Honorée Dukuzumuremyi has been a science teacher for 22 years. She currently teaches chemistry in lower secondary at Ecole des Sciences de Musanze, in Musanze district. She shares five reasons why she teaches. This testimony was also published in our 10th edition of Urunana rw’Abarezi (July 2020), a peer learning magazine for teachers and school leaders which focused on online and distance learning as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
1. My mother as my role model
My mother was a teacher, but also a role model. She was so committed to teaching. I think she was exceptional. I remember seeing many students coming to our home during weekends and holidays, looking for my mother to teach them. They would gather around a black board which my mother had bought and she would teach them free of charge. In addition, my mother would visit parents whose children had dropped out of school and encouraged them to send their children back to school. She would further investigate the causes of drop out and supported the parents accordingly. She provided scholastic materials, and helped some poor parents to pay school fees for their children. This was so inspirational to me as a child.
2. Good teachers
Some teachers are ‘just teachers’ but others are ‘good teachers’ and exceptional teachers! When I was in secondary education you would rarely find a female science teacher. Girls in science schools were also very few. But I will never forget one of my chemistry teachers who made me love science, and here I am, a female science teacher! He would perform many experiments and explain everything repeatedly to make sure we understand his lessons. We were also encouraged to ask questions so we would always enjoy interacting with our teacher. I believe he was one of few teachers who was applying student centred approach at that time.
Some teachers make students feel that science is complicated. If you start telling your students that science subjects are difficult to comprehend, that “it was also hard for me when I was studying”, they will end up fearing it. My teacher was not this kind, but some others were. He would give simple, concrete and relevant examples to connect science to our everyday life. I also do the same for my students today. For example, when I want to teach evaporation and condensation, I ask my students to wake up early morning and observe water droplets on grass in a garden, and ask them to go back around midday to see whether the droplets are still there or not. This is a simple example to demonstrate how water evaporates due to heat and changes from vapour into liquid (droplets) after losing heat.
3. Giving back
The commitment of the ‘exceptional teachers’ I met made me feel that I owe something to them—giving back what they taught me to the younger generation. I became a teacher so that I can step in their shoes. Luckily, I became a teacher at the same school where I studied, eight years later after I started my teaching career. I felt like going back home, to the school where I grew up, the school that made me who I am today! The images of my ‘good teachers’ are still engraved on my memory. I will stay at this (former) school of mine until I reach retirement age.
4. My students, my motivation
My love of teaching grew considerably when I started teaching. I feel uplifted when my students uplift their knowledge and skills. When I see how students like my lessons, so interested and curious to know more, I feel very excited. I enjoy spending most of my time with my students as it makes feel younger—at times you feel that you’re their age! I am always happy because of teaching. I think no one can understand this if s/he never taught students at one time! When you teach you also learn, so teaching is another way of continuous learning for us teachers—It naturally helps you to grow professionally.
5. Recognition motivates
I am considered as an excellent teacher at my school. I am a science lab supervisor. I am a girls’ mentor in different matters including encouraging them to love science. I also attended different training workshops and courses and was recognized as an excellent science trainee/trainer by different development partners in the education sector such as the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS).
Currently, I am one of the teachers working with Rwanda Education Board (REB) and University of Rwanda College of Education (UR-CE) on SMART notebook with a focus on mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology in O’Level. SMART Notebook is software meant to supplement use with the SMART Board. The software helps users create interactive presentations, and offers a variety of ways to enhance presenting interactive lessons.
Being recognized at different levels especially at my own school is a great motivation ever. I feel valued. It pushes me to excel even more and beyond expectation in my career.
COVID-19 crisis gap
Since the Government closed all schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I feel disconnected from my students. I try to communicate to some of my students/parents through WhatsApp and through emails but I can only reach a few, about 20%. Some of them don’t use WhatsApp or don’t have access to internet. I always ask parents (at least the ones I can talk to through WhatsApp) to support their children to continue learning during the COVID-19 crisis. We prepare assignments and upload them on the school website so students who have means can access them.
I receive feedback from few parents about those assignments, but I am always worried about my students who are not able to access any of the activities we share. I just wonder if they won’t lose studying interest if schools remain closed for longer period than expected.
Hopefully, I have been following continuous professional development (CPD) training in Educational Mentorship and Coaching for STEM subject leaders, offered by UR-CE and VVOB, online. I gained some strategies which will help me to motivate my students when schools reopen. I learnt 5E instructional model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate). I will apply this model to engage my students, motivate them while guiding them towards skill development. I realized that I was using some of the 5Es without knowing it!
Download our 10th edition of Urunana rw’Abarezi magazine (July 2020) and read testimonies from parents, students, teachers and school leaders on how online and distance learning has been a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.