teachers

Summits Celebrates #GlobalHandwashingDay

Since 2010, thousands across Haiti have been affected by a devastating cholera outbreak. The epidemic originated in the Central Plateau, where all 41 of our primary schools are located.

This past week, Summits primary school Foyer des Enfants hosted a celebration for Jounen Mondyal Lave Men or Global Handwashing Day. Hosted by our partner Zanmi Lasante, Summits students were taught best sanitation practices in order to protect against cholera and other water and sanitation-related diseases.

Six Summits schools attended the big event which also included dancing, a talent show, and many rounds of musical chairs.

Celebrating Summits

Last week, we threw a HUGE party in the Central Plateau. Over 1,000 Summits students, teachers, community and family members assembled to celebrate our teachers and kick off the school year in style. There were fire-breathing clowns, breakdance battles, 100-degree temperatures, and amazingly – no thunderstorms! 

The celebration took place in Marouge on what will be the future site of Summits Academy, a teacher training facility and administrative hub for Summits and our partners in the Central Plateau. Community leaders, Summits teammates – including co-founders Marie Flore Chipps and Mike Chambers- along with partners and administrators welcomed and spoke to the crowd, congratulating them on their unwavering commitment to education.

The celebration also marked the first time our entire team was able to convene as one. Our 350 Summits educators and staff from both Boston and Haiti were able to celebrate the many successes of our young but mighty organization, together. 

Marie Flore, Cassandre, Ludji and the rest of the team in Haiti pulled together an absolutely momentous event. Everyone from the teachers we celebrated to the partners and guests we invited, to the students and families that scaled mountains to attend, had a blast.

We have big plans for the school year ahead and after this epic celebration, we know that together, anything is possible.

Help us make this school year the best one yet.

Putting #TeachersFirst: An Incredible Summer with InnovEd

In March, we launched Summits with a campaign focused on the transformative power of teachers. We asked our community for help fund a teacher training institute for the 350 educators in our network and in less than three months, we raised over $130,000 for this critical program, together.

During the month of August, we saw this dream become a reality as we welcomed groups of educators from across the Central Plateau to three, week-long programs as part of InnovEd's intensive Summer Institute.

The enthusiasm was palpable from the start. Each morning, teachers started the day together, in one big circle under the morning sun. Lead by group leaders, our teachers sang songs and voiced affirmations in order to motivate each other and set a positive tone for the day of training ahead. The nervous energy of Monday quickly turned into an eruption of renewed energy and meaningful connection by Friday.

The central focus of the week was to introduce educators to the concept of the Lèkol Vivan or The Vibrant School. By blending pedagogical theory and participatory learning, the Vibrant School approach seeks to equip educators with the skills necessary to transform traditional schools into active, nurturing learning environments. Teachers attended workshops on increasing student engagement and participation and on using the natural environment as a tool for teaching.

InnovEd presents a learner-centered curriculum that challenges teachers and students to work together to achieve high impact growth; a holistic approach that builds an active school culture inside and outside the classroom.

This style is unlike traditional approaches to education in Haiti. Traditionally, classrooms depend on rote style instruction and memorization. As Summits first grade teacher Madeleine Jean put it,

Before, the way I taught—without this training—was not the same. In the morning, we would just go into the classroom, pray, and start working. Now thanks to InnovEd and Summits it’s not going to be the same. We are going to keep the children’s attention. From now on we are going to apply the right activities that will inspire students to work together.

We’ve been inspired by InnovEd’s dedication to improving teacher quality and student achievement across Haiti and this year's Summer Institute is just the beginning of our partnership. Over the next two years, the InnovEd team with continue to work with our teacher trainers, administrators, and teachers, offering ongoing professional development and training throughout the year.

Through your support of Teachers First, you made this incredible summer happen. Thanks to you, our educators are starting the school year stronger than ever!

Building Vibrant Schools with InnovEd

What is a lékol vivan - a vibrant school?

Last week in Port-au-Prince, eight Summits supervisors participated in the first intensive training sessions with InnovEd-UniQ, our teacher training partners. The week focused on developing the skills and techniques necessary to build lékol vivans - schools that inspire, challenge, and support students through high quality teaching and engagement.

These supervisors are integral to our network of 41 primary schools in the Central Plateau. Each supervisor is assigned four schools to work with throughout the school year, providing professional support to improve teacher capacity, measure success, and increase student outcomes. 

Our approach is inspired by the Partners in Health Community Health Workers program, a system created in the very same rural communities we work with in Haiti. The program is designed to accompany the country’s existing health care system by training health workers to visit patient at home in order to connect them with the care, hospitals, and clinics necessary to ensure healthier lives and communities.

In the education sphere, we imitate this successful approach through the work of our Summits supervisors. The approach is designed to buttress the work of the Ministry of Education and its strategic goals to improve teacher quality and increase student achievement.

The week focused on increasing student engagement through participatory games and practical, field-tested techniques. The supervisors were also coached in data driven strategies and action plans in order to develop strong school-community relations.

We’re incredibly lucky to be partnering with InnovEd-UniQ. With its core values of engagement, connection, challenge, and reflection, we’re building lékol vivants across the Central Plateau.

Supervisor Fritz Andre put it best: “Together with InnovEd and Summits, we can do a better job in every school with the principal and teachers...to help them train the students for a society we dream about.”

With the skills learned in Port au Prince, supervisors will return to the Central Plateau energized and focused on the school year ahead.

A Wedding in Bernaco

This past weekend Summits co-founder Marie Flore and Father Fritz Lafontant, along with our new creative content producer Jessica Obert, attended the wedding of Wilfred Philatre and Wilna Pierre. Wilfred is the principal of L'Ecole Bernaco, a Summits primary school tucked in a valley outside Thomonde. The school also acted as the wedding venue.

Wilfred grew up in Bernaco and went to secondary school in Thomonde. Proving to be a dedicated and successful student, our partners Zanmi Lasante sponsored him to go college to study education. After graduation, Wilfred was offered a position to become an inspector for the state at Hinche, but turned it down, determined to return home.

At the wedding, in a speech to his new bride and the family and friends assembled, Wilfred said, "I am the product of Bernaco. I want to be a model for the youth and for the community."

Summits schools are truly the heart of the communities we serve. We're thrilled to have been able to celebrate Wilfred and Wilna!

Meet Summits Teacher Michelet Houpette

This story comes to us from Esther Ro, our Creative Content Producer in Haiti. Esther has spent the last three months rolling around the Central Plateau with her trusty camera meeting the teachers, students, and communities that make up our network of schools. 

The first thing Michelet Houpette does when he wakes up each morning is review the lesson plan for the day. On the agenda today is practicing algebraic inequalities, introducing new French vocabulary, writing exercises in Creole, and a hygiene and health review. After refreshing his notes, Michelet quickly showers and eats a plate of spaghetti - a Haitian breakfast favorite - before making the journey to Ecole Bon Samaritain de Sarazin.

Click here to see a map of the places Michelete has lived, worked and studied.

The school, located in the rural village of Guindette, is roughly seven miles from Michelet’s uncle’s home in Lascahobas, a sizable market town in the Central Plateau. Michelet sleeps here most nights instead of at his childhood home in Loncy, a neighboring village that is 20 minutes from the main road. By 7:10 a.m., Michelet is out the door and walking towards the heart of the Lascahobas where he catches a ride on a tap-tap, the name of the colorful pickup trucks and buses that serve as public transportation in Haiti. The ride costs 50 gourde, or just under one US dollar. Some days, if the fare is hard to procure, Michelet finds a way to get to school, whether it’s by borrowing a relative’s motorcycle or walking part of the distance. Principal Thomas Benjamin remembers one time Michelet pedaled to school on a bicycle, “smiling, his forehead shining with perspiration.”

“Michelet is one of the best, one of the most devoted teachers I know,” says Principal Benjamin.

 

“Michelet is one of the best and one of the most devoted teachers I know,” says Principal Benjamin. “He has a gift of encouraging others and is extremely selfless, bringing new ideas and suggestions to better our school.”

Michelet’s fourth grade class consists of 86 students, so roll call is a lengthy ordeal. When every student is accounted for, he marks the tally in the top lefthand corner of the blackboard for Principal Thomas’s official record. With a firm but friendly voice, Michelet begins the day’s lessons. Bright, wide eyes follow his movements up and down and across the room. Hands wave excitedly in the air and a chorus of enthusiastic voices respond to questions posed to the class. One by one, students come forth to solve equations or conjugate verbs on the blackboard and correct each other’s mistakes. Before introducing the next subject, Michelet gets everyone’s blood pumping by leading them in a hyperactive sequence of head bobbing, arm waving and leg shaking that evokes smiles and giggles from even the most reserved students.

 

The dismissal bell rings at one p.m. sharp, but Michelet’s work isn’t over yet. Three days a week, he gives additional math, French and Creole lessons to an advanced group of pre-teens in Lascahobas. Given his commitment to education, it’s hard to believe that Michelet fell into this profession almost by accident.

“When I was young, I never thought I’d be a teacher,” Michelet said. “I was nervous because I didn’t think it would be easy to change careers, but I have learned to be flexible.”

After completing secondary school, Michelet enrolled at Université Polyvalente D’Haiti in Port- au-Prince as an accounting student. Due to financial troubles, however, he was unable to complete his degree and returned to his home in the countryside, where he picked up a teaching assistant position as a way to earn some money.

Two years later, Michelet was offered a formal job at Sarazin. In order to become a more effective teacher, he completed a training program with the Digicel Foundation and earned a certificate in education last year. Michelet is also a member in the first cohort of Anseye Pou Ayiti, Teach for All’s Haitian network, through which he receives additional support, resources and individualized coaching.

When he’s not teaching, Michelet tends to a modest peanut farm and to his livestock, a young goat and a pig, to supplement his teacher’s salary and take care of his mother. Before dinner, he’ll play a round of basketball with friends or nap. Occasionally during the weekends, Michelet gathers his leadership committee comprised of seven students to brainstorm, organize and execute community service projects.

“Education is critical in this moment,” Michelet says. “Right now, Haiti has a weak education system, but together, we can change that.”

Michelet also spends a great amount of time expanding his own knowledge. He is currently a law student at a public college in Gonaive and spends half of his weeknights poring over case studies and legal texts. (“I had an exam last week. I’m waiting for the results, but I feel good,” he shares.) One evening is devoted to theology, and the remaining days are spent studying pedagogy as he hopes to eventually be able to train future teachers.

“Education is critical in this moment,” Michelet says. “Right now, Haiti has a weak education system, but together, we can change that."

Thanks to our donors, teachers in the Summits network like Michelet receive innovative training, ongoing professional development, and competitive wages.

The Teachers of Morne Mouton

This story comes to us from Esther Ro, our Creative Content Producer in Haiti. Esther has spent the last three months rolling around the Central Plateau with her trusty camera meeting the teachers, students, and communities that make up our network of schools. 

Many of the schools in the Summits network are only accessible by foot and some require hours of hiking from the nearest road. The community school in Morne Mouton is one of these rural schools.

From the moment I landed in the Central Plateau, I couldn’t wait to meet and explore these communities in particular. While some may balk at the idea of building a school so far from village or city centers, they are necessary in order to provide each and every student access to an education. In this way, these rural schools and communities represent a fierce dedication to education as the community leaders and parents that started these schools recognize that education is the first step in creating equitable, healthy, thriving communities, even in the most remote locations.

You can spot Morne Mouton from the city of Mirebalais, where I live, high up in the mountains. But the school itself is a two hour hike from the nearest road - paved or otherwise.

It had rained the previous night and it was a foggy with ominous gray skies the morning we set out to visit the school. I was a little worried that the paths would be muddy and feared that the weather wouldn’t cooperate. I thought, “Should we do this another time, when the clouds aren’t so threatening?” But no one else seemed too concerned, so on we went.

The trails from the start were steep and rocky. Not fifteen minutes into our hike, we met a few local villagers, a woman and three men, who were loading their mules with sacks of sand and lumber. I was stunned to learn that they made the trip over the mountain and back three times each day. We let them pass before moving on.

I wish I could say the views were amazing as we hiked along, but the dense fog made our vertical progress appear futile. About an hour and a half in, we turned a bend and could see the school, a peach-colored structure, perched a few summits over. So close, yet so far. At this point, we hadn’t come across any homes or other people. I wondered how far the students had to walk to get to such a remote location.

Another thirty minutes later, we arrived at our destination: Ecole St. Michael. There was a small stone-and-mortar building adjacent to the school, and I was surprised to see classes held there. Upon walking around to the school, I saw that it was incomplete, desks and benches stacked atop each other in the courtyard alongside piles of metal beams and wooden planks.

Principal Petit Maxo came out to greet us. When I asked about the construction, he explained that rain caused the classrooms to flood because the corrugated tin roofs were in poor condition. A local family had donated 15,000 gourde (~$250) to buy tarps to provide better shelter; staff and teachers came early to school to shake the excess water off before the start of class.

The school was built in 2013, but these renovations had begun just two weeks before. In the meantime, school was being held in the church next door and two classes were meeting at the founder’s home a 15-minute walk away.

Most students walk approximately 45 minutes to get to St. Michael. Although it is a long commute, 2nd grade teacher Dorzin Jeantho says this community is fortunate to have a school here, remembering his childhood days of walking for two hours to receive his primary education.

Being a teacher at St. Michael is not easy. The current shared space is cramped and distracting and there is no clean water or electricity in the building. “Even though the situation is bad, I try to forget about all of that and think only of the community,” said 1st grade teacher Raymond St. Nelson. “My job isn’t just to teach, it’s to serve the community."

Raymond isn’t the only one who is community minded. It is beautifully evident how much all of the teachers here care for not just their students but for their community at large. You can see the joy in their faces as they read to their students and lead them in multiplication tables. All the teachers grew up and continue to reside in the village of Morne Mouton and they take great pride in having returned to their home after completing higher education unlike others who seek more comfortable lives in cities. “Communities cannot develop without schools,” said 3rd grade teacher Bernard Lamitho. “And I love my community, so I teach.”

$50 will provide one day of intensive training for a teacher.

Donate to equip a Summits teacher with the professional development and skills they need to engage and inspire their students.

 

Why Teachers

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From UN Millennium Goals to celebrity endorsements, the world recognizes that education is a human right.

Education impacts everything, no matter the opportunity: access to healthcare, poverty alleviation, nutrition, gender equality, economic development, education serves as the foundation to vibrant, healthy, and equitable societies.

In Haiti, and especially in a region as critically poor as the Central Plateau, education serves as a pathway out of poverty. But access to high quality education cannot be delivered without access to high quality educators.

Traditionally, efforts to advance education in the developing world focus on investments in things: schools are built, curriculums are designed, materials supplied, and finally, with whatever’s left, investments are made in teachers. This approach is upside down. 

We believe teachers are the most influential force behind a life changing education. Teachers act as catalysts for change not just in schools, but in the communities in which they serve.
 
Summits works to transform education systems in the world’s poorest communities by providing teachers with intensive training, ongoing support, and competitive wages. Then, we work with local communities and partners to provide other elements critical to student and teacher success including sanitation, infrastructure, and canteen programs. Only through genuine collaboration can transformative education take shape.

Join us as we start with teachers. 

Investing in Teachers

The story of Summits Education begins in a small classroom, full of earnest fifth graders, in a rural village in Haiti called Domond. The walls were freshly painted, the desks neatly arranged, and the students, sitting quietly in their pressed uniforms, were watching their teacher write on the board.  My colleague Ludji and I were observing from the back of the classroom, both of us too tall for the tiny desks and chairs.  “It's wrong."  Ludji whispered to me, “The teacher is conjugating the verbs in French incorrectly.”  We watched as the students copied the misinformation into their school books - a chorus of bright and eager students, most of them from critically-impoverished families. In that moment, we witnessed their futures made more vulnerable because 85 percent of their teachers lack basic qualifications.

What is the difference between going to school and getting an education?

Despite overwhelming evidence that demonstrates that teachers are the most important factor in determining student outcomes, far too often the focus is on ‘stuff’ when it comes to education reform in the developing world: schools are built, materials supplied, and finally, with whatever funds remain, investments are made in teachers. It’s an approach that is upside down in its implementation and it is failing some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.

At Summits, we are developing a teacher-centered approach to transforming education systems, and we have begun our work in Haiti’s Central Plateau. Here, we are managing 42 primary schools and implementing teacher-training programs, in addition to constructing a secondary school for high-performing students. We work in partnership with the public sector and in collaboration with other organizations whose programs strengthen our efforts.

Our goals for the coming year are ambitious and we will need your support. You are a part of a small and thoughtful group who recognizes the value in listening and learning before doing.


Thank you for being part of this growing community. There are mountains ahead, but I see summits, too.

Brightest,

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Mike Chambers

P.S. We are gearing up for an official launch campaign in February, 2016.  At that time, we will ask you to share our work with friends and family as we seek to build a community of supporters.