The Secrets to the Success of a Leading Primary School in the Country Print E-mail
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Thursday, 13 June 2013 00:00

What are the secrets to the success of the Saint Andrews Primary School in San Ignacio? How were they able to get four of their students to be within the top 25 performers of the PSE 2013?

Both Vincent Hulse and Nelson Esteban from Saint Andrews Primary obtained 96.5% in their PSE results, and in so doing received top ranks in the National PSE. But then came more surprises; Zahara Zul came in thirteenth with 95.25% and Alain Morris, with a similar mark, and  both came from the same San-Ignacio based Anglican School.

Vincent Hulse, who expressed thankfulness on Tuesday for coming in second in the National PSE, credits his success to the power of God, working hard, having supportive teachers and reviewing subjects that he was formerly weak on.

While third place winner in the National PSE results, Nelson Esteban says that the product of his work also came with the support of his parents.

“I managed to get high grade because I studied a lot. I did all my homework and the homework that we got were based on the questions that we got for PSE. My teachers pushed me and my parents too”, said Esteban.

Standard Five teacher, Christina Velasquez says that the special approach that teachers at Saint Andrews School have for their students also helped in getting the high marks at the National level. Teachers at Saint Andrews work individually with the students on problem solving; particularly in finding out mistakes with students and are consistent with that approach. The walls of the class rooms at Saint Andrews are also covered with much visual aids and this is for a special reason, says Velasquez, since some students are visual learners while others learn by holding objects. In addition, says Velasquez, no child should be left behind for each pupil is considered special and have the ability to be great achievers.

“…Our Principal says the fast ones do well, they are up there but the main focus are those children that are way down at the bottom of the ladder who we need to work with daily.  And what great satisfaction it is when we see those children coming up that ladder.”

Retired teacher Hernan Ochaeta, who has to date had a great influence at the Saint Andrews School, agrees that no child should be considered too weak to learn. He would regularly call the St. Andrews Primary School by phone, a school where he taught for many years. Ochaeta began teaching in the Primary School System in 1959 and officially retired in 1992, and since then, has been collecting past examination questions and interviewing students who would take the National Primary School Exams.

Saint Andrews Primary in San Ignacio has adopted some of Ochaeta’s teaching techniques. Ochaeta says that he has been told that his teachings are only based on drills, but he says that life is also a drill. (He told us that even on special holidays; children should have their school notes beside their main meals.) Hernan Ochaeta believes that children should be given assignments for their vacations. He also believes that those teachers giving the assignments should visit the school during vacation, to spend a day therein, reviewing their students’ home work.

“Whatever I have did not come overnight; it came through trial and error,” says Ochaeta, who now maintains a store in San Ignacio Town.

Saint Andrews Primary School in San Ignacio Town also dedicates a well-secured room, as its computer laboratory. Each class at Saint Andrews has their scheduled time to use the thirty Dell Lap Tops that came courtesy of the local Rotary Club. Computer teacher, Javier Galvez regularly uses a projector to lead his class. While Galvez comes from an excellently performing primary school in Belize, he is hopeful for a better computer laboratory. Galvez looks forward to getting rid of his category five Ethernet cables and going completely wireless as well as having a dedicated server machine in the classroom - where his students will then be able to log in and access the main server from their lap tops.

But principally, the work at Saint Andrews Anglican Primary School is team work and where the Principal is approachable to answer questions on subject matters where the teachers may feel they are weak on.

“I would want to advise teachers out there don’t be too proud. Come and ask how can I teach this topic, what can I do, what strategies can you use. Please show me; please help me, because I am one.  If  I don’t know, I will come to my principal and tell her, show me what to do,” also said assistant teacher Christina Velasquez.

The teachers at Saint Andrews Primary School were in a happy mood on Tuesday morning of this week, meeting for their weekly devotional. On every other Tuesday, the priest visits the school staff at Saint Andrews Primary to share some Bible readings.