Spelling out thank you for Global Literacy

It’s sometimes said that teaching can be a thankless job.

On the last day of school of R. Roger Rowe, teacher Stacey Halboth stood in her office re-reading one of several thank you notes she received from students. One card thanked her for changing the student’s way of thinking, for opening his heart and mind. Halboth couldn’t help but cry.

The thank you notes were from students in her Global Literacy program, which teaches respecting oneself, others and the world. Global Literacy also included the Ambassador Club, which followed Oprah Winfrey’s Ambassador O program and had children learning about issues in Eastern Africa.

The program and club will not be returning to Rowe next year, as it was cut alongside elementary Spanish. Halboth will also move from fifth grade to third.

“Global Literacy allowed the students to understand why they should have exceptional character traits,” she said. “It gave a reason why it’s important to be a good person. We’re always telling kids to be good, but we never really tell them why.”

Halboth said she was most impressed with the fourth-grade class, who in their second year in the program really seemed to “get it.”

“I live more aware of my surroundings, not to just like use stuff but to try and save the stuff you use instead of buying new stuff,” fourth-grader Ben McCaskill said.

Dana McCaskill said when her son’s friends would come over to the house, they were always taking about the Ambassador Club.

“It was really an outstanding program,” Dana McCaskill said. “It really made an impact.”

Young ambassadors

Students had to apply to become part of the lunchtime Ambassador Club. The application process included an essay on how they wanted to improve the world.

Eighteen students were accepted, learning about United Nations standards, how to reduce poverty, sustainability and develop education and health in other countries. Each Ambassador group is given a region to study, and Rowe’s was assigned Eastern Africa.

“It made us feel kinda spoiled,” Ben said, of learning how differently children their age live in Africa.

The children got creative to raise money to support their causes in Africa, doing everything from selling lemons from their gardens to walking dogs.

“They had to articulate why they were doing it,” said Halboth of the fundraising. “The more they knew about their purpose, the more others wanted to be a part of it.”

After all their efforts, the students raised more than $11,000. Money went to charities such as Batonga, an organization that promotes girls education in Africa, Doctors Without Borders, Habitat for Humanity and Nothing but Nets, an organization that distributes malaria nets.

Ben McCaskill said he felt especially good about the $150 he pledged toward clean water, allowing more than 2,000 people to have clean water for a week.

Halboth said the experience showed them they could be “solution-oriented thinkers.”

“The children were smiling when talking about malaria nets,” Halboth said. “because they understood ‘I can make a difference by educating people about it or becoming part of a nonprofit.’ ”

On the last day of school, Halboth had another thank you note, from Katrina Gerace, a literacy support teacher who helped with the lunch club. She thanked Halboth for making her year more meaningful.

“This inspiration that we gave them is probably going to go a long way,” Gerace wrote. “We don’t know where it’s going to lead.”