did this without asking for any payment. If he saw the staff cleaning, he joined in. If he saw a dirty TJS vehicle, he would wash it. If our TJS’ repairman, Wilkens, was fixing something, Wilson watched carefully, learning what to do and then offering his help.
At that time TJS was only an elementary school and Wilson was beyond the age to attend. With his help, a job description was created for him to start employment at the school. He became our repairman’s assistant. His role with The Joseph School encouraged him to enroll in a trade school to become a licensed plumber. He used some of his salary to pay for school while working part-time. Wilson arrives early to our TJS campus, cleaning and checking every classroom before heading to his school. After his own classes, he returned to TJS and completed any school maintenance.
Wilson is intelligent, resourceful, and resilient. He just needed an opportunity. A simple job and further education provided that. Wilson shared he had to step out in faith when he enrolled in the trade school. He needed to believe that he could succeed. Before he started the program, he went to a printer and printed his own business cards. This helped him believe that he could persevere through challenging times and complete his training.
Wilson is now a trade school graduate and continues to work for TJS. His story is an example of the leadership ripple effect TJS is having in Haiti. When Wilson is asked, “What makes you most proud to be a part of TJS?” He responds: “First, I have learned how to give to others by being a part of something great for this nation. Second, it helps me get closer to God. With my salary I have been able to pay for my trade school as well as help my aging father, sister, and brother.”
At TJS, we not only reach out to our students but also to those around us. TJS provides Wilson and those like him an opportunity to give back; growing new leaders for the nation of Haiti.