Teachers Teaching Teachers to Teach

09/30/13

Kim Killinger and her fellow Venture Team members watched as the Malawian teachers opened their gifts. “The twelve teachers slowly peeked into their bags,” says Kim, “and quickly erupted into cheers, African chants, singing, dancing, clapping, high-fiving, and praising.” When Kim and her friends had filled the bags with school supplies, they had no idea just how much those supplies would mean to the Malawian teachers. Kim let tears run down her cheeks, realizing this was more than just a celebration—she’d been a part of something really special.

 
The teachers were thrilled to receive bags full of school supplies
              The teachers were thrilled to receive bags full of school supplies and a certificate of completion.
 
It was the perfect ending to the team’s professional development seminar. They had just spent three days training and encouraging the Malawian teachers who play a big role in our children’s future. “These teachers have the ability to affect the education of thousands of children,” says Wendy Brown, Education Director for Children of the Nations (COTN). “If the teachers have the skills then we know our kids will receive quality education.” 
 
Teachers in Malawi know that a good education will positively impact our kids
                     Teachers in Malawi know that a good education will positively impact our children’s future. 
 
This year, more than seventy-five Malawian teachers attended the Venture Team’s seminar. The team was thrilled with the teachers’ enthusiastic response to the new strategies they shared. The teachers even enjoyed practicing the new strategies on each other. “Just to hear them say, ‘I think I can use this in my classroom,’ was really incredible,” says team member Deanna McLellan.
 
As these international colleagues discussed teaching strategies, it quickly became apparent that kids are kids, whether they live in Malawi or the United States, and that a teacher’s heart is the same whether their classroom is updated with the latest technology or set up in a simple cinderblock building. “A teacher’s heart is to help the next generation be better off than they are,” says team leader Kim Naramore. “You don’t go into it for the glamor, you care about kids.” 
 
The team practiced new phonics strategies with the primary school teachers.
The team practiced new phonics strategies with the primary school teachers. These strategies will help the children become strong readers.
 
In a developing country like Malawi, the teachers know that equipping children with the skills to think critically and solve problems is an important part of stimulating change. But life as a teacher in Malawi is hard due to a lack of funding and resources, large class sizes, and difficult teaching situations. And although teaching strategies change frequently, teachers in Malawi are rarely given the opportunity to update their skills and stay current. 
 
“I always hear from the teachers that they’re so thrilled someone would invest in their professional development,” says Wendy, “because it’s not a priority for the government.” But Venture Teams like this one have provided invaluable support to COTN’s teachers for more than ten years. It’s paid off, as this year Malawi’s Minister of Education complimented COTN’s teachers for their efforts. 
 
But these seminars are about more than just professional development. “Teaching in general can be a bit of a discouraging job because often you don’t see the fruits of your labor,” says Kim Naramore. This year, the team invited several of COTN’s university students to tell the teachers how education played a role in their success today.
 
The teachers performed a thank-you song for the team on the last day
Each day after the seminar, the teachers came together to work on a thank-you song, which they performed on the last day for the team! 
 
Encouraged and filled with a fresh vision, the teachers in Malawi have begun a new school year. They are excited about using the new strategies they’ve learned to help their students succeed. Back in the United States, the team has settled back into their respective classrooms, but the memory of their time in Malawi lingers. They can still hear the voices of the teachers singing a parting song of gratitude, “We will miss you, we will miss you!”
 
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