It’s the middle of the morning at Our Lady of Rosario School in the city of Bluefields, the capital of the South Caribbean Autonomous Region of Nicaragua, located 365 kilometers from Managua. Jahaira Miranda Obando is opening the door of the second grade “A” classroom. This primary school teacher smiles as we enter the classroom, excited to share her experiences as a teacher and the creative materials she prepares for her second grade classes.
“I have the gift of creativity, which has helped me do many things,” she tells us very naturally, while she shows us a word-making device that uses groups of syllables, a bunch of daisies that contain the first parts of different sayings, and finally her carrousel of illustrated stories that she spins and spins so we can see how it works. “I hang images on the carrousel from the story that we pick to read, and we spin it and read it.” Jahaira smiles again.
Jahaira has won various prizes. In 2017, she won first prize in the competition for the best teacher organized by the Ministry of Education for both the municipalities and the regions, reaffirming her pedagogic excellence, especially with respect to creativity and the use of handcrafts.
“I presented a scientific project that incorporates a creative strategy for helping girls and boys from our school to learn, and it won first prize both in the municipality and the region. The idea is that when the class puts it into practice, it makes learning more dynamic, fun and creative for the children,” she comments, surrounded by numerous materials she has designed for teaching.
The Our Lady of Rosario School was selected as a model school to take part in the TransformARTE Project, “Promoting psycho-emotional development, a culture of peace and nurturance through art.” This project was led by the Save the Children education program and implemented by the organization FUNARTE, in the North and South Caribbean Autonomous Regions from 2015-2018, in coordination with local authorities, particularly from the Ministry of Education (MINED) and the Regional Education Secretariat (SRE) of the Regional Autonomous Governments of the North and South Caribbean Region (GRACCN and GRACCS).
“Jahaira has received recognition from MINED in her municipality, and is part of MINED’s municipal and regional technical facilitation team, which has been training other teachers in Bluefields since 2017,” explains another teacher, Marbeli Cisnero, the Municipal Delegate of MINED in Bluefields.
“In her classroom, you sense a very nurturing, creative atmosphere. The walls are filled with color and drawings that fill this section with happiness, ready to receive students with a smile on her face,” comments Thelma Karina Téllez, part of the FUNARTE team. She tells us that Jahaira is known as a creative, happy, observant and innovative teacher, always searching for new ways to teach, experimenting with materials from the local environment to use in her classroom.
“I have learned a lot,” Jahaira explains, referring to the training she has received from FUNARTE about psychological-emotional development and nurturing children through art. “Now I relate much better to my colleagues, to parents and to the students. Save the Children and FUNARTE have taught us important psychological and emotional concepts, like how to better nurture children, and this aspect has changed a lot in our school.” Jahaira expresses pride and gratitude. “The school has improved, and I am truly grateful for this,” she adds.
In addition to training teachers in the school to develop skills related to creativity and developing more positive relationships with children and among the teaching staff, FUNARTE also promotes recreational and creative activities that generate a sense of community and pertinence in the school.
Jahaira participated in building a play area in the school called the “ecological park,” utilizing recycled materials. “For Jahaira, the process of creating, proposing, and transforming things is a very special part of her life. It motivates her to learn and provides an opportunity for her to grow as a person and as a teacher. Each time she sees something interesting, she embraces it, touches it, and experiments with it. It was like this when they made things with recycled tires in the school. She copied the idea, and in her home she made painted pots for plants. She loves to look at the photographs of her work,” explains Oscar Cantillano, another member of the FUNARTE team and Coordinator of the TransformARTE Project, “Promoting psycho-emotional development, a culture of peace and nurturance through art.”
In addition, at the end of 2017, 40 children—with support from the teachers, including Jahaira, parents and other adults—designed and painted a mural about autonomy and the traditions of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast region in the Bluefields central park. “FUNARTE has taught us about art and painting, and this is something that makes children very happy, they get very excited about it!”
When asked about her evolution as a teacher, she is very clear about how she has grown thanks to the support she’s received from the FUNARTE technical team. “Before, I always did the same thing. The workshops have taught me that children learn through playing, and based on the way they are treated. I’ve seen them change, because now the classes are more fun and interesting,” she comments, and then adds, “I feel like they’ve learned because parents have thanked me personally. They tell me that the love seeing that I have good materials in the classroom, or that the children say that they love how I teach them, using games and other activities.”
Oscar Cantillano, coordinator of the TransformARTE Project and also a member of the FUNARTE team, enjoys watching the way she teaches children. “One day, she taught the children about musical instruments, and it was so interesting to see the unconditional support she received from the parents,” he noted. “Before learning about the topic, they made an assortment of musical instruments using recycled materials, which the teacher then used with the children. They really enjoyed the class, learned about the instruments, and used them and sang and played.”
During the classes taught by Jahaira, children enjoy singing, playing, painting, reading, and writing. The combination of all of this motivates their learning. All of their learning activities make sense and have meaning. She always praises the children, and lets them experiment and learn. Jahaira also congratulates the parents for all they do to support their children.
“The relationship of trust between the parents and the teacher is so evident. She also encourages them to work in different activities such as decorating the school, painting chairs, taking part in building the park using materials from the local environment, always giving their best for the children,” explains Thelma Karina Téllez, a member of the FUNARTE team.
Jahaira is quite famous in the city. “Throughout Bluefields, parents want their children to study with me and they tell me that when they hear my name, they are happy to know that I will be their children’s teacher. The say, “I love having you as their teacher. The children feel safe, protected and happy with you,” she explains with pride. She adds that a couple of students were enrolled in the school by parents who had heard about her teaching abilities. “Other schools have asked us what we’ve done to get FUNARTE to support us, and it was because the school was selected and we’ve been blessed. The Ministry of Education takes us into account in everything.” Jahaira also talks about progress made together with all of the teachers. “The changes we have achieved in the school, working hand in hand with FUNARTE and Save the Children, is quite impressive. They have taught us values, about psycho-emotional development, and about the kind of communication that should exist between teachers and children. The difference is notable.”
For Jahaira, all of the workshops have been successful. “We put what we’ve learned into practice with the children.” The young woman comments that the last workshop was about preventing school abuse, also known as bullying. “It was excellent. I knew some things, but not everything. Now it’s clear to me that bullying is violence between children at school. I liked the strategies that the workshop facilitator showed us, and I am going to use them myself.”
The objective of the TransformARTE Project in Nicaragua’s North and South Caribbean Coast region is to strengthen the curriculum of Inter-Cultural Bilingual Education (EIB), incorporating psychological-emotional components through art. The work is being carried out with the authorization of coordination of the Directors of the Education Secretariats and the MINED delegations in both regions, directly involving children from model schools (Our Lady of Rosario School in Bluefields and the Marvin Mitchel School in Bilwi), with advisors from MINED, technical support from the Regional Education Secretariats, and assistance from university directors and teachers, teacher’s colleges, primary schools, and parents.