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Jun 30, 2000

Slow readers catch up

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Just about every student has trouble in one subject or another. Given Belize’s current situation of cramped classrooms and student to teacher ratio, many parents turn to private tutors or after school programs hoping they’ll help their children get better grades. Since 1995, there has been an after school reading program at the Holy Redeemer Middle School and the teacher at the helm has been Henrietta Gill. Today that program came to an end as the school year closed and both the students and teacher got gold stars for their efforts.

Henrietta Gill

“The trick is to make each child realize that they are important and that they can do it and that’s all the trick. Make them know they’re important and they can do it. When you came in, you heard what they said, “we are the best” and if you are the best, what is there? Nothing better.”

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

For the past 5 years, Henrietta Gill has been pulling off that trick to perfection. A social worker by trade, Gill has been teaching students who read at a different pace than other children at Holy Redeemer Middle School in her own unique style. She says the work does get difficult at times, but says it definitely has its rewards.

Henrietta Gill

“Being a Belizean and knowing that these youths will be the men and women of tomorrow, that’s why I got involved, really got involved.”

“You know, they are so enthusiastic. When you come, you’re getting a hug. Whenever you take them reading, you can see the improvement and that has kept me going. They are really loving kids.”

And by accounts, she has been popular and successful.

Delcy Young, Principal, Holy Redeemer Middle

“She works with them once per week, every Wednesday and she does phonetic analysis, she does spelling, oral reading and even social gathering with them.”

Janelle Chanona

“What are the improvements you see in these children?”

Delcy Young

“There has been an improvement in the way they read, and even more so with their attitude. Their attitude has changed tremendously towards reading and they have taken on a new beginning in their reading now.”

But as this school year comes to a close, Ms. Gill might not be making her command appearance in September. Her students won’t be the only ones who will miss her.

Delcy Young

“We don’t have anybody to take Mrs. Gill’s place. I wish we should have more people in the community to come out and help us when we have problems like these.”

Janelle Chanona

“It’s hard getting parents to volunteer?”

Delcy Young

“Yeah, it’s kind of because most of our parents are working parents. Mrs. Gill doesn’t have any child or grandchildren in Holy Redeemer School.”

Janelle Chanona

“Still she comes out.”

Delcy Young

“Right, she comes to Holy Redeemer Church almost every Sunday and she assists us with the reading program.”

Henrietta Gill

“It’s not that I really want to leave, but I’m not feeling well and I have to go for a check-up. And when school opens I might be here for them again, hopefully if God permits. But before I say anything else, and you close up on me, I would like to thank the principal Mrs. Young, who has been there for me, Father Wright, cause without him, I couldn’t do it because the little classroom that I had, I couldn’t hold forty-six, forty-seven kids. But with his help you know. And last but not least Mr. Duran. He was the principal that when I went to him and told him that I need to get the kids in reading classes, he said Miss Gill go for it and so I did and I’m here today. So I have to thank Mr. Duran even though he’s not around.”

A teacher until the bell rings, even on this last Friday afternoon before the summer holidays, Ms. Gill has parting words for her students.

Henrietta Gill

“Don’t forget to pick up a book and read.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona

If Henrietta Gill is not able to return to her volunteer work come September, Principal Young says the teachers will have to make time to help those children who read at a slower pace.

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