Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Meet Rosa Allen!

Rosa Allen's official title is Vice Principal for Instruction at Lott Carey Mission School but that hardly begins to describe her job or tell her story.  LOEP volunteers always leave Liberia wishing every school everywhere could have Rosa running things!  She is a remarkable, dedicated educator whose story is told below in her own words.

In answer to LOEP's interview questions, Rosa writes:

I grew up in Bong County, Liberia where I was born.  My parents hail from Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia. I lived in Grand Cape Mount County with my grand-aunt from age two to eight and then returned to my parents in Bong.  

I joined the 4-H Club when I was in the fourth grade and attended the G. W. Gibson Elementary School in Sinjeam, Bong County where I attained my elementary education.  In the 4-H Club we had a garden project and a rice project.  We learned how to plant a back yard garden and also learned how to plant swamp rice.

When I was in sixth grade I knew I would become a teacher.  I was always the teacher in group play.

When I entered high school, I started to teach my sibling (my only sister), and other kids who lived with my parents on our farm.  During my study at Cuttington, (Liberian teacher's college), I opened a study class for three families and was paid $15 US Dollars per family.  I was able to use the money to buy extra food and sometimes clothes at college.  It was a very exciting period of my life because the children and their parent love me and looked forward to my visits to teach.  Two families fed me every day.  This was my first real teaching experience.  

Come to think about it, this is the first that I have had the chance to reflect on where I started my journey as a teacher.

I have taught preschool, elementary school and high school  but settled in the junior high school. I taught Language Arts in grades seven through nine for over 10 years. 
I love it when a child achieves/performs.  For example, when a child is given a task and completes the task there is an inner glow that shows on the face and a change that can be recognized in the child.  Any teacher should be able to see the glow in their students.  I love it when I am able to recognize and see the glow.  Then I know that I am a good teacher.

Yes, I miss teaching.  I substitute when teachers are absent or I sometimes teach an English class.

Thank you.  I enjoyed this but never thought about writing it down.

Rosa was one of a select few Liberian educators selected for a special Early Childhood Education study tour to the U.S. in November, 2014.  She founded a school in 2003 and is active in her community.  She is married to an insurance executive and they have four children and three grandchildren. 

Rosa is a professional educator - an asset to the profession and to her nation.

Mrs. Allen in her office at LCMS 

Rosa visits with the LOEP team during her recent trip to the US

Friday, March 7, 2014

LOEP Introduces... Blessing Gbah

The first time I met Blessing Gbah, she seemed a shy and cautious little girl. We were in the schoolyard of her elementary school and there were a lot of children running and playing and generally excited because of the visitors at their school (the LOEP training team). Right away I noticed the beautiful child with velvety skin and an intense gaze. I could tell this little girl was curious, but not willing to approach me to find out what she wanted to know. Her friends had no hesitation, however and they were having a grand time daring each other to touch my clothes, my hands, and my hair, giggling the whole time. After some time playing games of “Duck, Duck, Goose” and “Hot Cassava” in the very hot school yard, Blessing became convinced I was approachable and was just as eager to play with my camera and laugh with me as were her friends.

Blessing and her friends the day that I met them 

Blessing is now ten years old and in the fourth grade at Maretha Preparatory International School in Paynesville. Her favorite subjects are vocabulary and reading, and she has dreams of one day being a journalist when she grows up. When she is not in school, she enjoys playing with her friends and especially jumping rope.

Blessing (center) with some of her friends 

Blessing lives in Paynesville with her mother, father, younger sister, and baby brother.  Blessing’s father is a gifted teacher, one of LOEP’s Trainer of Teachers (ToTs). Her mother is a market vendor. Both parents work extremely hard so that both of their daughters can attend school (baby brother is too young for school now). Their commitment to educating both of their daughters (and son, when he is old enough) is exceptional and to be commended. Blessing and her sister are keenly aware of the sacrifices their family makes for their education and know it is a privilege to go to school.  They work hard to make the most of their opportunity for education.  
A recent picture of Blessing with her family 

Whether she continues on the path to journalism or follows her dreams elsewhere, I know that Blessing will be a great asset to her family, her community, and her country. Keep up the good work Blessing!  There are plenty of folks here in the U.S. who are wishing you great success!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

LOEP Introduces... Captain Dorothy Gray

The LOEP training teams have been so impressed with the faculty at the Lott Carey Mission School over the past 5 years. These teachers are dedicated to the profession and dedicated to their students. They have embraced new teaching methods that LOEP has introduced to them and are working together as a strong team to nurture a community of learners at Lott Carey and throughout the community. Captain Dorothy Gray is one of these teachers. Capt. Gray is the ROTC instructor at Lott Carey, where she works with students in grades 9-11.

Capt. Gray was born in Clay Ashland, a township in the St. Paul River district of Monsterrado County, about 10 miles from Monrovia. A serene and peaceful place,  it is a perfect place to enjoy the natural beauty of Liberia. Capt. Gray spent her early childhood growing up in the Bomi Hills in the north western part of the country, and moved to Monrovia as a teenager. She graduated from Augustus F. Caine High School in Monrovia.

On May 2, 1975, Capt. Gray joined the Liberian army and served for 31 turbulent years. During that time she worked in the training and planning section and also as an IMET officer, processing soldiers travelling to the U.S. for training. She became a First Lieutenant in 1985 and was promoted to Captain in 1998.  Capt. Gray retired from military service in 2006 with a distinguished long service medal. 

Capt. Gray’s late father, R. Vanjah Richards, was a nationally-recognized painter and sculptor in Liberia.  Mr. Richards graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago and returned to Liberia where he taught art at the University of Liberia and served as Mayor of Clay Ashland. His murals and sculptures can be seen in many public places throughout Liberia.

Four years ago, Capt. Gray began education studies at a teacher’s college through the professional development program at Lott Carey Mission School. The professional development program, funded by LOEP, provides scholarship funds for Lott Carey teachers to study for an undergraduate degree in Education and a teaching certificate. It was through these studies that Capt. Gray discovered her own talent for drawing!  

Capt. Gray is a highly respected instructor at Lott Carey and enjoys working with her ROTC students on developing leadership skills, problem solving, drills, and self-discipline. The ROTC students take pride in leading the school-wide flag raising ceremony on the Lott Carey campus every Friday morning under Capt. Gray’s guidance. Capt. Gray is one more example of the many powerful and talented women LOEP has met in Liberia! 

Captain Gray in the Teacher Resource Room at LCMS

The LCMS ROTC class (Capt. Gray in red)

Friday morning flag raising on the campus of LCMS

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

LOEP introduces…Humpheretta Reid

Humpheretta Reid is a leader. This young lady is working hard to pursue her dreams, and one can only imagine where her dreams will take her. Humpheretta is eighteen years old and a senior at Lott Carey Mission School (LCMS). She first started her education journey at Lott Carey as a little girl in the nursery class at the age of four, and since then has become an important part of the student body.

Humpheretta, the youngest of three children, lives with her family in the Brewerville community. She is committed to her studies and a high achiever, but she also maintains an active social life. When she’s not in class or studying in the library on campus, Humpheretta enjoys spending time with her friends, playing sports (particularly basketball and kickball), reading, and singing. Hempheretta is a member of the LCMS Choir and ROTC.

Humpheretta serves as president of the Student Council Association and president of the Elegant Girls Guide of Lott Carey. The Elegant Girls Guide of Lott Carey is a student-initiated club for female students (grades K-12) and teachers. The girls in each grade select a female teacher at the school to serve as their sponsor. The club serves as a platform for education, conversation, advocacy, and empowerment. The club engages in campus improvement projects, as well as serving as a safe place for girls to bring their questions and sometimes, uncomfortably intimate conversation. 

Humpheretta has big plans for her future. After she graduates from LCMS this spring, she plans to pursue collegiate studies in management and law. Oh, the places she will go!

School is a high priority for Liberians and there is great appreciation for the value of education.  Unfortunately, school is not an option for all and it is a real challenge for girls particularly.  Girls are often the ones kept at home to help with chores and take care of siblings.  Limited family financial resources may not be available for multiple children in a family to attend school so boys are given priority. In these instances, it is often young girls who stay home while their brothers go to school. 

According to the Liberian Ministry of Education, 20.1% of girls ages 6-11 were enrolled in primary school in 2013. As girls get older, it becomes even more difficult for them to stay in school. A scant 8.3% of girls ages 12-17 were enrolled in secondary schools in 2013. 

Humpheretta is an exceptional young leader, achieving against the odds.  LOEP honors and appreciates Humpheretta and all of her female classmates in observance of International Women’s Day!

Humpheretta addressing the LCMS student body as Student Council President

Humpheretta and Mrs. Allen, Vice Principal of Instruction, at the Student Council induction ceremony

Humpheretta with her friends on the campus of LCMS

Monday, March 3, 2014

In honor of International Women's Day, we introduce...

March 8 is International Women’s Day and as the world celebrates women and girls we are reminded of the amazing women and girls in Liberia. Their remarkable dedication, tenacity, and leadership has been an inspiration to LOEP volunteers. In honor of International Women's Day, LOEP will feature just a few of those amazing LOEP colleagues.

Over the next few weeks, LOEP co-founder, Emmalee Hackshaw will share the stories of the extraordinary Liberian women who have inspired LOEP volunteers since 2008 when plans for the first teacher training team began. Emmalee travelled to Liberia as a trainer with the first LOEP teacher training team and has returned to Liberia with four teacher training teams since 2009.

Muriel Craigwell
I first met Muriel in early 2009 when LOEP traveled to Liberia to deliver the first training workshop at Lott Carey Mission School (LCMS) in Brewerville. Muriel had just graduated from Lott Carey Mission School a few months earlier and was working as an intern in the school office, shadowing and assisting the administrative and faculty team. She was enrolled in a program at Stella Maris Polytechnic in downtown Monrovia to study education. Muriel lives in Brewerville, an outer suburb of Monrovia, with her mother and brother and is now a senior at the Bishop John Collins Teacher College at Stella Maris Polytechnic where she is completing her academic work in education.

In addition to her full-time studies, Muriel continued her association with Lott Carey where she showed great aptitude for teaching. She has progressed from her internship at Lott Carey to become a full-time teacher. Miss Craigwell teaches 3rd grade at Lott Carey, and is a major asset to the elementary team. With her obvious natural gift for teaching and her quick and thorough grasp of modern instructional techniques and methods, Miss Craigwell was identified by the LOEP training team and Lott Carey administration to serve as a LOEP-trained ToT (Trainer-of-Teachers). With her ToT colleagues, Miss Craigwell leads professional development trainings at Lott Carey and will also be conducting LOEP trainings with her colleagues around the country.

I have had the pleasure of visiting Miss Craigwell's classroom and the pure excitement to learn and eagerness to please in the 30 bright and smiling faces of her students is infectious. The warm and safe classroom environment Miss Craigwell has created is remarkable. Her nurturing instincts and love of learning make her a natural fit for the education profession. She is an expert at her craft.

"My favorite part of teaching is doing fun learning activities with my pupils and the love we share as a big happy family. Am always happy knowing that i am inspiring my students positively in every way." - Miss Craigwell

I know that many of us have memories of that special teacher and loving classroom experience we had at some point in our childhood. For myself, that fond memory is of my second grade teacher, Mrs. Hannah. She was pretty, funny, smart, fun, and I loved everything about her and her class. I have no doubt that in 25 years there will be a contingency of Lott Carey alumni who will remember their time in Miss Craigwell's class and think fondly of the time they spent learning with her.

Muriel Craigwell (center) during her senior year at Lott Carey Mission School

Muriel as an intern at a LOEP training in 2009

Miss Craigwell and other members of the elementary team at Lott Carey planning lessons