Newsletter for May 2022

Glen Herbert
The Grenadines Initiative
Karrie Weinstock, deputy principal at Toronto’s Branksome Hall, once said to me that, “no child learns math before she learns the connection with her teacher. If the connection isn’t there, she’s never going to learn as well. This is the enduring value of connection and community.”

Truly, looking at Branksome Hallthe school is located in one of the most desirable, leafy enclaves of Toronto, with buildings ranging from historical to postmodern—it can be easy to forget that. But when I asked Weinstock what the school does best, or what she hopes it does best, that was her answer: connection, community. That no child learns math before she has a connection with her teacher.
The teachers at The Learning Center embody that concept and then some. That's them in the photo above, from left to right, Tracey Frederick, Tylisha Miller, Juliette Leslie, Deverne Farrell and Kabrina King.

The Learning Centre, located just off the harbour in Port Elizabeth, is an academic after school program, supporting and augmenting the work that the students do in school. It's our signature program, we're proud to say, and one of the sources of that pride is Tylisha Miller herself. She develops the curriculum, runs the programs. She's there opening the door every day, making sure the spaces are clear and well organized.

Tylisha also puts wind in the teachers' and students' sails, and it's a study in management to watch her there in the doorway as the teachers and students arrive each day. She's smiling, understanding. Some teachers and kids arrive tired, coming in after already long days. Tracey Frederick arrives after teaching a full day at the Sunshine School, a school for children with special needs, which can be extremely rewarding, and at times demanding. One day when I visited recently, Tylisha held a baby because, yeah, who doesn't want to hold a baby, but also to give the child's mother a moment to herself. It wasn't anything that was given a thought, it was just a way of being. It was a simple unconscious expression of connection and care, quietly brilliant in its way. It's obvious that everyone, when they come through the door, feels that. It's like a home.
Yes, there is learning happening at the Center everyday. There are worksheets and work at the blackboard. That's important. The lessons take up where the students need support most. There are parents who have told me, typically with a catch in their voice, that their children couldn't read before they attended the Learning Center programs. And now they do.

But, it's about more than even that. It's about academics, but also the experience they have while they're there. It's about giving children a safe place to go, to play, to find a bit of joy along with friends and mentors. There's math, and there's water balloons; there's reading practice, and theme days. The time students spend at the Learning Center helps working mothers and fathers, who can complete their workdays knowing that their children are in good hands.
We'd like to grow the programs, and now that we're moving out of the Covid experience, there will be more latitude to do that. We've also been floating an idea of offering toddler care for a few hours each day. This would be a help to parents who need to work. It would help siblings, too; often older kids need to leave school early in order to care for their younger brothers and sisters. We think we can help there, and if we can raise funds to provide the salaries, material, and amendments to the building, we will.
At the end of the day, it's true that The Learning Center doesn't look like Branksome Hall. But if you ask anyone what it does best, it's the same thing: connection, community. Building relationships of care and trust so that you can then build literacies, explore curiosities. That's why we're proud of the work done there. We think it's an example of what learning and life is all about.
Glen Herbert
Executive Director
Ph: 289 439 7052
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