Before embarking on her teaching career, Kimberly Stonehouse had the opportunity to spend 10 days in Jamaica as part of her reading practicum through Graceland University.
The insights she gained on that trip changed her point of view going into a year-long assignment as Seymour Community School’s kindergarten teacher. Next year she will be Seymour’s K-6 special education teacher.
“I try to remember how fortunate we are to have so many resources,” she said. “For example, special education doesn’t exist there, so those students aren’t able to keep up.”
The Graceland students were working in Falmouth, a small community that recently became home to a multimillion-dollar port where cruise ships stop.
Stonehouse said she initially was excited to see the port. She became less excited about the port when she learned that the school received no financial benefit from it, even though masses of tourists walk through the school every day.
The Falmouth All Age School had large classes, some with more than 35 students. Stonehouse said it reminded her of an old country school with wooden benches for two students, but each bench had three to four students crowded on it.
The Graceland students brought school supplies based on lists the Jamaican teachers made of their needs.
Stonehouse said it surprised her that one of the teachers asked for any extra cardboard from the boxes the supplies came in so she could make new signs for her classroom. She said it really made her think about how teachers here can use new decorations every year and often throw out the old ones.
“That was eye-opening for us, that it is not easily accessible to them,” she said. “Each year teachers get excited about what theme they are going to decorate in, but that would be wasteful in Jamaica.”