Benaja settles in at the Children’s Academy
Benaja Antoine has been a program coordinator for Haiti Partners for about five years. After years as a primary school teacher, literacy class instructor, community activist, and administrator on his native Lagonav, he was able to bring unique experience and credibility to his work with partner schools, providing training and support for both teachers and principals.
But since January, his job has shifted. He’s moved to Haiti Partners’ Children’s Academy as one of its full-time program coordinators. “As part of the Haiti Partners staff, I was really excited to join the Children’s Academy. I had been watching it grow, turning from a dream to a reality, but it felt a little distant, too. As though the rest of Haiti Partners was one thing, and the Children’s Academy was something apart.”
He’s had some things to get used to. “It has been awhile since I’ve had a regular school-day schedule, 7:00 to 12:00 or 1:00 everyday. Working with the partner schools meant much more traveling. I’d be headed to Lagonav one week, then to Léogâne the next. Some days, I’d work at home. Getting up and going to school at the same time every day is a big change.”
And his presence has meant changes for the school as well. It’s the first time the Academy’s leadership has included someone with significant experience as a teacher and school administrator. “I’m finding I need to focus on basics. Establishing regular faculty meetings, regular times to talk specifically about classroom management and the other aspects of teaching. The teachers were already holding regular meetings, but they weren’t focusing them on what was happening in the classroom. They were willing to work together, but things weren’t structured in a way that let that happen.”
The teachers notice the difference, too, and that makes Benaja’s work especially rewarding. “They like having someone with them who’s ready to focus on the little problems they encounter every day. They want to talk about their classes, and they like getting feedback. And it’s great for me. They’re so happy to work together with me. I no longer spend my time convincing teachers that our student-centered approaches will work. I can get right to talking about the nuts and bolts of making them succeed.”