In April of 2017, CPE's Program Development Specialist, Megann Stuart, M.A.T., co-led a trip of Washington State teachers to conduct professional development workshops for educators in Haiti. A month after the trip, she reflects on highlights from the team’s week abroad.
In the spring of 2017, The Center for Professional Education embarked on a trip to Haiti with a small team of educators from Seattle Pacific University. We partnered with LeadaChild, a Lutheran organization that has been working for over 40 years to alleviate poverty through education by supporting and funding education sites around the world. The goal of the trip was to facilitate international collaboration between educators, to create opportunities for impactful learning and to deliver not only supplies, but tools and strategies teachers could use to build on the skills and learning they already had. We left Seattle on April 8th, flew through the night and arrived with the early afternoon sun in Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital and the most populated city in the country.
While in Haiti, we had the opportunity to partner and collaborate with educators from four schools where LeadaChild has developed long-standing community relationships. At each school, our team was invited to teach lesson to the Haitian students in the morning. We taught the color wheel through watercolor painting, migration patterns and unique fin qualities of whales, and the mountain zones of Mt. Rainier compared to Haiti’s tallest peak, Pic le Selle. We worked with a team of translators in the schools, and enjoyed the company of our own team translator throughout the week. He became not only an integral part of our team, but also a friend who gave of his time and heart, working tirelessly to facilitate learning and communication. At each education site, our host offered a delicious lunch, which often included freshly cooked goat or chicken, rice, beans and plantains. In the afternoons, our team led professional development workshops for the Haitian teachers, focusing on the brain and education. It was deeply meaningful to see educators making connections about how and why their students learn, as well as developing strategies to better facilitate learning within their context.
On one of my favorite days, our team arose early to journey to one of the education sites in the remote, mountain village of Orneau. We crossed over boulders in a dry riverbed where members of the community were washing laundry, young children and produce for the market in the remaining pools of water. We made it to the base of the mountain where we were met by a motorcycle brigade tasked with driving the team up the steep, rutted mountain trails. We climbed high, riding around tight turns and rough stones, taking in the balmy, green vegetation of the mountainside. We traveled by bike for nearly 20 minutes and later learned that many teachers travel 2 hours by foot to teach each day. I remember feeling awed by the beauty and lush green of the mountainside until the chatter of children brought my attention back to the trail. Students from the village had heard we were coming, so climbed down the mountain and lined the trail to greet us on our way to their school. It was so sweet and unexpected, a perfect example of the overwhelming welcome and kindness we were extended as guests in each community.