Close to one hundred educators across Westmoreland and Hanover are now better prepared to navigate the new blended approach to learning. This was made possible by the Teach The Teachers’ Workshop curated by the Sandals Foundation and Great Shape! Inc.’s ‘. On August 2, seventy-six primary and high schools teachers completed close to 3000 hours of education following a two-week workshop at the Godfrey Stewart High School in Westmoreland. The workshop explored online behaviour management, Google Classrooms tools and techniques to construct and integrate specialized software in their online lessons. In addition to classroom management tools, educators also received instructions in computer safety and cybersecurity.
Georgene Crowe, the co-founder of Great Shape! Inc., expressed delight at the successful completion of the workshop. According to Crowe, the workshop saw an “Amazing turnout even with Covid-19 protocol and restrictions”. With computer skills a key focus of this year’s workshop, Crowe noted that educators were, “rocking it! As [teachers] would leave at the end of each day very happy at all they were learning.” Patrice Gilpin, Public Relations Manager at Sandals Foundation, also expressed her delight.
Stacy-Ann Watt-Shearer, a teacher at Maud McLeod High School in Westmoreland said the programme was an eye-opener. She also admitted that her confidence in giving has now improved after being in the programme. Vanessa Gordon of Green Island Primary School, also shared that the programme worked wonders for her. Miss Gordon boasted that she no longer needed to depend on others for help because she now knows how to manoeuvre the various platforms.
Great Shape! Inc.
Since 2015, the Sandals Foundation has facilitated the United States-based nonprofit and has hosted annual teacher training workshops. The workshops aim to improve rural educators’ capacity in the areas of Language Arts, classroom behavioural management and computer skills. However, due to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the programme had its first-ever break last year. Luckily, with the endorsement of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, through its agency the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC), they were able to make this year a success. A team of 50 volunteers were welcomed into the island to help educators navigate the new blended approach to learning.
Brad Adams, Founder and Co-Director I.T. for “Teach the Teachers” at Great Shape! Inc. says this year’s programme was critical as, “The world has been turned upside down, students are disconnected, and the education gap has increased between the haves and have not“. He expressed that as volunteers, their job is to help teachers develop the techniques they need to reconnect with their students and deliver the materials required to get back on track and move forward.
CEO of JTC, Dr Winsome Gordon shared his faith in the programme. He also described it as a “welcome avenue through which some of our island’s most needed educators can develop or sharpen their skills to adequately navigate the new blended teaching/learning approach that will undoubtedly characterize the future of our education sector.”
Sandals Resorts International and the Sandals Foundation have been major partners of Great Shape! Inc. for 17 years. The company and its philanthropic arm provide all logistical support for the volunteer missions across the Caribbean. They provide freee accommodation, the cost of transportation, meals at workshops, venue rental when required and other needs.
Rochelle Forbes- Reid, Public Relations Manager at Sandals South Coast Resort who provide logistical support to the Great Shape! team once on the island said, “We are extremely grateful to our Great Shape! partners for their dedication to the Caribbean. We are all partners in education and together we can help each other get that much further as we navigate these fast-evolving times.”
All volunteers were fully vaccinated and underwent multiple tests to ensure the safety of the participants and the wider community.