A two-teacher team from Lincoln Charter School’s Denver Campus will be going to Haiti in September to train and empower teachers to recognize disabilities and better serve students with higher needs.

How it started

Lincoln Charter second-grade teacher Lynsey Waddle went to Haiti earlier this year with the South Carolina-based nonprofit Give Hope Global. While there, Waddle delivered clothes her class/school had collected and worked with teachers and students at Cambry Orphanage.

In her free time during the trip, Waddle said she made her way to the neighboring school for the deaf where she recognized a number of needs.

“There was such a separation between kids with special needs and other kids,” Waddle said. “There was a deaf community outside of the school, with students who were not accepted by other schools because the regular school doesn’t have the capacity to teach these kids.”

Waddle said her visits to that school stuck with her after she returned to the United States.

“I thought ‘This is bigger than me. I don’t know what to do,’” Waddle recalled.

She started thinking about her own skills and how she could apply them and knew education was the answer.

“After I came back last time I kind of started thinking about what I saw there and what needs were there,” she said. “There are teachers who don’t have the certification we do, and I kept thinking what’s the one way I can help. I felt that it was in teacher development, supporting these teachers, that’s how I can help.”

The mission

Waddle said students not accepted by Cambry – a school and orphanage – or the other schools were not passing tests or their grade levels for various reasons. These students were only accepted by the deaf school – Waddle said even though it was meant for deaf students, students with other disabilities aren’t turned away.

Before diagnosing a student with a disability, Waddle said schools in the United States will give students a hearing and vision test. So in June a team of medical professionals went to Haiti to test the students’ vision at the deaf school.  

“I never saw one single kid with glasses,” Waddle said in explaining why she wanted the vision screening done. ‘It could come back they all see fine, but it could be as simple as not being able to read the book or the board.”

Those results will be analyzed before Waddle and Lincoln Charter Exceptional Children teacher Christina Williams head to Haiti in September.

Once Waddle and Williams arrive, they will be educating teachers on ways to identify special needs and empowering them will tools and skills to serve those students.

“I want to show teachers that they have a role in making a difference, and they can go a long way in that,” Waddle said. “I want to empower teachers by showing them ways to make the school more inviting, what are special needs, how can they help struggling students learn, familiarize them with Haitian assessments. … I don’t want to Americanize or standardize them, but I want to help them give kids what they need in that environment.”

Waddle said the timing is perfect because the students at the deaf school are staying at Cambry, but a new church/school building is being opened where those students will live instead.

“They’re my heart. That’s where I hope I can go a long way,” Waddle said of her upcoming adventure. “We want to kick off their school year on the right note. We want to let them know we have their back – they’ve got our support.”

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