Written by Antonia McGrath, educate. Director and Co-Founder
The Las Delicias school is located on the outskirts of Trinidad. Situated under the lofty branches of the surrounding trees, the school has three spacious classrooms as well as their new library. What makes the project stand out however, is Profe Gueyby.
Profe Gueyby is an astonishingly dedicated teacher. During the day she works as the director and grade 4-6 teacher here in Las Delicias, and in the evenings she teaches at the local evening high school in Trinidad center. She is the kind of teacher who you can tell cares enormously about her students, and she shows it in her teaching as well as her drive to bring projects – like this library – to the school. Previously, the Rotary Club supported with the reconstruction of several classrooms, and she is also one of the teachers involved in a USAID teacher training programme called “Readers to Leaders.”
The Las Delicias school has been part of the educate. community for some time, as it’s located just down the road from where our university scholarship student Tania Caballero lives with her family. With just over 60 students, classes are taught with grades 1-3 in one room and grades 4-6 in another. One of the mothers uses the third classroom to run a kindergarten, getting younger children involved in activities like drawing and counting during the mornings. The school is located in a low-income area, where many live along the nearby riverbanks and work in agriculture, as well as construction and shoemaking, and resources are limited. While schools in better-off areas often ask students to pitch in for resources, this isn’t an option for the families here.
The Las Delicias library was beautifully painted by a group of students and parents, supported by educate. Project Coordinator Walter Dubon. Profe Gueyby was excited that families had come along to help, and noted that her students had been particularly excited, as they had never had the opportunity to do such a large art project before. The whole process of community painting made the students and parents feel part of the project, she said.
She also noted that the training she and the other teachers had received from our partners at Chispa Project had been very useful – “the workshop leader had so much energy, and she made us really motivated!” They had learned about classroom management, teaching multi-grade or multi-level classrooms and strategies that can help them become more creative in their teaching methods, using the library as a resource.
The training had also helped them set up a book check-out system, and since the library inaugurated in November, students had been coming to check out books despite the fact that schools were officially closed. One of the sixth graders had already finished three novels!
With classes starting again, each class will visit the library at least twice per week, and Gueyby plans to include reading as part of homework this year. She believes this will encourage students to read more, and she is planning to have them do activities like drawing and writing character profiles to show their understanding of the stories. During break time, she also plans for the library to be open so that students have the option to come in and read if they don’t want to play outside.
During my time at the school, I took a group of sixth graders into the library to hear about their experiences. It was their first day of official classes, and we sat down together around the child-sized tables in the center of the room. They talked about how much they had enjoyed the painting process – especially climbing up on ladders to reach right up the walls! – and that they found the books much more interesting than any they had had access to previously – “they’re much more colourful!”
After we finished, the group had half an hour of silent reading time. Elvin, in grade 6 but small for his age, was bursting with excitement. He was reading picture books from the “beginner” shelf (books are sorted into 3 levels to help students pick a book that suits their reading level, each book has a coloured sticker to identify it), and was racing through one after another, gasping and laughing out loud as he read.
There is no doubt that this library will be well used this school year and in years that follow. The dedication of the teachers and families and the engagement of students has – in a few short months – created a space of creativity and learning that students are eager to spend time in, and that will shape their personal and academic trajectories.