John Rollins Success Primary Boosting Literacy and Numeracy Through Quiz Competitions

Photo by: JIS Photographer Principal of the St. James-based John Rollins Success Primary School, Yvonne Miller-Wisdom (right), along with teacher and Coordinator of the Reading Marathon, Verena Wellington (left), point out features in a reading book to students (from 2nd left): Anya Bernard, Patroy Vernon, Toniann Cowan, and Sebert Walker.

Story Highlights

  • The school instituted the Reading Marathon in 2005 and a Math Olympics in 2006.
  • Chairman of the school, Joe Hylton, praises the move by the teachers to reach out to their students, without compensation.
  • The continued growth of the school is heavily dependent on teamwork.

The John Rollins Success Primary School in St. James, has, since its inception in 2004, pioneered innovative ways of learning, in order to boost the literacy and numeracy of students.

Under the leadership of Principal, Yvonne Miller-Wisdom, the school instituted the Reading Marathon in 2005 and a Math Olympics in 2006.

The initiatives have grown to incorporate several schools in Western Jamaica, with scores of corporate sponsors showing lasting commitment to the events. According to Mrs. Miller-Wisdom, the aim is to have schools all across the island participating.

“We have started down here, and as it grows each year, we are going to be adding different parishes. Every year, I have no problems getting sponsorship, they come onboard – Western Union, Rose Hall Developers, Greenwood Hardware, Iberostar Hotel and Resorts, Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) Cooperative Credit Union,” she tells JIS News.

The competitions, which are held every other year, encourage students to work out different Mathematics challenges in a creative and fun manner, and to display their reading skills, while vying for trophies and prizes.

Mrs. Miller-Wisdom, who teaches a grade six class, says she believes in finding creative ways to engage students, other than just the “chalk and talk” method.

“It was always in me to be creative, use some unusual ways of bringing across concepts to students,” she tells JIS News.

Pointing to the benefits of the Reading Marathon, she says that “with us in Jamaica, having this challenge of trying to reach that target (100 per cent literacy at the primary level), we have to come up with innovative ideas, thinking outside the box, moving away from the norm, and the reading competition offers that.”.

Mrs. Miller-Wisdom notes that through the Math Olympics, students learn to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. “When they see problems to be solved, they don’t just depend on teachers; they use their own creativity, and ensure that they solve the problems,” she states.

The school’s effort to enhance literacy and numeracy includes reaching out to students facing challenges, and are not able to get assistance at home.

Teacher and Coordinator of the Reading Marathon, Verena Wellington, last year, initiated a homework centre, where teachers are giving freely of their time to assist these students. Miss Wellington, along with six teachers, are tutoring students for two hours per week after their regular classes.

“I decided that I would take a teacher from each grade…to assist the students with their homework and any other piece of assignment that they are unable to do at home. We are educators, and wherever we see the need, that’s where we make the opportunity for them,” she tells JIS News.

Chairman of the school, Joe Hylton, praises the move by the teachers to reach out to their students, without compensation.

“The teachers are very thoughtful about kids. These are students, in most cases, who have the ability. It is very commendable for teachers to have gone out to help these students, because they know that they can do better,” the Chairman says.

He is encouraging the parents to show appreciation to the teachers for the time that they are giving. “They could have used that time for monetary compensation, extra classes and other things,” he points out.

President of the Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA), Dwayne Wright, also expresses commendation to the teachers.

“We consider working with the teachers a blessing, because there is a need to help the students. When we identified the issue, we did not have to ask them, it was suggested by them that they would volunteer their time in that aspect. We commend them, and we will do what we can to encourage them to continue the good work,” Mr. Wright says.

In hailing the achievements of the institution, which wins an average of 20 trophies each year from competing in various events, the board chairman says he wants to see a continuation of the successes.

Meanwhile, the school’s principal states that the continued growth of the school is heavily dependent on teamwork, ongoing training, and teachers sharing their experiences.

She notes that the school has an active Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), and parents are highly involved in the students’ learning.

“They see things and big up the school, but once we are doing something that they don’t believe is right for the children, they tell us, and we work as a team to make it better,” she says.

She also praises the work of the school board, whose effort, she says, has aided in the establishment of a farm at the institution, and other projects.

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