Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Meet Profe David Mejía 5th Grade Teacher Extraordinaire!

Profe David Mejía

We know Profe David this year best as Evan’s 5th grade teacher, and have been so impressed and thankful for him.  David has been able to help Evan in a unique way this year because he speaks English very well, and is also a progressive thinking and open minded teacher.  David understands the process of learning a new language which has really helped him to foster Evan’s Spanish language development as well has the rest of his students’ English language learning.  David has also thoroughly embraced the professional development and ‘1st world’ teaching pedagogy that have been offered at NCA through trainings, seminars, the foreign teachers, visiting teaching teams, and his own hard work and research.  His work ethic and drive to create an authentic learning environment and encourage his students to be critical thinkers is truly admirable.

Why David’s style of teaching is so remarkable is hard for North Americans to understand, because we take so much for granted including even the way we think.  Imagine growing up in a culture and education system where you are never asked questions requiring personal thought or reflection.  The Nicaraguan education system is based solely on memorizing facts and regurgitating that information for one exam.  Brain research shows drastic differences in the creation of brain passages between babies and young children who grow up in interactive versus passive environments.  Children whose parents frequently speak with them in conversations, ask them questions, and read to them, develop many more routes in their brains as opposed to children whose parents only speak at them, give orders, and do not ask even simple questions requiring the development of critical thought. 

While I am not aware if brain research exists comparing different types of education, we can assume from the parenting brain research that students beginning at age 3 who start going to school in a system such as Nicaragua’s will have serious physical disadvantages when it comes to brain development and thought.  I’m not saying this to be pessimistic nor condescending in any way, rather to simply try and point out that to learn to think and teach in an entirely different way for a Nicaraguan is very impressive and definitely not as simple as one might think. Furthermore, David also faces the challenge of helping his 10-11 years old students begin to think and learn in a new way along with the often even bigger challenge of explaining his teaching methods to his students’ parents.  (Parents here often think their child isn’t learning anything if they aren’t bringing home notebooks filled with copied information or bringing test answers home to memorize for a test.)

David is always eager to learn and to practice his English.  So over the past two years I have had the pleasure of having English conversations with him while we discuss ideas for his class and questions about education.  This year he has introduced working in learning centers to his class which allows him to be able to work more in depth and adapt his teaching to each of his students’ needs.  Learning centers also gives his students an opportunity to practice skills in fun, engaging, and meaningful ways.  To encourage David’s students to read independently  (a very rare thing here due to no public or school libraries-with the exception of NCA) and develop leadership skills, his students prepare and present a weekly book presentation.  David also encourages leadership and understanding for others by having his students help ‘teach’ one-another during small group time as well as by giving presentations on assigned topics.  David is also trying to open his students’ eyes to different professions by inviting parents and other adults from the community to share with his class about their work education, and experiences.  

We have seen such a transformation in David, and his students (including Evan!) this year.  Thanks to his hard work, creativity, and dedication to his own learning his students are thriving.  His students are a great representation of NCA’s mission statement in action.  David is ‘equipping children with spiritual discernment, moral courage, and academic excellence to impact society,’ for a better future, a different future, for Nicaragua.  We plan to stay in touch with David even after we leave Nicaragua, we want to continue to hear about all the great things he is doing for his students as well as for the NCA staff.  We believe David will be an inspiration and a wonderful model for the other teachers at NCA and it has been a true pleasure working with him.

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