Parker teachers open lesson to Belize teachers

Tharine Gabourel, visiting from Belize, chats with students in Becky O'Malley's class during a symmetry lesson. Teachers in the exchange program observed April 20 at Prairie Crossing Elementary School in Parker. Photo by Courtney Kuhlen
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After traveling to Belize and spending time with the teaching staff at Eden Primary School, Parker first-grade teacher Jean Kirshner hosted three Eden staff members in Parker, giving them the opportunity to learn from fellow teachers in America.

Through the Douglas County-based Belize Education Project, two teachers and the principal from Belize’s Eden Primary School arrived in Parker on April 17 and spent the week observing teachers and discussing new ways of teaching students in Belize. This is the fourth year teachers have traveled to Parker through the program and each year Kirshner, who teaches at Mammoth Heights Elementary, has the opportunity to share her knowledge and the knowledge of other teachers with the Belize teachers.

“What is great about this program is that the teachers from Belize will be able to watch the lessons and then ask questions about them,” Kirshner said. “They can interact with the American teachers and students.”

Tharine Gabourel is the principal of Eden Primary School, and this is her fourth year traveling to Parker. She said the experience for her and the teachers has been great over the years. She said the teachers bring back aspects of what they observe and use what is applicable in their own school.

“We choose what we want to bring back to our classrooms,” she said. “We watch how they manage their classrooms because they do it differently, and we like how the teachers do it here.”

Kirshner said classroom management and teaching style are two of the biggest differences between Belize classrooms and American classrooms. She said it has been great for the Belize teachers to see how things are done differently, so they are able to apply what they learned in their classrooms.

“In America, teachers focus on each individual student and where they are at,” she said. “In Belize they do more group instruction. So the Belize teachers can see how the teachers break into small groups and work with a student more individually, and then they can use that tool in their own classes.”

But the biggest part of Belize Education Project is the books and supplies provided to Eden Primary School. Over the past four years, more than 8,000 books have been shipped to the school as have markers, crayons and other school supplies needed by the students and teachers.

Kirshner said when she first arrived in Belize four years ago, there were few books and the classroom walls were gray and bare. Now the rooms are painted bright colors and the walls are covered in educational posters.

“It’s very emotional to see the classrooms now,” she said. “It makes me cry, and it’s really amazing to see how the books have made a huge difference.”

Gabourel said the books and colorful classrooms have motivated the students to read and learn more. She said the students are proud of their classrooms and look forward to school.

“We have learned so much from the American teachers,” she said. “When we report back to the teachers when we get home, they are always so excited to hear about what we learned.”

For more information on the Belize Education Project, go to www.belizeeducationproject.com or call Kirshner at 303-921-6747.