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Three District 202 teachers help improve education in Haiti

Three District 202 staff members are helping improve education in Haiti one teacher at a time.

Janelle Gray, an English language and bilingual kindergarten and first grade teacher at Meadow View Elementary School; Katie Green, a third-grade special education instructional/resource teacher at Central Elementary School; and Leslie Zurita, a district assistive technology specialist, volunteer with the non-profit New Life for Haiti.

The Life Spring Community Church founded New Life for Haiti in 2006. The nonprofit has built six schools and in September 2018 opened its first orphanage in the rural area about 190 miles outside of Port Au Prince.

New Life for Haiti also has helped farmers replant crops after devastating hurricanes and runs medical clinics for residents in one of the world’s poorest countries.

Gray, Green and Zurita are now training teachers at the School of Hope in the village of Rivye Mawo, Haiti to learn more modern teaching methods.

The teachers in Rivye Mawo have primitive classroom resources such as chalkboards and chalk, Green said.

There are few books for students in an area where 98 percent of the population is illiterate. The 35 to 50 students in a class sit on wooden benches and copy lessons or that day’s story off the chalkboard.

“There were no resources for these teachers to teach with,” Green said. “Imagine teaching kindergarten with nothing but chalk.”

Volunteers including Gray worked with Marnie Van Wyk, the nonprofit’s Faith Missions Director, to create curriculum for the Haitian Teacher Training Program.

“We planned our trainings here and we put a lot of time and effort into what kinds of concepts they needed to learn to help improve education,” Gray said.

Teachers in Haiti are learning to teach their students how to read and use things like rocks to count, Green said.

The educational work in Haiti is important to help break the cycle of poverty where many of these families are stuck, Zurita said.

“If they don’t get an education they will never break the poverty cycle,” Gray said.