Close to one hundred educators across Westmoreland and Hanover are now better prepared to navigate the new blended approach to learning following the completion of the Sandals Foundation coordinated Great Shape! Inc.’s ‘Teach the Teachers’ Workshop.
On August 2, seventy-six primary and high schools teachers completed close to 3000 hours of education following a two-week workshop at the Godfrey Stewart High School in Savanna-La-Mar. The workshop explored online behavior management as well as much-needed Google Classrooms tools and techniques to construct and integrate specialized software in their online lessons.
Georgene Crowe, co-founder of Great Shape! Inc., expressed delight at the successful completion of the workshop which saw an “Amazing turnout even with Covid-19 protocol and restrictions.” With computer skills a key focus of this year’s workshop, Crowe noted that educators were, “rocking it! As [teachers] would leave at the end of each day very happy at all they were learning.”
“With workshop topics zooming in on how to seamlessly reintegrate students into the classroom, sharing techniques on how to assess students’ social and emotional needs after spending such a long time away from a regular classroom and exploring ways to help students improve their attention levels, this year’s curriculum was very relevant for the times,” said Patrice Gilpin, Public Relations Manager at Sandals Foundation.
Stacy-Ann Watt-Shearer, teacher at Maud McLeod High School in Westmoreland said the programme was an eye-opener. “It was great. We learned things like Nearpod, Blue Books and Pear Deck and it has been eye opening. In Nearpod, for example, we learned that even though the students are far away we can still control the learning because we’re allowed to take over the devices they are using and manage from a distance what they [students] are doing. I have found that extremely interesting and I plan to implement these as soon as I get back to school,” said Watt-Shearer.
Shearer, who admits, she has not always been confident with online instruction shares, “I am prepared for online learning now. I didn’t feel so prepared when we started, but now I’m feeling better prepared and ready to implement.”
And for Vanessa Gordon of Green Island Primary School, “Learning has been quite interesting for me. I didn’t know anything about technology. I had to be learning stuff from Google and from friends who knew a lot about the technology and wanted to help. This is my first time at a Great Shape! workshop and I have learnt a lot.”
Since 2015, the Sandals Foundation has facilitated the United States-based nonprofit hosting annual teacher training workshops to build the capacity of educators from rural communities in the areas of Language Arts, classroom behavioural management and computer skills.
Last year, the programme had its first-ever break due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, but with the endorsement of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, through its agency the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC), a team of 50 volunteers were welcomed into the island to help educators navigate the new blended approach to learning.
Chief Executive Officer at Jamaica Teaching Council, Dr. Winsome Gordon says, “The Teach The Teachers Programme provides a welcome avenue through which some of our island’s most needed educators can develop or sharpen their skills to adequately navigate the new blended teaching/learning approach that will undoubtedly characterize the future of our education sector.”
“As we continue to get digital devices in the hands of students to ensure no child gets left behind, we are equally committed to ensuring our island’s teachers are sufficiently capable of utilizing the technology to develop their lessons, enhance their delivery and inspire students to confidently thrive in this digital world.,” says Dr. Gordon.
Brad Adams, Founder and Co-Director I.T. for “Teach the Teachers” at Great Shape! Inc. says this year’s programme was critical as, “The world has been turned upside down, students are disconnected, and the education gap has increased between the haves and have nots. It is our job, as volunteers with Great Shape! Inc. to do what we can to help teachers develop the techniques they need to reconnect with their students and deliver the materials required to get back on track and move forward,” said Adams.
In addition to classroom management tools, educators also received instructions in computer safety and cybersecurity topics including virus, malware, phishing, and fraud prevention.
Rochelle Forbes- Reid, Public Relations Manager at Sandals South Coast Resort who provide logistical support to the Great Shape! team once on the island said, “We are extremely grateful to our Great Shape! partners for their dedication to the Caribbean. We are all partners in education and together we can help each other get that much further as we navigate these fast evolving times.”
Sandals Resorts International and the Sandals Foundation have been major partners of Great Shape! Inc. for 17 years. The company and its philanthropic arm provide all logistical support for the volunteer missions across the Caribbean by providing free accommodation as well as covering the cost of transportation, meals at workshops, venue rental when required and other needs.
All volunteers were fully vaccinated and underwent multiple tests to ensure the safety of the participants and the wider community.