Monday, October 5, 2015

Meet the rest of Nicaragua Christian Academy’s Elementary Team!

NCAM's 1st Grade Teacher Suyapa Torrez
 A very rewarding aspect of our teaching mission these past two years has been the role we’ve had as teacher trainers and mentors.  I’ve spoken a lot about the growth Karla has made as she has transitioned from teacher aid, to student teacher, to next year’s lead Kindergarten teacher.  However, this year I’ve also been able to work more closely with several other teachers and I’d like to begin highlighting a different teacher every few weeks.  I’ll begin with 1st grade teacher Suyapa then go onto the 5th grade, 3rd grade, 2nd grade, and Special Ed teachers.  Mike will also highlight Ulysses who he has been mentoring this year in PE.  We hope you enjoy getting to know them, and please feel free to send us specific questions!
Profe Suyapa assessing for individual learning

Suyapa has been teaching 1st grade for three years now at NCAM, she was one of the original teachers and has really helped the school transition through many changes.  Her first class she only had 5 students!  The following year (when Kai was in her class) she jumped up to 15 students, and this year has 25 students!  Each year therefore has been very different and a challenge to adapt to different curriculum, growing class size and student dynamics, as well as building pressure from MINED (Nicaragua’s Education Department).  Unfortunately MINED has decided to focus heavily on first grade this year and makes ridiculous demands on teachers which of course are completely not based on realistic student learning development.  For example, teachers are not allowed to ‘teach’ students to read for the first four months of the year, because there is a special ‘assembly’ each year called “Ya Se Leer” when students are all suddenly supposed to showcase their talents/abilities of being able to read.  What they actually do at this assembly is ‘read’ a memorized text or poem so that all students will appear to be the ‘same’ and all miraculously and marvelously reading.  And you wonder why the country’s illiteracy rates are so low……Sigh

Suyapa was Kai's teacher last year and helped him have a wonderful year, despite initially not speaking any Spanish!
Both the Kindergarten program and first grade program at NCAM however, are  actually teaching students to read in authentic, relevant ways.  So we have to find ways of doing this, while still working within the general parameters set by MINED.  Its very frustrating, especially for teachers like Suyapa who have come to understand the gradual process it takes to produce successful readers and writers.  This year I’m working on helping Suyapa understand and begin a Daily 5 literacy program.  We’re hoping this will help both simplify her lesson planning and materials she creates, while also providing richer learning activities for her students.  The rest of this school year we’ll be focusing on mapping out a year long curriculum plan, learning how to simplify the process of creating weekly lesson plans, establishing ways of organizing her materials, and learn how formative assessments can help directly impact daily teaching practices and therefore improve student growth.  A lot to accomplish in 9 weeks, but I’m confident we’ll be able to do it because Suyapa is so determined, willing and open to learning new ways to benefit her teaching and her students. 

Suyapa experimenting with working in small groups in math and literacy.  Suyapa has recognized how well this teaching method works, and is working towards a Daily 5 model.  (It is a very new concept for Nicaraguans.)
Suyapa has a wonderfully fun spirit, a great sense of humor and smile, is very intelligent and witty, a spirited dancer, and a loving mother to 3rd grader Ivahnna.  She is a pleasure to work alongside with and a source of pride that she will continue to impact many other teachers and students in the years to come.  She is a great leader and is and will continue to be a model for the elementary teachers at NCAM.

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