About Me

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I have been an elementary and secondary school teacher and administrator. Currently, I am a faculty member in the Faculty of Education at Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. My M.Ed. and Ph.D. had a focus on the educational and linguistic experiences of children who moved from other countries to Canada.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Can business "do" social good? Our experience with Laurier's work in Haiti

I have been amazed over the past few years at the level of commitment to "social good" that local businesses have demonstrated to our work in Haiti.

Clearly, BlackBerry has been a significant contributor by providing 200+ phones and tablets as well as the expertise of Rob McBride, one of its Directors. He has traveled numerous times to provide training sessions and one-on-one support to our partners in Haiti. The fact that he is a Laurier alum and fluent Creole speaker helps foster this partnership!

More recently, Desire2Learn has come on board. This local company is a "mover and shaker" in the on-line learning world. Many universities and school systems use their learning management system for on-line courses. Their platform is used by more than 15 million people world-wide. Their Chief Strategic Officer will be accompanying our team in October to see how D2L may be involved with our work in educational capacity-building in Haiti. Check out their website: brightspace by D2L

Other businesses, as well as Laurier's own Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship, Launchpad, and Enactus student group, are also joining in the conversation.

Businesses might call this a "win-win". They get to explore how their products and services "make sense" in an emerging nation context while at the same time contributing to the ability of principals, teachers, and higher education personnel to develop stronger curricular and teaching abilities. The ultimate beneficiary? Students.

Social good in the business world? Emphatically, yes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

School Principals in Haiti: Recent article in Canadian and International Education Journal

The research we have been doing on school leadership in Haiti has been published in a number of scholarly journals recently.

In a special issue of the journal Canadian and International Education, Gaetane Jean-Marie and I examine some of the leadership practices of principals in Haiti from a comparative perspective. Particularly, we look at how school principals respond to local needs in innovative ways despite (or because of) the fragile nature of the context.

To access the article click below:

Canadian and International Education

Friday, June 27, 2014

Supporting Social Innovation in Haiti: Laurier Haiti Networking Trip October 2014

Building a network of partners in Haiti is an evolving process.

My original work in Haiti started10 years ago as a result of a meeting with a few key educational leaders who wanted to see change occur in Haiti. It has been amazing to see that network expand to dozens of key people and organizations across Haiti. I have worked with well over 1,000 school principals as a result of those initial meetings.

The work that we have been doing in the North Department of Haiti is a direct result of those early networking meetings. In research, we talk about "snowball sampling" where we ask key people about who they see as a key leader in a geographic region or subject area. I have been doing the same to build our network in northern Haiti.

This has led us to the Director of the Ministry of National Education for the region, top school principals, university presidents, and directors of Haitian NGOs. We are now planning a trip for Oct. 14-19, 2014 that will solidify this network as we consider ways we can work together for the next 3-5 years.

Two groups will be the focus of the fall trip:

1. Elementary and secondary educational leaders. We are going to have two days of meetings with a variety of school principals and the Ministry of National Education to discuss ways we can support the work they are doing. An example of this is the special education needs assessment that was completed as part of our May assignment. Bruce Alexander from the Waterloo Region District School Board led an extensive review of the special education needs and services of a school in Cap-Haitien. He will deliver two days of workshops to help this school, and others, develop a "Haitian-made" framework for special education. These are the kinds of projects we want to continue to partner on.

2. Higher education leaders. One of the exciting new partnerships we have is with the State University of Haiti at the Limonade campus (near Cap-Haitien). We will be having next step meetings with the president of the council of the university, Dr. Jean-Marie Théodat, when we return in October. Our successful English language program, which we developed with the Public University of the North, will be replicated at the State University. As well, there is significant interest at the university to develop a "social incubator" where faculty, businesses, and civil society organizations can support students' ideas for innovation and entrepreneurship.

I am excited about a number of Canadian and US organizations and institutions who are considering joining us as part of this networking opportunity. More details to come!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Elevator speech highlights of the Laurier service-learning trip to Haiti, May 7-18, 2014

Last evening, as part of our nightly debriefs, I asked each of the participants to share their 1 minute elevator speech i.e. a short summary of a powerful experience or activity.

There were lots of things that people shared but here are two themes that stood out to me:

1. People with a powerful vision

These included people such as Carmen and Caleb in Pignon and Thelus and Soeur Yanick in Cap-Haitien.

Caleb giving us a tour of the camp he owns (and where we stayed).

Thelus giving us a tour of his school near Cap-Haitien.

Each of these people is working hard to accomplish a specific vision for their community.

2. Working to empower women and girls.

Multiple members of our group discussed how they had witnessed a focus on supporting young women.

The motto at the girls' school where we worked, Regina Assumpta, is
 "Women of faith, let us unite to save the earth and protect those who are excluded."

Here are some of these young women with Betty Ann and CJ ... women who will make a powerful impact on future generations of Haitians.

Heading Home: Some Final Adventures in Haiti

Our team left Cap-Haitien @ 3 am this morning, catching a bus for the ride to Port au Prince. This is the first time I have taken the Sans Souci although I've had a number of friends who have used it and have spoken highly about it. We weren't disappointed.

Our bus ride was barely an hour in when everything ground to a halt and we sat for at least an hour. It was still dark so we really didn't know what was going on ... being in and out of sleep didn't help either! We then made some progress and discovered the problem - a truck had gone off the road and was blocking traffic.

In order to get past the truck, our bus had to move completely to the side of the road. Remember that the roads are narrow. And it had rained. Needless to say, the bus went a tad too far and the wheels on the right side slid into the culvert.
We all had to get off the bus and then the driver and about 20 people worked to get the bus out. It was quite an experience! The good news was that the bus made it out  and we soon got back in and carried on.

We made it to the airport with no problems and are now waiting on the first of two flights to get us to Miami. From Miami, we are all on the same flight HOME!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Citadelle and the Last Day In Haiti: CJ's Perspective

Today we went to a massive building called the Citadelle. I was amazed at how big the building was and what it was made for. But the journey to the Citadelle was the most interesting part of the time there.

The Citadelle was a fort made by the the freed Haitians in the early 1800s. It was completed in 1816 (I think). They made the fort because they were scared that the French would attack their country so they needed a place to protect themselves. When we looked at the building we were amazed at the size and width of the building. They said that the building wasn't made of concrete but it was made of cow blood, lime stone, sand, and water.

 But the real journey started at the bottom of the mountain which the Citadelle was on. We had the option of taking a donkey up or just to walk. We chose to walk and it was time to be on our way. As we looked around the corner, we could see that the path was very steep. We knew that it was going to be a bit of a hike. We started climbing and already it was tiring. The path wasn't the same as back in Canada when they are straight and they have nice gravel, this path though had medium sized rocks mixed together with concrete. And with the steep incline it made the walk even harder. We also had a tour guide with us to point out certain monuments along the way. 

We had left at around 8:30 am and my dad said that the walk would be about and hour and a half so, when we looked at the time and it read nine o'clock. I knew that it would still be a while so I prepared for the worst. As we came around the corner, though, we could see a very large building. The tour guide said that it was the Citadelle! We made it very fast! We climbed up a bit further so that we were in the fortress and we were level with black, iron objects. We went closer and they turned out to be cannons! We looked to the side and could see the heavy cannon ball (no pun intended) that could be put in the cannon at any time. We were so fascinated that we almost couldn't hear the tour guide tell us to come over to go inside.

We went inside and we were taken to the places where the people would stay at the fort. It was very tall and almost condo like. We were then taken to a jail cell that a prisoner would stay. It was underneath the ground which I was very interested because the prisoner wouldn't be able to get out since there would be no possible way to climb up to the window. Another place we went to was the top of the Citadelle. Now this building is about 150 feet and is on top of a mountain. We looked over the rooftop and could see the top of other mountains that were around us. The view was one of the best I have ever seen. I thought it was cool that we were in between clouds because that's how high up we were. Then it was time to come down and be done with the tour. But there was one last hurrah when we were going back down to the path and we saw a couple UN (United Nations) soldiers that were just hanging around and we asked if we could take a picture with them. They said yes and they said to look tough in this photo.

Next we went to the palace (Sans Souci) which the king of the north (Henri Christophe) was. It wasn't much of a palace as much of it was run down because its been there for two hundred years. We got another tour and it was very fascinating to see all the rooms in the palace and the windows of it as well. The tour guide said that the king ended up committing suicide because he was too parranoid about the French. We saw the room that he killed himself in which I thought was very interesting. Also I purchased a few paintings that I thought were very colourful and I really liked them.
Above is Justin Metelus, the Director of the Ministry of Education for the North Department with some of our group.
In this photo we took a picture with our amazing driver Milo. He looks really tough so we thought we should be too.

Friday, May 16, 2014

The Nutrition Center Kids in Cap Haitien

Today we had  the luxury of sleeping in until 7:45. The preschool kids were coming at nine o'clock and we had to prepare for them to come. It was going to be a very busy morning.

When we finished our breakfast (mango, watermelon, pineapple etc.) we had to prepare for the 44 kids that were coming from the nutrition center. We had three blow up pools that we had to blow up and gather up some water toys and soccer balls.  Once we were done that we set them up under the big almond tree in the front yard of where we are staying. It was a nice big shaded area that was perfect for swimming pools to be.

After we were done that it was time for another big problem. The water. We had a hose to put the water in but the hose was too short to bring over to where we were. It was almost 9 am and we still needed this problem fixed. We were all in panic mode as we could hear an engine coming up the driveway. Then when we thought that it was hopeless, a man came over and brought extension hoses. Our problem was fixed as we could see two trucks came rolling up the hill of the driveway. They were all singing a song that was in the native language Creole. The trucks were filled with kids too! They looked all happy that they were here and they were waving to us too.

Once they parked they started singing again! This time it was a welcoming song which they were singing to all of us. When they were done they all piled out of the car. I thought that they were headed to the swimming pools but realized that they were all putting out their hands to shake mine. Again these are three to four year old kids! I don't think I was that polite when I was their age! Then once I shook forty or so tiny hands they headed to the first floor balcony of our guest house. They started running around kicking soccer balls around as if it was their home. We stopped in shock but then started to join in. They were very fun and enjoyable. There was also this one girl that kept holding my hand and going where-ever I went.

Once I did have a free hand I started playing with the kids. They really loved when I would pick them up and spin them around in a circle. Although it was fun for them I was getting a little dizzy so I needed a break. Once I sat down I still couldn't get away from these kids. They started playing with my hair and taking my hat. I thought it was hilarious that they thought there was something that was wrong with my teeth because I have braces. When I heard a bell ring all the kids headed over to their teacher. Immediately they started singing again! What was with this group and singing songs? When they were done it was time for their lunch break. We thought it was hilarious that one kid didn't like the onions in his spaghetti that he picked them out, looked around to see if anyone was watching and then put them behind his back so no one could see them!

 When the kids were done their nutrition break, which took over half an hour for them, they started singing another song! Now I was starting to get really interested in why they sang these songs all the time. When the teacher was still singing I noticed that she picked up a child. She started walking over to the pool and dropped the kid in the water! Then all the kids dove into the inflatable pools and splashed around. It looked to be cooling them off well! One of our teachers, Jen, noticed that by the time they jumped into the water they were just as excited. After about 30 minutes, the bell rang again and all the kids got out and dried off. Some kids didn't want to get out and kept jumping back in!

 Then, it was time for the kids to leave. It was almost sad seeing the kids pile into the trucks again and take off past the gate. It was great to be with them.

Right now we are preparing for a walk downtown and also we are going to be doing a game tonight which I am excited for.