An Educational Missionary in the Dominican Republic
By Dr. Tom McGowan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Posted August 30, 2016
Editor’s note: Dr. McGowan is blogging about his ministry at this location: https://mcgowandr.wordpress.com
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As I approached retirement about two years ago, I searched for some way to “give back” for the many blessings I’ve received over the years. I accompanied two former Dominican Republic missionaries, the Rev. Deacon Bob and Ellen Snow, on a trip to Santo Domingo and was struck by the joy in worship and the emphasis that the Dominican diocese places on education (there are 28 schools linked to parishes around the country). I also learned of the Diocese’s desire to accomplish many of the things I was trained to do and spent 40 years doing (e.g., building curriculum, teacher professional development).
I began a process of “looking around” over three more visits — getting introduced, meeting school people, additional Spanish language study, talking with Bishop Julio Holguín and eventually making contact with the Rev. David Copley at “Episcopal HQ” in New York about obtaining missionary status with the national church. That happened in June 2016 with a letter of appointment. I’m here in the Dominican Republic now for two extended stays of six weeks each working in a “colegio,” talking school reform with the Diocesan Board of Education and traveling the country getting to know many of the teachers, principals and priests who serve children here so well.
Over time, I’ve formed a good relationship with a high quality school in the city of La Romana (Todos Los Santos, or All Saints). Rdo. Raul Guaillas is a strong leader who is coordinating school improvement efforts in his area in terms of teacher competency, particularly in the field of English language instruction. Through my ties with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) I’ve brought a student, Matthew Giesselmann, with me to complete the first part of his teaching practicum with the English teaching team at Todos Los Santos. Matthew is teaching as I type this story and I see his presence in La Romana as a huge “win/win” — excellent motivation/training for him and a valuable resource for the teachers here.
For the future, I’m planning to organize mission teams with an instructional focus — working with teachers to offer workshops to their colleagues and support them as they further improve their teaching methods (already quite proficient, by the way). We have several options for a less-traditional form of mission team that addresses the teaching/learning process within a school rather than “building buildings” (e.g., a team from Nebraska, a partnership with teacher educators at a Mexican university). Our immediate focus is quality English language instruction, but a longer term goal might well be bilingual “magnet schools” across the Diocese. Even longer term, there’s the possibility of viewing the Episcopal schools in the DR as a true system, with common vision and goals as well as quality teaching in particular areas for which they become well known.
That’s essentially my work in a nutshell. It’s an exciting time here in the Dominican Republic as the government has announced an ambitious vision: providing a quality education for all Dominicanos. Given emerging initiatives from Iglesia Episcopal Dominicana (The Episcopal Diocese of the Dominican Republic) and continued support from its companion dioceses, I believe this school system will become a leader in making that vision happen!