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Education students gain experience in Jamaica

Liberty University junior Carley Watson teaches a class at Hazard Primary School in Jamaica.

Liberty University School of Education students spent part of their winter break teaching and serving in Jamaica. The program, now in its second year, allows teacher candidates to fulfill practicum requirements while serving in an impoverished community abroad.

From Jan. 5-10, 18 elementary and secondary teacher candidates worked with Vere Technical High School in Hayes, Jamaica, and Hazard Primary in the city of May Pen. In addition to teaching, students also helped set up a new computer lab at Hazard Primary. The laptops were donated to the school — which serves first through sixth grades — by Liberty.

“The Hazard Primary School & Special Education Unit thanks Liberty University for partnering with our staff and students to enhance our educational programs,” said school Principal Dr. Altheia Simmonds. “It is a fruitful endeavor and a wonderful learning experience for all, both socially and academically.”

Junior Abigail Batdorf works with students from Hazard Primary.

To best utilize the school buildings and teachers available, school districts in low-income areas in Jamaica generally use one building for all grades, splitting grades into morning and afternoon shifts. Liberty’s teacher candidates were put to the test working double shifts, with some secondary school candidates teaching at both schools.

Liberty junior Jacquelyn Waltmire said the trip was a great learning experience.

“As future teachers, we were given opportunities to step outside of our comfort zones and bring the elements and strategies of teaching into reality,” she said. “Teaching nine-hour days at a shift school may have been draining at times, but this opportunity was more than rewarding and eye-opening for our team.”

The trip also included ministry opportunities where students got to share their beliefs openly with children and school staff.

“It’s been so great to be a part of this trip,” said Junior Sarah Broderck. “I’ve gotten to see what school is like in another part of the world and how there are great parallels with the American system. I loved the fact that we could share our faith with the children. It really united us.”

Dr. Randall Dunn, assistant professor in the School of Education, helps set up the new laptops Liberty donated to Hazard Primary.

Outside of their work in the classroom, the group visited an orphanage and toured a local hospital, where they heard from its CEO.

The students were joined by School of Education faculty Annyce Maddox, AA/BS director of online programs; Dr. Kristina DeWitt, assistant professor; and Dr. Randall Dunn, assistant professor and director of educational technology. The group stayed at the neighboring Middlesex International College.

“Creating partnerships with both the primary school and the college in May Pen opens many doors for their schools and for Liberty. It’s just a win-win all the way around,” Maddox said.