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Flagler professor launches English literacy projects in Haiti and beyond

Oct 1, 2015

By Bobbie Stewart Inspired by her own traumatic childhood experience as a non-native speaker of English, Dr. Edwidge Crevecoeur-Bryant is lifting others up — out of poverty and into jobs —with the help of technology.

The Flagler College visiting assistant professor’s literacy project, Technology, English Language in Leogane (TELL), pairs adult students from her home country of Haiti with students from her applied linguistics course at Flagler. The students help the non-native English learners gain critical English language skills via an online web-conferencing platform.

“My hope is that Flagler students graduating from our college of education will have a sense of what it means to learn with second-language learners, not only understanding the pedagogy of teaching, but also developing empathy and an understanding of what students are going through,” she said. “I also hope to help Haitians become more marketable with English skills.”

There’s a third goal that is more personal: to dedicate her life to making sure others won’t be ignored, as she was many years ago.

Crevecoeur-Bryant still recalls the sense of isolation and fear she experienced as a child after moving from Haiti to New York. She couldn’t speak a word of English, and upon arrival at her new school, the 7-year-old was placed in the back of the classroom.

“I remember it vividly, because it was so painful,” she said. “The teacher gave me a paintbrush and told me to paint. She just didn’t know what to do with me.”

That moment has fired her passion, her resolve to guide those that are educating non-native speakers of English. When Haiti was hit by a devastating earthquake in 2010, Crevecoeur-Bryant felt compelled to help.

“My family and I really wanted to do something,” she said. “We just couldn’t sit back.”

As a result, they started a non-profit organization called C-Change for Haiti (the “C” stands for Crevecoeur), which would help fund improvements in the areas of health, infrastructure and education. The professor’s specific role was in education.

Her first TELL project focused on high school students, and this past it was adults learning about relevant topics such as agriculture.

“What drives me is knowing and really truly believing that technology is going to save Haitian people and Haiti,” she said. “Technology has opened up a whole new world they didn’t know existed. Now that they know how to navigate the Internet, they say ‘I can go and see how to grow something, or how it’s grown differently.’”

The project’s results have been tangible. One student, for example, informed Crevecoeur-Bryant that he was hired for a local non-governmental organization because of his recently acquired English skills.

She aims to expand the project to include several countries by spring 2016, and has already made strides by launching a similar English language literacy project in Brazil. Flagler students in a cross-cultural education class help native Portuguese, non-native English speakers refine their intermediate to advanced English skills once a week utilizing the same online platform.

Crevecoeur-Bryant, who had previously worked at Jacksonville University, received special recognition in April for her literacy efforts during the university’s Instructional Leadership and Organizational Development capstone symposium.

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