Letter from Co Chair Belize Committee

Letter from Co Chair Belize Committee
Wed, 03/27/2013 - 11:57

Dear Dr. Hobal,
I began serving as the Belize Co-chair of this project in 2010, but was aware of it and involved in several years before. I first became involved in 2006, I believe, when the first wave of Canadian “master teachers” began coming to Belize for 2 weeks in August to provide intense professional development for primary teachers of the Cayo district in Language arts, Math and Science. As a Rotary partner to Chris Aird, then one of the leads on the Belize side, I hosted teachers for several years, and observed very closely the diligent work that our Canadian master teachers put in on a daily basis to lead 8 hour work shops 4 days a week for two weeks. Each Canadian led 35 teachers in 8 hour professional development sessions on their own. I still marvel at the amount of planning that was involved – the curriculum development as well as the gathering of supporting material (which came to Belize in huge plastic containers, and which remained in Belize as classroom resource materials.)
I, like our Belizean primary school teachers, made wonderful friendships that are still ongoing.
Later, when I became a Rotarian, I led a one-way GSE to Edmonton for teachers from the 6 pilot schools in what had grown in the Belize Literacy Project, our 3 H Grant. On that GSE, apart from visiting a variety of schools and educational institutions, we fellowshipped with Rotarians who had committed to raising funds to support educational development in Belize – it was indeed an extra blessing to be able to meet with Clubs in District 5370 and experience the fundamental essence of Rotary – Service above self.
The Belize Literacy Project will leave an indelible impression on Belize’s primary education system. It has provided thousands of hours of professional development in Math, Science and Language Arts education, and ICT in the classroom over the past 5 years. It has provided IT equipment to district education centers and several classrooms across Belize, as well as other valuable resource material. And lastly, it has done so in a manner that the project will be able to sustain itself when the funding runs out. The most recent purchase of technology for the project will ensure that professional development sessions will be documented using video technology and will be available on demand for schools to sue with their teachers. Another recent order, cache servers, will allow district education centers to download electronic resources, stored on the cache servers, and then transfer them to teachers’ memory sticks in the absence of reliable internet on school compounds. This means that teachers can transfer the wealth of the internet to their classrooms anytime, anywhere. This, accompanied with the professional development done for technology coaches (who can provide minor maintenance
to school equipment as well as train other classroom teachers to sue the resources), will significantly empower the Belizean classroom.
Another important aspect of the project has been the curriculum revision and development that was done for the Science, Math and Language Arts in the Belizean primary school, with the accompanying training of in country learning coaches around the country.
I have enjoyed the time I have spent working on this project. As a teacher educator in 2006 when this project started, I was able to see the tremendous contribution this project would make. The national university was very constrained in how many primary education majors it could accept annually: there was a shortfall of both teacher educators and classroom and other resources. Yet, there were thousands of untrained teachers in service in the classroom. This project has helped to provide hands on training for all primary teachers in the classroom – and it has helped to broaden their cultural horizons.
Cynthia Eve Aird, Ph.D. Belize Co-Chair
Belize Literacy Project President-elect
Rotary Club of San Ignacio District 4250