If you asked Baylor University senior Branda Greening a year ago about her vision for education and her plan for the future, she might have said education was the “window of opportunity” and her life plans were determined. When asked those questions now, Greening’s response is drastically different.
In the fall of Greening’s junior year, her education professor, Dr. Lakia Scott, invited Greening on Baylor Missions’ annual Ghana Leadership mission trip. In May 2016, Scott and Greening embarked on a trip that challenged their views of education.
“I had my life figured out until I came here,” Greening said of the Ghana trip. While she still plans to become a teacher, Greening’s passion has expanded.
An assistant professor for curriculum and instruction at Baylor’s School of Education, Scott says she found Greening to be a natural-born leader, deliberate in her approach to education and —along with many other qualities— a potentially great addition to the Ghana Leadership team.
Scott became involved with the trip when Ramona Curtis, the Director for Community Engagement & Initiatives and leader for the Ghana mission trip, asked Scott to join the mission team.
Originally, Scott and Greening joined the trip to assess educational needs in Ghana, with hopes of creating an education-focused experience for SOE undergraduate students. However, one of the team leaders became unable to go, and Scott stepped in to fill that leadership position.
With two months’ notice, Scott and Greening worked tirelessly to prepare educational supplies such as dry-erase boards and markers, teacher bags, books, decorations and professional development materials for teachers at Kyerekrom Roman Catholic Primary School. As the only education major on the trip, Greening also helped the other students prepare lesson plans for teaching Ghana students.
“Branda worked diligently with other students to help them prepare quality lesson plans that were eventually bound and given to [Ghana] teachers as a resource guide,” Scott said.
Led by Curtis, the interdisciplinary program began in 2011 as a medical mission trip to work with Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ghana. Medical students worked in clinics and health programs throughout the university.
Two years into the program, the wellness director for KNUST created a medical wellness program in a school setting. The mission team transitioned into working in the village of Kokodei, where they provided health care and engaged with the village community. The team also began incorporating education into mission trips by working with students at Kyerekrom. As the priority of education grew over several years, the Ghana Leadership teams built a library, painted the school and donated a computer, which led to a donation of several more computers to Kyerekrom by a Baylor alumnus.
“Now we are into teacher development and actually have opportunities for students to teach classes,” Curtis said. “That has been the inspiration, the teacher development, and the vision to increase education majors doing student-teaching in the classroom.”
During her time teaching in Kyerekrom, Greening faced language and cultural barriers in Ghana classrooms. While the school begins teaching students English at a young age, the children are still developing their English comprehension skills in the classes Baylor students teach.
When Greening asked her students where the continent of Africa was, they pointed to North America. Later Greening realized the children were used to looking at maps where Africa was in the forefront, not North America, like the map she used. They automatically pointed toward the center of the map. Her students learned how to use a different map, and Greening learned the importance of becoming more culturally aware when teaching.
Greening said the Ghana trip changed her views of other cultures and ignited within her a desire for a broader life path.
“I want to know more about cultures now, and I want to learn more about how to be a better teacher and how to be culturally respectful,” Greening said. “Whenever I first got into Baylor, I thought education was just the window of opportunity, and I still do think that. But as far as being an educator goes, I really do think it’s almost more than just teaching math, science and reading. I think it’s really about presenting the world to kids in a way that they can understand it and make something of it.”
Scott said that for her, the Ghana trip amplified her love for education and passion for students all around the world.
“One of the most influential aspects for me was how much care is exercised in the Ghanaian culture; the phrase, akwaaba, meaning, “welcome,” has such a different meaning for me now,” Scott said.
“Dr. Scott has big dreams, and I really love that,” Curtis said. “It was her first year, and to see the inspiration she had…I was so inspired.”
Curtis, Scott and Greening plan to return to Ghana with the 2017 mission trip team. Scott and Greening are working to create a children’s book based on their experience learning from the students and teachers at Kyerekrom. They hope to sell the finished product to raise funds benefiting Kyerekrom, as well as donate several copies to the school.
“It is our hope that we can celebrate and recognize the pedagogical and cultural practices of the region while also helping them to create sustainable measures to ensure Ghanaian students receive a quality educational experience,” Scott said.
Curtis, Scott and Greening hope to see more education students become involved with the trip.
“One of the things we teach our students when we go there is we want them to be present,” Curtis said. “We want them to see what’s there…to see what education is in a global sense and how God wants us to engage this opportunity of partnership with this community.”
— By Molly Meeker
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