NEW PARIS — Judy Brown, National Trail math teacher, recently returned from a trip to Kenya, Africa. She traveled with Teacher2Teacher (T2T) and taught math, science, and STEM in one private and two public schools from June 18-30.
National Trail’s Information Technology Director sent 10 refurbished computers with her to give to the schools.
Since Brown’s trip, she has received positive feedback from the math and science teachers of the schools she helped.
“They were very happy to even have three computers at a school of 961 students and 11 teachers,” Brown said. “I downloaded a mathematics curriculum that I have written onto the computers to supplement their national curriculum, as the teacher is the only one in the class of 70 students who has a book. They were thrilled to have power point as well to do lesson plans and to have excel to do the school business.”
According to T2T, the organization is born from the belief that no one knows teaching like teachers. It is a growing community where teachers can connect to share resources, learn from one another, and solve problems no one can solve alone.
“I presented at the Ohio Council for Mathematics Teachers at the convention last October and T2T had a booth there. They were recruiting teachers to teach math and science in other countries during our summer break, but while their schools were in session,” Brown said.
“One favorite memory was working with three teachers and seeing them making a discovery of why they were doing what we were doing. They said, ‘Now we understand and we will not forget.’ Another was using the pi circles and students actually deriving the formula for an area of a circle. Another was these two adorable girls just laughing and laughing over lunch and I asked the cook what they were laughing about and she said, ‘They think you look funny!’”
Brown added, she was treated like a “celebrity” as teachers are like doctors to Kenyans.
“Teachers help sustain a good quality of life, but are in short supply,” she said.
However, she was not the only one treated like a celebrity, as she had a travel companion. Miami University Biology Major Grace Dima traveled with Brown.
“One day at school, she worked with me in the classes handing out manipulatives (hands-on math and science tools) and working with the students in groups. After school, we trained the teachers on the computers and in using the digital math curriculum and then we walked a few miles in the village to a hut of some of the students,” Brown said.
“Grace used soapy water and a sewing needle to dig out over fifty chiggers out of the feet of the students, so they could walk to school the next day. Talk about on-the-job training! Most of the teachers walk six or so miles to school. There are no cars and very little traversable roads. One school has a well now and it is the running water for the whole village,” she said.
“The school caretaker grows all the food served for lunch everyday: Ugali bread, rice, collard greens, and warm cole slaw. It is delicious and filling and cooked over an open fire. School in one village goes to around six at night after a few hour lunch where the students walk home and then walk back.”
Since returning from her trip, Brown has received positive feedback from those with whom she interacted.
“I have already received emails from the math and science teachers that they are enjoying the digital lessons,” she said. “Also, at one school there were 961 students and 11 teachers, so students often sit in classes waiting for teachers to come. Students go over homework with other students. One school had been given a projector and now that they have computers, they can actually use it to show the lessons to the students in the classes that are sometimes 70 and larger.
“One school wrote a thank you to our IT Coordinator, Brian Pool, at National Trail. Brian actually refurbished the 10 computers and sent them with me. He installed the Windows suite so now the teachers have been trained in PowerPoint and can make their own lessons. They have a national curriculum, but only the teacher has a textbook.”
“The students have only paper to write notes so this will make the teaching much more accessible,” Brown said. “Also, the administrators are trained in Excel and can use it to do the administrative bookwork for the school.”
Kenya left an impression on Brown, as did her experience with teachers and students alike. In the future she is interested in going to other countries with the curriculum, possibly even India.
“Kenya is a wealth of natural resources. You see goats and cattle walking around all over and being herded, and monkeys peeking around for food,” she said. “The elevation is high so it was cooler there than here. The people are very lovely and kind and always greet with ‘Jambo’ and a hand shake.”
“School is taught in English, but the students and teachers talk to one another in the local dialect, as there are over 52 tribes in Kenya,” she added. “When talking with other tribes, people speak KeSwahili which is the national language. Religion is required in school so there are separate schools for Muslims, Hindus, and Christians.
“Keswahili class of course is taught in Kiswahili. With no electricity, no running water, and no TV it was like going back in time. We all noticed that we did not see one person smoking in all of Kenya.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH