Friends of Liberia
Liberian Education Assistance Project
FOL's Liberian Education Assistance Project expands its network of trained teachers
Friends of Liberia's Liberian Education Assistance Project (LEAP) has been sending U.S. early childhood teachers to Liberia annually since 1998 to train those who are teaching in the earliest grades in rural areas of central Liberia and their principals in age-appropriate teaching methods. Many early childhood education (ECE) teachers in rural Liberia are ill-equipped to help children establish the fundamentals of learning because of their own lack of education and professional development, which was interrupted by years of civil war. To address this need, LEAP holds in-service workshops for rural pre-kindergarten through grade 3 teachers and their principals.
LEAP methodology encourages the use of low-cost and locally made and developed teaching materials, teach developmentally appropriate lessons and the development of a safe and interactive learning environment. With the help of Liberian co-trainers, FOL trainers have developed teacher manuals on Early Childhood Education concepts and methods, math and literacy and a songbook of songs for young children. These are distributed at the workshops and revised periodically to meet the needs of Liberian teachers.
In more than a decade, LEAP teacher training workshops have directly trained more than 300 teachers and principals from 150 Liberian schools in five counties. U.S. trainers have identified and coached a cadre of Liberian teacher trainers, who help with annual workshops and often hold their own workshops in their home counties. All trainees are encouraged to return to their schools and train their colleagues in the LEAP methods. Principals are encouraged to monitor teachers' effectiveness and encourage best practices throughout their schools while also explaining the importance of quality early education to parents, the community and civic organizations. More than a dozen FOL career educators have participated as trainers.
The LEAP team, which has been led by FOL president Stephanie Vickers since 2001, has developed many materials that are designed to meet the needs of the Liberian teacher. Most significantly, it has introduced the concept of assessing students' progress with reading assessment tools to ascertain whether students are learning at grade level. The concept of a "treasure box" in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten is a way of bringing easily available and found materials into the classroom to develop curiosity and imagination. Abacuses are made with bottle caps and string and empty water bottles become measuring devices. Teachers are taught how to make their own books for students who may never have seen one.
In March 2012, LEAP will hold two forums that will bring previously trained teachers and their principals together with U.S. and Liberian trainers for refresher sessions and to share knowledge and best practices, engage in dialogue and exercise a reflective approach to teaching. U.S. trainers have developed an extensive survey to ascertain the status of early childhood education in rural Liberia through interviews and small group sessions. A report on these findings will be posted on this website in the summer of 2012.
Liberian teachers and principals are taking steps to formalize their network of trained teachers into a community of practice to enable the dissemination of proven best practices. Using cell phone texting, they can keep abreast of the national curriculum and standards and solicit advice from LEAP trainers for local problem-solving. The trained teachers have already incorporated under the name Liberian Teachers for Action and Peace, also LEAP.
FOL plans to help build the capacity of the teacher network by convening teachers annually for professional development forums and expanding the network through workshops in new areas of Liberia.
The FOL LEAP team has formed new partnerships to enrich their ability to affect the quality of early education in Liberia. LEAP team members will work with the International Reading Association (IRA) to disseminate age-appropriate, locally produced reading readiness materials and internationally proven practices to ECE classrooms in Bong, Grand Bassa, Nimba and Margibi and rural Montserrado counties that have LEAP-trained teachers. The Mentee Foundation School in centrally located Kakata, where LEAP has help its trainings in 2010, will become a laboratory school for modeling and teaching LEAP teaching practices.
Ultimately the Liberian LEAP teacher network will be expanded to contiguous counties with the assistance of LEAP-trained Liberian teachers and new workshops. LEAP will build on more than 10 years of ECE teacher training experience to improve early childhood reading readiness and augment the trained teacher networks' ability to offer peer support, mentoring, and knowledge sharing.
An overview and timeline of LEAP activities can be found on the LEAP Overview website
To learn more about the LEAP team and read about the March forums, see the Friends of Liberia Facebook Page.