Project Overseas 2015 in St. Lucia – a PD opportunity of a lifetime for this NLTA member
By Diana Durdle
As educators we seem to share an innate predisposition for lifelong learning. The most rewarding professional development opportunities occur when we collaborate with colleagues and share best practises. Professional development opportunities such as Project Overseas enable Canadian teachers to volunteer and share
their expertise while working with teachers in various partner countries.
During the month of July I participated in the professional development opportunity of a lifetime. I was a member of team St. Lucia 2015. Our team consisted of four Canadian and four St. Lucian teachers. It was an amazing partnership! Even though each of us presented different educational backgrounds, experience, and personal interests, our unique qualities complemented each other quite positively.
Project Overseas Canadian team at school with students.
Participation of the 80-100 teachers from St. Lucia was voluntary as well. These dedicated teachers chose to take the first two weeks of their summer vacation and attend workshops designed to learn new teaching strategies, assessment practises and how to identify student learning needs and best mode of instruction in order to enhance student learning and achievement of outcomes in their classrooms. Many of these teachers travelled two hours to and from the school where the workshops were held each day, which demonstrated their commitment to their students and their own professional growth.
As with all teachers, they were genuinely concerned about the individual learners they worked with each day. Large class sizes, minimal IRT support and resources are major challenges in the daily teaching and learning environments within the schools in St. Lucia. Many of the teachers have multiple degrees which often include courses and PD on multiple intelligences, literacy, numeracy, visual and hearing impaired, ASD and learning disabilities in order to provide the best possible opportunities for success among individual students in their classrooms. Our role as a team was to assist participants in adding to their repertoire of strategies and techniques to ensure that all learners in their classroom experienced success.
St. Lucian teachers applying a strategy for story writing.
While on Project Overseas we were involved for many hours each day with planning and preparing for our sessions. This was an amazingly reflective process. We take so many things for granted in our daily interactions with our students and colleagues. We have abundant resources, professional support, and technology at our fingertips; however, the teachers we worked with in St. Lucia may have been lacking in one or all of these areas. Their genuine concern for the well-being of their students, enthusiasm for learning, and an interest in the collaborative process motivated them to attend each day.
While our focus was academic and professional there were several opportunities for cultural immersion. We were treated with the utmost of respect and welcomed like family. We attended many local events which included a visit to the mud baths and sulphur springs, local music performances, school visitations, a pre-school graduation, Catholic mass, local fish fry (the catch of the day was barracuda – delicious!), and a visit with a local woman who demonstrated how to make cocoa tea. A highlight for me was a visit to a local orphanage where we donated the school supplies that each of us brought to St. Lucia.
Our team also shared Canadian culture with our colleagues and friends. We shared music, and games considered uniquely Canadian, while our St. Lucian partners shared their food, music, art and local crafts.
St. Lucian teachers enjoying a literacy activity.
This was such a powerfully positive professional development experience. The partnerships and friendships will undoubtedly continue as we share resources and ideas with our St. Lucian colleagues. I would highly recommend Project Overseas to any teacher, especially if you are team oriented, adventurous, highly motivated, adaptable and desire a positive professional learning experience. Participation in Project Overseas will transform your teaching and learning. Your philosophy of teaching and life in general will be enhanced as well.
Special thanks to the Canadian Teachers’ Federation in partnership with the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association along with the St. Lucia Teachers Union, for a life-changing professional growth opportunity.
Diana Durdle is a Kindergarten teacher at Holy Trinity Elementary in Torbay.
article was originally published in the September/October issue of the Bulletin
produced by the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association. View the original version, p. 20-21 (PDF – 3.15 MB)