Classes are divided by age and development level, with highly individualized placement and fluid groupings so each student can move forward according to academic strengths and weaknesses. All students learn four hours of English and three hours of French every school day. The curriculum is developed to reach all Haitian academic standards, and to also allow students to pass any TOEFL standardized tests should they wish to apply to college or graduate studies outside of Haiti. In the 2017-2018 school year, an English oral presentation class was added to the class schedule.
Living and learning are integrated activities at the Have Faith Haiti Mission. For example, once each month, a school “store” is opened where students can buy goodies (both academic supplies and games) with points they accumulate throughout the month through good behavior, academic achievements and effort. They learn to manage their points “currency,” and practice their math skills with each purchase.
The Have Faith Haiti school has two treasured traditions to welcome, and wave goodbye, to each school year. An ice cream and dance party takes place each September before the first day of school, during which students get to select their backpacks, and fill their pencil cases with necessary school basics like pencils, highlighters, and a sharpener. Generous sponsors and supporters contribute to an annual “Back to School Wish List” for these supplies, and needed uniforms.
At the end of the year, the last day of school is also a party. We call it a graduation, but it’s really a celebration of the academic excellence achieved through the year. Students receive certificates and honors and perform skits in French. French and English spelling bees are also beloved annual traditions each spring.
In 2014, a special plaque was placed in the school building honoring “The Jim and Jane McElya School of Hope” and quotes Proverbs, reading: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It is the philosophy of the school and its many teachers.