HEBRON ESTATES - The students in the Hebron Presbyterian Church Sunday School class will hear some exciting stories over the next few weeks.
Jessica Smith, a church member and Sunday school teacher, has returned from a journey of teaching students in American Samoa as part of the World Teach program.
Smith taught 12 fourth and fifth graders at a school of 80 students located on the small island country in the South Pacific Ocean.
The main difference between local students and Smith’s students was the language barrier, but Smith said it wasn’t too difficult.
“The students had a World Teacher last year, so they had better English skills,” she said. “I had to repeat and clarify, but they were pretty fluent.”
Like any children, Smith said her students were always full of energy.
“They don’t ever like to sit down,” she said. “They’re loud, fun-loving, and they like to joke about everything.”
Smith said the school’s classrooms all lead outside and the school was situated near the beach, offering “lots of distractions” for the students.
There were no text books; Smith created her own lesson plans. She experienced a range of student learning from struggling to gifted.
In her spare time Smith explored the island and nearby coral reef, and enjoyed a lot of mountain hiking.
“I even caught my own coconut crab,” she said. “They’re three times bigger. They could snap off a finger.”
She added that because of its size the crab was baked, turning red and seeming more like a lobster.
Smith missed hot water and took many cold showers. She also missed having a washer and dryer for laundry.
But paradise wasn’t so bad when the lowest temperature she experienced all year was a late night 75 degrees.
“Sometimes in the morning I had to get a blanket,” she added.
Upon her return, Smith had to remember how to drive a car.
“That was the biggest thing, getting used to it again,” she said. “Air conditioning was also a big thing.”
Smith’s family was concerned about her journey but very supportive throughout. Family and friends sent many care packages during the year.
“They’re just glad that I’m home and enjoyed it,” said Smith. “They’re glad to have me back.”
As a special Christmas gift, Smith was able to return home for the holidays. She surprised her entire family by showing up Christmas morning.
Smith is ready to get involved again at Hebron Presbyterian, where she taught Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. She has also applied with Bullitt County Public Schools, where she may pursue special education.
The church is glad to have Smith back. They will host a special pot luck luncheon in her honor Sunday, June 24, at 12:30 p.m. The community is invited to bring a dish and hear Smith share her experiences.
World Teach is a non-profit non-government educational assistance program offering unique teaching opportunities throughout the world. Smith said the organization supplies about 25 programs in different world locations and for all educational levels.
For more information visit www.worldteach.org.
“All you need is a Bachelor’s Degree,” said Smith. “It’s a great experience. You can see a different culture, and the way they live.”