A Year of Challenges Comes to a Successful Conclusion

The Ano Escolar (academic year) came to a close this past week. Challenges abounded for my colleagues in the Dominican Episcopal School System. Yet, their skill, creativity and initiative in meeting these difficult situations never failed to impress.

Proof of their success comes in these photos and videos, shared by the leadership team at Colegio San Andres in Santo Domingo.

The Rector, principal, business manager and a staff member meet to reflect upon the past year.

Students shared their final projects, demonstrating that dedicated teachers and hard-working students can produce excellent work even via distance.

Students present their work for their parents.

Elementary teachers prepared a video that captured a successful school year.

Yes, a memorable school year. A phenomenal school year, considering the circumstances. San Andres Principal Miguelina Corporan has already begun planning for an equally successful 2021-2022

La Misa de Acción de Gracias

One week ago today the Education Mission Team participated in a thanksgiving eucharist for the successful conclusion of a most challenging school year. Despite Covid 19 pandemic and resulting economic hardship, the Episcopal school system provided a quality education via distance to many children. On June 28th, Bishop Moises Quesada celebrated mass as we participated via Zoom. The Diocesan community joined us through a FaceBook simulcast. Ain’t technology a wonderful thing . . . at times.

Bishop Moises invited our “Team Chaplain”, Mother Amanda Gott (St. Matthew’s Church, Lincoln, NE) to preach that day. Her theme, “Mustard Seeds and Mountains:  A Teeny-Tiny Virus v/s a Teeny-Tiny Bit of Faith”, offered guidance for reflection on a difficult year that was well-received by those present. A job well-done, Mother Amanda!

These photos capture the events of last Monday morning.

An advance announcement of the Holy Eucharist of Thanksgiving broadcast across the Diocese.
The service opened with a hymn beautifully sung by a teacher at Colegio San Andres.
Mother Amanda preaches on the power of faith as Zoom participants post on the chat board.
Teachers (notice their masks) gather to experience the service.
Teachers, students and parents gather in the church to watch the service.
Following the mass, Bishop Moises chats with Education Team members, a meeting so ably facilitated by our stellar translator, Michelle Guzman (shown on his phone).

Our next Zoom event occurs on July 14th and will involve student presentations of research projects with feedback from the Mission Team. Stay tuned for the blog that will follow.

Gracias y Bendiciones+

New Projects in the Works

After the Dominican government’s decision to allow students back into classrooms (effective June 1, 2021)), Bishop Moises Quezada adopted a more cautious approach, continuing virtual teaching/learning this summer with Episcopal colegios opening fully in the fall. The summer program will feature innovative projects that promote students’ technology, research and English language skills. Our Education Mission Team will play a major role in the development and assessment of these projects.

Teachers at roughly a dozen Episcopal schools will guide student teams as they discover more about their neighbor to the north, the United States. The series of projects, titled: Una Nacion, Grandes Estados, Estados Unidos de America (One Nation, Large States, the United States of America), culminates in a celebration of learning in mid-July. Project teams will share their “findings” in presentations that include written reports, music, artistic creations and drama. Not only will students gain knowledge about a country that influences their lives, they will enhance abilities to speak/write English, utilize technology for research and have a good time in the process.

A visual representation of the summer learning projects giving a sense of states to be examined and grade levels doing the investigating..

The summer initiative kicked-off this past week with a Zoomed planning session in which curriculum developers shared their vision for the program and responded to questions from Education Mission Team members as well as from administrators and Rectores responsible for participating schools. The meeting lasted several hours as the program design was polished and made ready to go.

Virtual meetings can follow established routines, like opening with a beautiful rendition of a well-known hymn by a marvelous singer.
Participants salute each other with a heart symbolizing caring and joy at meeting once again.
Our conversations produced a blueprint for the summer’s activities, complete with competencies for students to meet in their presentations.

Education Mission Team members stand ready to field questions and make comments for their Dominican teacher colleagues throughout the planning and preparation process. We will serve as judges at presentation time, identifying student teams whose excellent performance merits recognition.

Stay tuned for progress reports as the summer progresses! Bendiciones+

Face-to-Face Learning

Episcopal colegios in the Dominican Republic opened for a second time this school year. MINERD mandated that schools could begin in-person teaching on June 1st. The Dominican school system determined that putting children in classrooms for only a few weeks would be disruptive; face-to-face education will begin as the 2021-2022 academic year begins in August. As the Dominican Episcopal schools edge toward “business as usual”, virtual classrooms will continue for several more weeks.

While teaching/learning remains a Zoom-aided process, colegios maintain long-held traditions, including celebrations of parental support and student achievement. As these photos illustrate, Colegio San Andres once again held its annual “Dia de las Madres”, applauding the women who make such a difference in the education of students across the grade levels.

Every mother with a child at San Andres received a gift reminding them that a mother leaves “footprints of love” at the school.
Faculty members dramatize the lives of mothers and fathers in Biblical times.

Postings to follow. The Dominican colegios have risen to so many challenges during this pandemic year. Once again, they move forward!

Got the Band Together Again . . .

Our Education Mission Team has been apart for many months now. And we have missed each other. So, it was time for us to get up and running again, even if we met virtually and not in-person.

Our Dominican “sisters”, Miguelina and Melvina (with the help of Miquea from the Diocesan Office and Martires, the English coordinator at Colegio San Andres) orchestrated a Zoom meeting that brought together folks from Alabama, California, Mexico, Nebraska and the Dominican Republic. My firm grip on modern technology enables me to report that it happened by magic. Someone else can explain the links and uploads and downloads and electron flows that conspired to let us communicate. Here’s a screen shot of us “together” again.

This Zoom meeting was unlike most of the others I’ve “attended” over the past 10 months. We had an opening and a closing prayer, as well as a benediction from our newest member, Mother Amanda Gott from St. Matthew’s, Lincoln. We had singing (no dancing, please) and a video news report on what’s been happening in Diocesan education recently. The format was a conversatorio (moderated by Miguelina) in which we shared ideas and options for continuing our work in a pandemic. I’ve enclosed some photos of participants “conversatorio-ing” (I cannot do a blog post without some Spanglish).

Mother Amanda leads us in prayer.
Joe and Cindy toss-around a few ideas for future workshops.
Elizabeth Hutchinson translates eficazmente y con gusto (effectively and gladly, although I should probably check with Elizabeth to be sure of my translation).

Plans were made for our continued collaborations, though they might be at a distance on a computer screen. Miguelina described our team as Una Mision de Amor (a mission of love). I believe she’s onto something.

More blog reports to come on our progress. I’ll close with a Ken Burns-like photo album capturing our work together over the years. As we say in Nebraska: “It’s been a hoot!”

School Begins in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic!

I am sending you “all the freshest news fit to print” with this blog post. This afternoon, I attended the Lanzamiento del Ano Escolar 2020-2021, the official opening of school programs in the Diocese of the Dominican Republic. The Diocesan Education Department supports 26 colegios, serving roughly 6500 students. Given the health and safety concerns that come with the Covid 19 pandemic, teaching and learning will happen virtually, using various programs, particularly Zoom. Teachers will teach; children will learn; parents will stay involved; administrators will provide workshops to prepare teachers to provide high quality instruction. The year has begun! Hallelujah!

I encourage you to learn more about this opening ceremony by accessing

the Diocesan FaceBook page (log onto Iglesia Episcopal Dominicana). There you’ll find photos, welcoming speeches, progress reports and opportunities to interact with Diocesan school leaders. Stay current, stay engaged with an important educational institution that needs your thoughts and prayers in these difficult times.

As you might imagine, I have a few photos from today’s festivities to give a sense of how important and powerful an event it was.

No Diocesan educational event, virtual or face-to-face, can begin without the singing of the Himno Nacional de la República Dominicana.
Photos of teachers mustering for the start of the school year at Colegio San Andres; note that they were socially distanced and totally masked!
The 9-member School Board, led by La Presidenta Melvina Dinsey, provided guidance throughout the planning process for the coming year.
Education Director Miguelina Jorge Corporan narrated a wonderful video reporting how the 2019-2020 school year ended and how the coming year will likely proceed.
Bishop Moises Quezada Mota addressed students and teachers, concluding with a benediction for a safe and productive school year.

As a well-known Terminator once famously said: I’ll be back. I will be returning with updates about El Ano Escolar 2020-2021 on a regular basis in a much less threatening but much more informative manner.

School Days, Covid-Style

My father passed on a couple of lessons that “stuck”. A person has to keep her/his promises, he insisted. So, I said at some point in these postings that I would update you about the progress of my Dominican colleagues in offering an education for young people. Today I keep a part of that promise.

With Miguelina Jorge’s leadership, the Diocesan education department is offering a series of virtual workshops readying teachers to plan and present a hybrid curriculum of online and face-to-face learning. I’ve been attending as a participant observer and the experience has been wonderful.

A professional presenter, courtesy of Susaeta (an educational materials company HQed in Santo Domingo), offered a set of principles, research findings about best teaching practices and plenty of resources in an atmosphere that models the interactive, constructive environment that the teachers will hopefully use to engage their students. Zoom is good, I’m thinking.

Yes, I was observing and participating all right. I’m in this screen shot in the second row from the top

Teachers participated in small groups, as shown in this photo series. The small groups met at 5 schools across the Diocese. They socially distanced with gusto, as the visuals document.

More workshops in the coming two weeks means more postings. The pandemic prevents my attending start-of-the-school-year activities. But, nothing prevents me from virtually participating and passing my observations on to you the readers.

Bendiciones in this difficult time. Take care. Be safe. Till next time.

Actualizacion Virtual

Time for another virtual update on education life in the Dominican Republic. A quick one but a newsy and important one, nevertheless.

The Diocesan Department of Episcopal Education continues to wrestle with challenges posed by MINERD (that’s the government education agency) closing school buildings 6+ weeks ago. Instruction is now virtual. Parent Day was held via Zoom. Graduation competency exams have been held on-line (no pass the exam, no get a diploma). Many, many adjustments by our creative colleagues in the DR.

And our Equipo de Mision Educativo (Education Mission Team) has been closely involved in this work even from afar.

Almost-Doctor Cindy Linzell is involved in a University of Nebraska-Lincoln project to create online materials for teaching English as a second language. She has provided URL links for 3 sets of instructional activities to her Dominican classroom colleagues that are in widespread use. Hooray for Cindy!

Following our December visit, Dr. Joe Gaston established links to EdModo, a software infrastructure that Dominican educators are using to communicate and share teaching ideas. With Joe’s support, Dominican education leaders have established the “Club Tecnologico” — a network enabling school-to-school communication on an ongoing basis. Way to go, Joe!

My particular efforts have involved membership on Bishop Quezada’s Task Force that will guide the Diocese as schools reopen for the 2020-2021 academic year. I join Melvina and Miguelina on the Curriculum/Instruction subgroup. We will likely meet via Zoom throughout the summer. That’s the Bomb, Tom!

No idea when restrictions will lift sufficiently for us to visit the DR up-close, in-person. In the meantime, we remain involved at a social distance. We very much value your support!

Mientras Tanto . . .

Time to post a second update on how the pandemic has affected our educational mission to the Dominican Republic. It seemed only fair to title this one “meanwhile”, in Spanish. I thought about a different title, “Life in the Time of Coronavirus”, paraphrasing a work by that great Latin American writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I decided it wasn’t wise to risk angering “Gabito’s” many fans.

Developments in our Episcopal Education System in the DR have mirrored changes in curriculum/instruction here in the United States. The government education agency, MINERD, issued just yesterday a lengthy directive explaining how schools should meet learning standards electronically — typically not a suggestion that schools would be opening any time soon.

Given our situations here and conditions in La Republica Dominicana, our team reluctantly postponed our scheduled May visit. Plans now include a distance “meeting” with Dominican Episcopal educators in September and a full, in-person, face-to-face workshop series in December. This decision saddens us, although as my Millennial son would say: It is what it is. And as our Dominican friends say often: Vamos a ver (we shall see).

While saddened by the postponement of travel, we are delighted to report that our colleagues have been able to establish communication within schools and across the educational system. They are using a version of the app, EdModo, with instructions for use (in Spanish) developed by our Technology Wizard, Dr. Joe Gaston, and our expert in English language learning, Cindy Linzell. We are contributing to making educational change happen, even from several thousand miles away. Here is a little taste of the instructions that Joe and Cindy developed to guide Dominican educators through the log-on process.

Las siguientes instrucciones te permitirán crear una cuenta y tener acceso al Club de Tecnología de los Colegios de la Diosesis de la República Dominicana.

Club de Tecnología para los Colegios de la Diosesis de la República Dominicana.

La página web para acceder al Club de Tecnología es: new.edmodo.com

Comienza como un Maestro. Haz click en ‘Teacher’.

There are lots of swell visuals imbedded in Joe and Cindy’s “how to use” manual that I can’t seem to insert in this post. But, the ease-of-use that their work offered our Dominican colleagues should be apparent from this reproduction of their opening paragraph.

One last thing before exiting the blog. I’ve mentioned from time to time what the weather is like in Nebraska. Here’s what it’s been like the past week or so.

Anyone like hail? Know what it looks like when it gets to golf ball size? Take a look at this photo, complete with a putter for reference sake.
How about snow? Like snow? How about snow on Easter Day? Here’s what that looks like.

Some time ago, our Governor commissioned an advertising campaign to boost tourism in Nebraska. The motto they came up with: Nebraska, Not for Everyone. At the time, I thought that was pretty ridiculous. Looking at these photos, I’m not so sure it doesn’t fit.

More posts to come.

Bendiciones y gracias por su interes.

Meanwhile . . .

I am hunkered-down in Lincoln, Nebraska, observing the many new ways of doing things that the Coronavirus pandemic has forced upon our many school systems. Face-to-face instruction indefinitely postponed; athletics suspended; even standardized testing has been canceled.

As we observe the almost-overnight transformation of American schools, we might wonder what’s happening in other places around the world. Particularly, what’s happening in the colegios of our Companion Diocese, La Diocesana Episcopal de la Republica Dominicana?

Turns out, that the Dominican Episcopal schools are in much the same situation that we find ourselves here in the USofA. Immigration and emigration are frozen; public buildings, including private and public schools, are closed; business activity, particularly tourism, is severely curtailed. Thanks to the transformation of Episcopal education from a “bunch of schools” to a real school system, the schools are managing quite well despite the new instructional reality that they have been forced to embrace.

First and foremost, students receive regular instruction via distance education. Everyone might not have a full-sized computer, but most have cellphones and can tackle lessons in work- and textbooks that they can bring home. As you can see, there is lots of schooling happening in dining and living rooms across the Diocese.

The schools have created assignments on line and lesson frameworks that students can access. Activities are theoretically sound and very engaging. Plus, they target learners at all levels, from primary to the high school years.

Plus plus, these initiatives are happening across the school system, from Jimani (Colegio Prof Laura Morrow) to Consuelo (Colegio San Gabriel) to Santo Domingo (Colegio San Andres).

Credit is due the educational leadership of the Dominican Diocese. Clearly, they are inventive and proactive at a time of crisis. At the risk of patting ourselves on the back, the Education Mission Team has been in contact with our Dominican counterparts recently and, over the years, has helped lay the foundation for distance teaching/learning to happen.

I must also thank the churches at home and the many readers of this blog, whose thoughts and prayers have enabled so many positive developments in Dominican Episcopal education to happen. Stay tuned for additional updates about what’s happening in the DR.