It wasn’t long after Sister Sharon Slear’s first visit to Lagonav Island, Haiti that she began planning ways in which the SSNDs, working with Beyond Borders could collaborate to improve education opportunities for the children - particularly those with special learning needs in this beautiful but challenged land.
During her second trip, July 1-July 8, 2017, Sr. Sharon’s focus was on providing specific methods, materials, and technologies through which Lagonov teachers could improve instruction for their special needs students. Sr. Sharon led a team which included Cindy Cottone, an experienced occupational therapist and Kathy Sipes, an advisor and instructor in the School of Education at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Brian Stevens, a member of the Beyond Borders staff, was an invaluable translator for the three women; he not only translated the languages but he also guided them through the intricacies of working with professionals from another culture.
Morning sessions were devoted to exploring hands-on methods for presenting instruction and for guiding student learning activities. In the afternoon, teachers had the opportunity to try out the methods with their own students. The teachers were eager to learn themselves and enthusiastic about immediately trying out what they had learned. The best part was that they seemed excited by the equally excited responses of the children to the new techniques.
Our team experienced a remarkable level of cooperation and collaboration among all participants, another indication of the warmth and generosity of the people we had found during our previous visit.
In spite of the many challenges – the pervasive poverty, the lack of resources, the summer heat, the unpaved, bumpy roads – the hunger for education remains strong among parish priests, teachers, and parents. The collaboration between the SSNDs mission to transform the world through education and Beyond Borders’ efforts to promote peace and stability offers great promise. The experiences reminded everyone of the challenges facing this land, but the generosity and commitment of so many to the education of children continue to inspire great hope for the future.
Overall, Sr. Sharon and the women that traveled with her found there is one way to help, teacher education – teachers teaching teachers.