Eastern Caribbean PCVs, counterpart teachers participate in literacy workshop
by Lainie Steelman
Fifty-eight Eastern Caribbean region Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterpart teachers participated in the fifth annual primary literacy workshop March 27-29 in St Lucia.
The purpose of the workshop, under the theme of “Back to Basics: Practical Approaches for Literacy Growth,” was to help Volunteers and their counterparts acquire new knowledge, skills, attitudes, and best practices to meet the goals of the Peace Corps’ Primary English Literacy Project. The workshop also provided an opportunity for Volunteers and their counterpart teachers to reconnect and create a “community of practice.”
According to Leonette Jn Pierre, regional training manager for the Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean, this year’s workshop marked the first time all the Eastern Caribbean Volunteers and their counterparts participated in one event, rather than separate workshops for Volunteers and counterparts on St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada and Dominica.
“To be honest, I loved it,” remarked Brooke Dunlap, a St Vincent Peace Corps Volunteer, of each island coming together. “The training sessions were very hands on with activities and deep conversations with everyone from each island. We learned new techniques from each other and were able to see things from different perspectives.”
In addition to sessions on topics ranging from teaching higher order thinking skills to teaching letters to kindergartners, Volunteers and their counterparts participated in a best practices expose. During the expose, each Volunteer-counterpart team presented a best practice to share with the whole group.
“What I liked most about the workshop was the information-rich environment that were exposed to as well as the experience that was present in the delivery of the information given by our facilitators,” Chericia Jeffers-Connell, a counterpart teacher for St Vincent Peace Corps Volunteer Myranda James, commented. “It was a very rewarding experience.”
Jeffers-Connell and James presented “Co-Together: A Story about Co-Teaching and Co-Planning” during the expose. They felt that was an important best practice to share with other Volunteers and counterparts.
“From the start we realized that working as a team would be more beneficial for us as educators as well as the students,” Jeffers-Connell explained. “Effective planning ensures an effective and interactive lesson. We wanted to let people know how important it is to plan and plan effectively for all your students’ needs.”
The primary literacy workshop was facilitated by Peace Corps Eastern Caribbean literacy education staff; Marilyn Munro-Francis, coordinator of the Early Learners Programme (ELP) in Grenada; Mavis Findlay- Joseph, education officer with Curriculum Development Unit at the St Vincent Ministry of Education; and Angel Caglin, curriculum specialist for language and literacy in St Lucia.
Mavis Findlay – Joseph said the workshop focused on the demonstration of teaching literacy, rather than just verbal explanation.
“Additionally, the participants were able to put all their years of experience together to contribute some of the strategies and solutions to existing problems in the classroom,” Findlay-Joseph remarked. “All of the information, therefore, did not come from the facilitation team but to a great extent from the participants themselves. The sessions were planned based on a needs assessment exercise so the courses offered were very meaningful to them.”
Findlay-Joseph also liked that all Volunteers and counterparts were able to come together as one for the workshop.
“It was evident that the participants were grateful for the opportunity not only to start or build friendships but to interact with each other on a professional level, sharing best practices even outside of the formal sessions, maybe over a meal or on the way to a session,” she said. “With everyone coming together it meant a richer pool of ideas and deeper discussions on issues that arose, ultimately, leading to more knowledge, skill and even change of attitudes to be practiced in the classroom.”
The workshop was funded by USAID through the Peace Corps’ Small Grants Program, and all expenses were covered for the facilitators, Peace Corps Volunteers and their counterpart teachers.
Lainie Steelman is a Peace Corps Volunteer in St Vincent and the Grenadines