The Haiti Fellows Program: Training Instructors to Incorporate Haitian History and Culture into Their Classrooms
Institute for the Study of the Americas
Haiti Amber by Haitian artist Edouard Duval-Carri
The UNC-Duke Consortium in Latin American and Caribbean Studies is halfway through its new Haiti Teacher Fellows Program. This program is a funded, year-long fellowship for high school and community college teachers during the 2020-2021 school year, and it aims to enhance teacher expertise in the history and understanding of Haiti, as well as to provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate on developing curriculum and materials about the Caribbean country.
In order to promote a greater understanding of Haiti’s history, culture and impact, 13 fellows were chosen to participate in the program. They represent schools in North Carolina, Florida, Illinois, Connecticut, Arizona, Texas, Montana and the Dominican Republic. Each fellow has the opportunity to engage with presenters, documentaries and textual resources focused on the Haitian experience, all of which will eventually help them to incorporate the material into lesson plans for future students.
Common knowledge about Haiti is often limited to the nation’s 2010 earthquake and its poverty. However, events like the Haitian Revolution had a tremendous impact on the world stage. Not only was Haiti the second nation in the Western Hemisphere to put an end to colonial rule, it was also the only place in the world where enslaved people led a successful rebellion that gained a country its independence and abolished slavery. This insurrection would later serve as an inspiration for enslaved people throughout the Americas.
One program fellow, Leshaun Jenkins of Tarboro High School, said: “I am interested in teaching and learning about Haiti because I do believe that the plight and the legacy of the Haitian people is a story of resilience and triumph. It is a story I believe has the potential to restore hope to every country that has been faced with economic, social, and political turmoil. The people of Haiti deserve to have their voices amplified and their narratives glorified for the heroics that they have offered the Western world.”
In addition to a $300 stipend provided by the U.S. Department of Education, the Hanscom Endowment and the Office of Global Affairs at Duke University, participants will receive many resources to aid in the development of a Haiti-based curriculum for their own classrooms during the course of the program. Resources include texts that address Haitian and African diaspora histories and cultures that can be integrated into the K-12 classroom. Fellows will also have the chance to attend webinars presented by Crystal Eddins of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Andrew Walker of Kenyon College, Jacques Pierre of Duke University, author Laura Wagner and Holly Ackerman of Duke University. The fellowship was created with the goal that teachers and students alike will acquire more knowledge about the complexities, challenges and inspiring history that make up Haiti.
The fellows’ passion for integrating Haitian content into their classrooms is captured in a statement by Nori Heino, a high school social studies teacher currently teaching in the Dominican Republic: “I’ve known that when I move back home to my classroom in Minnesota, I’ll have an incomplete picture of the island of Hispaniola if I don’t learn more about Haiti. When one thinks about the rich tapestry of cultures and historic forces operating here, it’s easy to see that Haiti, and indeed the entire Caribbean region, is undervalued in the world history curricula. This fellowship provides the perfect opportunity to learn more about a historically and culturally significant country, and also to network with fellow educators to create and share ideas that will change the nature of how Haiti is taught to our students.”
Kierra Hyman is a senior at UNC–Chapel Hill studying global studies and Hispanic literature and culture. She works as an outreach assistant at the Institute for the Study of the Americas.