When Shining Hope’s cofounder and COO, Jessica Posner, was in eighth grade, she received math tutoring from Marty Caplan, the principal of her middle school. Years later, when Marty read an article about Jessica and her work with Shining Hope in the Denver Post, he immediately contacted Jessica about supporting the organization. Marty, a math teacher and curriculum specialist, and his wife Arna, a dedicated pre-school and elementary school teacher, volunteered their extensive experience as educators. Both have retired from teaching and were looking for a way to contribute their knowledge and skills to a meaningful cause. Between the two of them, they have 70 years of experience!
Jessica jumped at the opportunity to have these veteran teachers assist in the effort to create an exceptional math curriculum for the Kibera School for Girls. Marty, who now works as a math program consultant for Denver schools, was the perfect solution! He arranged for the school’s purchase of the curriculum ‘Math in Focus,’ which is based on the Singapore education system. It starts with very concrete methods of learning through physical manipulatives (like blocks, scales, paper money) before advancing to abstract concepts.
For the past two weeks, Marty and Arna have been in Kibera training KSG’s teachers. Their visit has been well received by teachers and students alike; the students have been surprised at how fun math can be, and the teachers are thrilled with the new tools for their lessons! Marty and Arna have led intensive workshops for the teachers, facilitated lesson planning, and assisted with general preparation for the year.
In addition to the math curriculum, Arna is implementing a reading recovery program for those students performing below grade level. This program involves daily individual tutoring for those students. It’s based on the belief that reading and writing are inextricably linked and that the lessons should be specifically tailored to the student’s abilities—in order to avoid frustration and to effectively encourage their progress in learning. The program involves reading at exactly the student’s level, having the student create sentences of their own, and then scrambling the words in the sentence for the student to put back in the correct order. This method develops the critical thinking and engagement necessary for building a strong foundation of skill in reading and writing.
Marty and Arna hope to come back next year to implement an equally extensive reading program as well as continue the math curriculum training. The experience has been rewarding for everyone involved and Marty and Arna have been amazing. In their own words, “we have fallen in love with the Kibera community. The teachers are bright and very receptive to learning new methods. The children are so impressive. Working with them cannot help but make us smile.”