“If we choose love, kindness, empathy, compassion and hope, which I so believe we should, then we need to make a point to teach these things.” –Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis, Global Teacher Prize Top 50 Finalist
As it’s Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d take the opportunity to tell some love stories. They’re perhaps a little different from the usual romantic tales you’d expect but they all have a theme of love.
In Greece, there was a teacher who specialised in teaching children with dyslexia. Her pupils were desperate to learn English but if they found even their native language difficult, how could they learn a foreign one? It was clear to her that standard teaching methods weren’t up to the task and there were no established tools for helping those with dyslexia or learning difficulties
So she set about finding her own methods. She devised a system that uses games, smart visuals, mind maps, drama and even gardening. It worked. Her students recently achieved a 100% pass rate in tests and their overall school performance improved significantly.
The teacher’s name is Aggeliki Pappa. And the name of the organisation she founded? I Love Dyslexia.
It was love of a different kind that inspired Elisa Guerra in Mexico.
Elisa was a poet and writer with no thought of becoming a teacher. But her life changed when she had her first child, a little boy. As soon as he started going to the local school, she became concerned about him. School seemed unable to nurture his individuality and he was losing his love of learning.
Elisa believed she could do better, But money was tight. She sold her car and borrowed money. She opened her first kindergarten with just a handful of children. She couldn’t afford teaching resources so she made her own.
Her philosophy of promoting cultural diversity and respect for other has proved so compelling that her model has now been adopted by schools in five Mexician cities and at preschool, primary and secondary levels.
Love for her children inspired Elisa and she now proclaims, ‘I love teaching’.
Meanwhile in Brownsville New York, one of the most impoverished and violent areas of the City, Nadia Lopez decided to quit her teaching career. As Principal she was close to despair with the constant struggle of trying to provide an education for the local children. She didn’t believe she was making a difference.
Then, one Monday morning, she read a hugely popular blog, Humans of New York. One of those interviewed was a pupil at her school who was asked who was the greatest influence in his life and he named Nadia. She had turned his life around and taught him to believe in himself. The blog stimulated a huge wave of appreciation for Nadia from other students and her community.
It was this outpouring of love that convinced Nadia that she was in the right place and doing vital work. Since then she has hosted a forum on the ‘Challenges of leadership in urban education’ and even been invited to the White House to meet President Obama.
Finally, a story that begins with tragedy and ends with hope.
On 14th December 2012, a man walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and opened fire. It was an indiscriminate shooting that took the lives of twenty teachers and students. In the midst of the chaos, one teacher led her terrified first grade class into a tiny toilet cubicle to hide. The gunman never discovered them. Every child in her class survived.
The shooting shocked America and the world. But it was hardest of all for the children who had survived to conquer their fear and rediscover their trust in humanity. It was this that inspired the teacher to set up the non-profit organisation Classes 4 Classes that aims to teach children the power of kindness and compassion by connecting and engaging students with others across the United States. Over 1000 children have already benefited from the initiative.
The teacher was Kaitlin Roig-DeBellis and she has been shortlisted for this year’s Global Teacher Prize. As she says, “If we choose love, kindness, empathy, compassion and hope, which I so believe we should, then we need to make a point to teach these things.”