In the nine years since I founded the school at the mission, we have had our challenges, but no time has been as difficult as this past spring, when we needed to close the mission to anyone from the outside due to the risk of COVID-19 infection. This included nearly my entire teaching staff.
We have a team of dedicated Haitian teachers, and without them, the school had to be restructured, but education comes first, and we carried on thanks to the efforts of my wonderful assistant Kate, my administrative director Yonel, and my Preschool teacher Immacula, who is also a nanny living on site. Another of our nannies, Chantale, assisted every day. We consolidated the classes, and all of the essential subjects continued. Our students thrived, and everyone had a great positive attitude. We are never intimidated by challenges!
One of the secrets to our success came from our “student teachers“. I’d like to give a shout out to Edney, Junie Anna, Widley, Nahoum, JJ Esterline, Samanza, Chivensky, Appoloste, Djouna, Bianka, and Mirlanda. These teens taught reading and grammar classes to the younger students, and assisted in the Preschool. Nahoum also led art classes, and Chivensky helped with PE. Without them we would not have been able to accomplish what we did. I am very proud of them! With everybody pitching in, the learning went on, courses were completed, and final exams were taken.
Where are we today? After a few weeks of summer fun on the mission, school began again two weeks ago. We still must severely limit who comes in. I have been able to welcome back only two of our regular teachers so far. They hold their classes in the open air, maintain distance, wear masks (despite the heat) and endure the nasal swab COVID test regularly, in order to be back with their students. Phedre teaches humanities and is our TOEFL specialist, Priscila hails from Brazil, and teaches our Primary 4 class, as well as Cultural Geography and Portuguese, which is one of our two additional second languages (Spanish being the other). We are a bilingual school, and in a normal year, the entire afternoon is taught in French, while the morning is taught in English. None of our French staff can currently come back on the mission, but we hope that will change in January, if the health situation improves.
We are fortunate to have three university students volunteering their time this semester, in order to teach classes for us. Elisa Gonzalez and George Whitford are on a term’s leave of absence from Harvard University and Eli Brooks joins us from MIT. Between them, they are teaching math, writing, literature, Spanish, comparative religion, history and computer skills. George and Elisa will be the ones helping the children to assemble the newsletters you’ll receive. Eli is also teaching two Toy Design and Engineering courses. It’s not often that students get to study something like this with someone from MIT!
Kate, in her capacity as my Head Teacher and liaison, ensures that our academic standards are met. She communicates with me seven days a week, throughout the day and evening when I can’t be there, so I am informed about and involved in every detail of school, down to the spelling words a student missed that day! It’s a lot of work right there, but it’s not the end of what she does. Kate holds a PhD in chemical engineering, and she teaches our middle and high school science and math programs! She is also a great musician, and teaches Music Theory. Meantime, Yonel handles the discipline and supervision, teaches PE, and covers math or language support classes while we are short-staffed.
We may not be many, but we are mighty!
Your support makes all of this possible and I cannot begin to thank you!
Director, Have Faith Haiti