By Wayne Gates –
A Russellville Elementary School teacher is headed to Central America this summer.
Jennifer Walden teaches fourth grade. She will be traveling to Belize in June and July, where she will work with local teachers on professional development in the capital city of Belmopan.
Belize is on the eastern coast of Central American, bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala, and on the east by the Caribbean Ocean.
“I will be part of a 25 member team of educators from other from around the world as we collaborate to observe, coach, and design curriculum,” Walden said. “We will be training fellow educators in Belmopan, Belize, as well as working alongside them in the classroom,” Walden said.
“The partner we will be working with is called Peacework. They have been working across 17 countries where they are trying to overcome cycles of poverty and oppression. They belive that you start with the schools and you start with education and you give the kids a new beginning.”
Walden said that she chose to go to Belize because she saw a need.
“One third of the kids are dropping out of school to work in agriculture when they turn 14 years old. Many of them are living in extreme poverty. I wanted to do something to help,” she said.
Walden said that she expects to learn from the experience as well.
“Not only will the local teachers learn teaching strategies and best practices from us, but we will learn from each other, which will reflect on my own teaching practices in my classroom,” she said.
Walden has been an educator for 10 years, and is now a 4th grade Language Arts teacher in the Eastern Local School District. She has a Master’s degree in integrating technology in the classroom, and expects to complete an Education Specialist Degree from Walden University by the end of May.
“I am so fortunate to come from a family that values education. My mother, grandmother, along with many aunts and uncles have all given their lives to educating young minds. I am blessed to have this opportunity to share my gifts and passion for teaching with others who are not afforded the many opportunities as I have,” she said.
Walden said that she expects her experience in Belize to be similar to that of her grandmother.
“My grandmother died when she was 99 years old. She began her teaching career in a one room schoolhouse in Kentucky. She taught children who showed up with nothing. I kind of feel like that’s what I’m heading into.”
Walden said that one-third of students in Belize drop out before they turn 14 years old to work in agriculture, which perpetuates poverty for many people.
“I have always believed the best way to rise out of poverty is to get an education and always continue to learn. My Granny taught me that. If I can touch one teacher’s life, and that teacher touches the lives of her students, then our world will continue to grow and be a better place for us all.”
Walden will be raising $2500 to help pay for her program fees and training through GoFundMe.
If you would like to help, the link to her GoFundMe page is https://www.gofundme.com/nk2w2j-belize-teaching-fellowship.