Drs. Gately, Howson and Nichols just returned from an exiting 10 days in Antigua, West Indies. Working with reading specialists and kindergarten teachers kept the consultants busy during their stay. This was the fifth visit to the island of Antigua, West Indies for Dr. Susan Gately, who had previously pent her sabbatical there in the spring of 2012.
As a result of my research, the team of college professors made the journey to the island to discuss the importance of peers talking with each other as they learn standard British English. One of the highlights of the visit was Dr. Nichols’ adaptation of “Reading is for Meaning,” sung to the tune of “She’s Coming Round the Mountain when she comes.” Check out my Literacy for All page on this blog to get the words to Dr. Nichols version.
Dr. Gately spent some time at the Victory House, a small private program for students on the autism spectrum. The teachers, assistants, volunteers and administration were very engaged in learning about teaching their students how to read. Many of the techniques shared with the group are included in an article I wrote on Concept of Word. An abstract of that article is included in the Literacy for All page on this blog.
Drs. Gately and Howson visited the Adele School, a small public school that supports students with developmental delays. The teachers and principal were gracious hosts, providing lunch and other treats. We had so little time there; I hope we get to return to this beautiful school.
Of course we discovered more of Antigua on our time off. New finds for us were Darkwood Beach, and the beautiful Fryes Beaches…Little Fryes and Big Freyes.
Perhaps our most poignant moment on the island was the retirement celebration of Mrs. Jacintha Pringle, Director of Education who officially retired in May, 2015.
Mrs. Pringle supported education for all. In September, 2011 she was instrumental in starting a post-primary program for students who had not passed with entrance exam for admittance into secondary schools. This was a lifeline for students who otherwise would be finished with their education, unless their parents could afford the tuition for a private secondary education. This photo was taken at the official opening of the school, for which I was present. Mrs. Pringle urged the students of the school to use this opportunity seriously; that the school was an opportunity for them to start over and achieve whatever they wanted in life. I remember when she started the speech that some of the students were squirming and talking in their seats. In her no-nonsense tone, she told the students that they could join her at the podium if there was continued talking. The students took her for her word and were immediately silent and attentive. I think it was Kierkegaard who suggested, “We become our choices.” I believe that was what Mrs. Pringle wanted the students to hear; that no matter what circumstances the students had endured in the past, that their possibilities were endless.
At her retirement many spoke of Mrs. Pringle’s get-it-done no-nonsense manner and how inspiring she was to those with whom she taught and worked. I remember a meeting I attended at the NTCT (the new school) where she gathered all of her eduction directors (there were a lot of them) and the school staff to discuss how to improve conditions at the school. She ran the meeting with an intent to listen to the teachers and to help them solve problems at the school. I believe that the teachers left this meeting with some hope that conditions at the school would be improved. Mrs. Pringle was always gracious to me in her interactions (even when I think she might have disagreed with me). I appreciate her pride in her country, the improvements she made in education in Antigua, her influence within the East Caribbean nations, and her belief that all students should be given the opportunity to learn.
Mrs. Pringle’s celebration was a beautifully, planned Catholic mass at St. Michael’s Cathedral in St.John’ Antigua.
The occasion included a steel band and chorus from one of the local schools. The music was spectacular. It included Mrs. Pringle’s daughters’ abstract rendition of “Happy Birthday” on steel drums. There were many thanks and speeches to honor Mrs. Pringle, It was truly a wonderful, heart-warming experience. The celebration ended with the song, I know who I am. (find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHOZ-sCQF4k ).