Oct. 16, 2004 Students in the St. Thomas-St. John District received another day off from school Friday as their educators, paraprofessionals and other support staff attended a daylong series of training workshops.
About 800 education professionals from the district's public schools congregated at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Hotel for the 26th Annual Mini-QuEST. The acronym QuEST stands for Quality Education Standards Training.
The event is hosted and funded by the St. Thomas-St. John Federation of Teachers, a local chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. This year's theme was "A Cultural Infusion into the Realm of Education," providing the educators with ways they can use culture to bring about their lessons in the classroom.
"This is a spinoff of our national QuEST conference," Vernelle de Lagarde, president of the St. Thomas Federation of Teachers, said. "It's basically a professional development program where professionals can take what they learned back to the schools." De Lagarde said the Mini-QuEST is one of the top AFT programs throughout the United States. "What we try to do with the QuEST is to give them the latest issues facing educators," de Lagarde said.
Hollis Liverpool, visiting assistant professor at the University of the Virgin Islands and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, was the keynote speaker for the event.
The native Trinidadian, known to many by his calypso name "Chalkdust," addressed the group on how they can infuse culture into their lesson plans.
The educators also participated in other informative workshops including "Local Fun and Games," "Managing Anti-Social Behavior in Our Schools" and "Helpful Tips for Teaching." The group also discussed the No Child Left Behind Act, an initiative of the Bush Administration seeking to close the achievement gap of different groups of students.
De Lagarde said Education Commissioner Noreen Michael was supposed to have presented a forum entitled "Improving Public Education in the Territory: Standard Assessment and Accountability Initiative" but decided to decline in the end. The forum would have also focused on the accreditation process.
The workshops are beneficial to the teachers, de Lagarde said, adding she has been trying to get the Board of Education to recognize the workshops as Continuing Education Units. Charlotte Amalie high-school English teacher Carmen Dennis said this year's program was well-attended and the theme well-needed.
"This is going to help teachers infuse culture into the education process and therefore make learning easier for the students," Dennis said. Dennis said integrating culture into the learning process is important because students today hardly know the history and folklore of their culture.
"It's amazing when I try to play simple local games with my students that they look at me like I'm crazy and wonder what I'm talking about," she said.
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