OBSERVER: LASCO/Ministry of Education Teacher of the Year 2016/17 Kerene Nelson has a vision in which primary schools across the island are assigned resident teachers of Spanish to give them the opportunity to learn Spanish as a second language.
The St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) teacher believes that adavnatage should be taken of primary school students' eagerness to learn at that age.
“If their interest can be captured from early, this can help to reduce apathy at the secondary level as solid roots would have already been formed,” she said, adding that high interest in Spanish can have far-reaching benefits to the economy.
Recognising the financial constraints of implementing the strategy across the education sector, Nelson has gone ahead and used resources she's received for copping the teacher of the year award to launch a project to train teachers in Spanish education at Schoolfield Primary and Infant in Malvern, St Elizabeth.
“I immediately decided that this is where I should be planted to help the growth process in Spanish,” Nelson told the Jamaica Observer.
Nelson has been training 11 teachers, including the principal of Schoolfield, since March, utilising power point presentations and online activities. She has also used songs, slates for group work, worksheets, and dialogues in Spanish.
To judge the teachers' progress, they are individually assessed, are randomly questioned in Spanish in a WhatsApp group, and are randomly quizzed outside of the school setting.
“A student was seen in the supermarket and I asked her the time in Spanish. The time was 7:04 and she was able to correctly say, 'Son las siete y cuatro', though slowly as she was still learning the numbers,” Nelson shared.
Major sponsor of the Teacher of the Year award, LASCO Manufacturing, purchased two desktop computers for the computer laboratory at Schoolfield, costing $126,000.
“For the success of the programme, technology integration will be necessary,” Nelson said. “Teachers will be better equipped to integrate technology during instruction to make the teaching/learning process more engaging and meaningful.”
The donation will also benefit students who can use the computers to do research online, as well as to be creative, while showing mastery of content, she added.
Nelson has also leveraged her win to present her student teachers with gift baskets from LASCO on Teacher's Day, and she gifted the student population with a candy-filled piñata for Career Day on May 26.
“The teachers have been so supportive, co-operative and adorable, thus, it was necessary to encourage them by showing my gratitude and appreciation,” she said.
Nelson reported that she is delighted to contribute to the development of Schoolfield, which has seen significant improvements in student performance over the past four years. Literacy among students moved from an average of 31 per cent to 78 per cent between 2013 and 2015.
What makes Schoolfield even more special to Nelson is that it is her foster son's alma mater.
“It is undying passion to serve that motivated me to be a foster mom to a student at STETHS who had grave financial challenges, and I thought it best to extend my time and service to his alma mater,” Nelson explained.
Students from the Spanish club at STETHS are scheduled to visit Schoolfield to conduct devotion in Spanish as a means of building students' interest in the language.
“I have developed a strong penchant for the subject and, coupled with my personality, I believe I am able to impart it effectively to my students,” Nelson said when asked about the reason behind the initiatives.
She added: “It also gives me the opportunity to participate in nation-building, the mere fact I am preparing students to be bilingual in a global society.”
Nelson has spent almost 20 years in the teaching profession. She has a master's in education administration, a Certificate in Technology Integration in Secondary Schools, and a BDegree in Spanish. She has also been awarded Most Tech Savvy and Teacher of the Year from St Elizabeth Technical High School.
CAPTION: Lasco 2016/17 Teacher of the Year, Kerene Nelson.