When the Ministry of Education in Haiti determined that teachers would be required to work toward certification, Denise Gideon, adjunct faculty member at the University of Redlands and long-time advocate of the Private Eye Loupe program, recognized the challenge this presented for the teachers she works with in rural Haiti. For these teachers, earning less than $900 US annual salary, professional development and advanced degree coursework is beyond their reach. Yet, without these teachers and their dedication, the children in their isolated communities would not receive an education.
It might take a whole village to raise a child but to provide University coursework to 18 teachers scattered throughout the Central Plateau region of Haiti, it takes even more people working together. First, the University of Redlands waived the usual tuition fees and offered university credit toward certification. Next, the Zanmi Lasante facility agreed to house and feed the teachers for the week-long 40 hour program. The Private Eye provided materials and the For A Reason foundation raised funds for translators, materials and class sets of supplies for participating teachers.
And so, on June 29, 2015, 22 educators and 2 translators met in Cange, Haiti to examine educational practice and methodology. The teachers were introduced to Piaget, Vygotsky, and Gardner. They learned about best practices and embraced the new information, discussing how best to implement them in their classrooms. But the real magic began when the loupes came out. From the moment the Loupe lanyards were placed around the teachers’ necks scientific investigation became possible, practical and professional. In classrooms without running water and electricity and for teachers without textbooks, microscopes and materials, the Private Eye Loupes opened up a world that was academic and culturally relevant.
Teachers explored fabric construction and analyzed why some were more conducive to clothing in Haiti than others. They gathered specimens for their collection boxes and compared dragonfly wings with those of butterflies. Leaves and flowers were analyzed for function. Everything was examined for the sheer intricate beauty of the “up-close.” Add colored pencils to the mix and an exciting, culturally relevant program emerged that renewed teacher respect and appreciation.
By the end of the week, friendships had been established and dialog continues thanks to the internet. US teachers and Haitian teachers understand that we are more alike than different, that children everywhere need and respond to the same things, and that with tools as simple as a plastic jeweler’s loupe, the world can open up and be explored in ways that educate and generate hope and promise for a better future.
Teachers head home after a week of university coursework armed with projects, materials and enthusiasm for a new school year. Seventeen of the teachers crammed into that truck to get to the place where they would begin their walks (some as long as 20 miles) home.