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-- High praise for U.S. teachers

WORLDTEACH volunteer Rachel Wilson gives one-on-one help to a student during an Information Technology class. Wilson teaches at Santa Rosa Secondary School in Region One.

AS A successful pilot school year wraps up, WorldTeach, a volunteer American teaching organization, working in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, plans to send more teachers to Guyana for the 2006-2007 school year.

“We are very pleased with the work WorldTeach has done in Guyana over the past year”, Education Minister, Dr Henry Jeffrey said in an Education Ministry press release yesterday.

“They have really done an outstanding job, especially in regions where there is a critical need for teachers. We look forward to establishing a long term relationship with WorldTeach and are excited over their continued involvement in helping to achieve the educational objectives and development goals of the ministry”, he said.

WorldTeach Field Director, Mr Nicholas Wexler said that despite a few bumps in the road, the year has been a striking success.

“We were not quite sure what to expect in this first year, but the current volunteers have done an amazing job with their hard work and dedication to not only their students, but to their broader communities”, said Wexler. “With WorldTeach volunteers, the regions are getting extremely committed individuals who, with the collaboration of their Guyanese colleagues and under the guidance of their head teachers, are striving to improve the quality of education at their schools.”

The ministry said Wexler noted that many of the volunteers have delayed paying off large school loans in order to teach in Guyana, illustrating how dedicated they are to their work.

WORLDTEACH volunteer David Juiliano gives a pep talk to the student basketball team he coaches at Northwest Secondary School in Mabaruma, Region One. This is the first year the school has had a team.

As a result of the programme’s positive results, the Minister of Education has requested an additional five to ten WorldTeach volunteers plus the planned 25 for the 2006-2007 year.

Currently, WorldTeach operates in secondary schools in Regions One, Four, Six, Seven, Nine and 10. The ministry said volunteers instruct in several subjects that include Writing, Reading, Integrated Science, Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Physical Education.

Wexler said WorldTeach is excited to branch out into new regions, if interest is expressed. He added that crucial to the programme’s success has been the support of the Regional Educational Officers (REDOs) and head teachers at the schools in which the WorldTeach volunteers teach, as well as the Secondary Sector officers and ministry officials in Georgetown.

“The WorldTeach programme in Guyana has truly been collaboration between our organization, the central ministry, and the regions,” Wexler said. “Without the support of those administrative bodies, we would not have been able to make as much headway as we did. I am grateful to all of the REDOs and officials of the ministry who have both welcomed us and helped us to implement this programme from scratch.”

Across the regions, Wexler said the programme has received positive feedback from educational administrators.

“The WorldTeach volunteers have been very helpful”, said Mr Malcolm Marcus, the Headmaster of Northwest Secondary School in Region One. “Not only were the volunteers involved in the curriculum side of the school, but in extra-curricular activities where they were very innovative in their use of resources. This has given us a more balanced approach to delivering education and the school is in a better a place because of them.”

WORLDTEACH volunteer Sara McClellan reads with her reading class at Port Kaituma Secondary School in Region One.

Likewise, Region Six Education Officer, Ms Shafiran Bhajan said she was very pleased with her WorldTeach volunteers and is looking forward to working more with them in the coming academic year.

“They came at a time when the need was stark,” Bhajan said, referring to the two volunteers placed at Berbice Institute and Tutorial Academy. “They have had a heavy influence on the science and Mathematics programmes at their schools.”

Bhajan added that the volunteers’ hard work has been reflected in the students’ improved test scores. “There were some hiccups, but the head teachers took it in stride and assisted them”, she said. “We love our WorldTeach volunteers in Region Six and are happy to have more next year.”

While there have been some hurdles along the way, the experience has been both hard work and fulfilling for the WorldTeach volunteers.

Ms Nancy Clarke, who is from Boston, Massachusetts in the U.S., and teaches English at Bartica Secondary in Region Seven, said her time in Guyana has been extremely positive.

“Teaching has challenged me on several levels, but I have been inspired and motivated by the children and the people of Guyana”, Clarke said. She added that she is excited to add a basic reading class in the last term of the year that will be continued by the next WorldTeach volunteer at Bartica Secondary School.

Along with classroom teaching, Wexler explained that a key factor for WorldTeach is its focus on having volunteers participate and assist in projects benefiting the greater community. For example, volunteers at Northwest Secondary in Mabaruma, Region One, have established a reading club and helped organize the first ever school basketball team.

Other notable examples of projects WorldTeach volunteers have led or been involved with are:

** Library renovation, a reading club, and book donation campaigns at Port Kaituma Secondary in Region One. As a result of this student-driven donation campaign, the school library has accumulated about 1,200 appropriate age-level books from schools, organizations, libraries, and individuals in the U.S.

** An Information Technology programme at Santa Rosa Secondary in Moruca, Region One.

** Library renovation and a reading club at Friendship Secondary in Region Four.

** Library renovation and the cementing of the entire Soesdyke Community High courtyard in Region Four.

** The revival of the Green Protectors environmental club at St Ignatius Secondary in Region Nine.

** A visual arts programme and a two-day athletics track meet at Annai Secondary in Region Nine.

WorldTeach, which is based out of the Center for International Development at Harvard University, sends volunteer teachers to teach in primarily secondary schools of developing countries around the world.

These volunteers, who are all university graduates (with some having additional teacher training), operate in more than eight countries, including China, Costa Rica, South Africa and the Marshall Islands.

The new group of WorldTeach volunteers is scheduled to arrive in early August in order to be ready for the start of the 2006-2007 school year, the ministry said.

Guyana Chronicle