On Monday, the Belize High School (BHS) celebrated its eleventh birthday anniversary. The secondary school was opened in 2010, fifteen years after the opening of the Belize Elementary School, after the school’s Board of Governors sought to develop the concept of a new secondary school, giving birth to BHS. Unlike previous years; however, this year’s celebrations were dialed down and limited due to the pandemic. Jamie Usher, the high school’s Principal spoke to Love News about how the school has grown since its induction and has been able to smoothly transition into online learning.
Jamie Usher, Principal, Belize High School: “We are excited because as you mentioned we come from humble beginnings. We only started with thirty two students and six faculty members. We didn’t have our own campus so that first year we partnered with the University of West Indies Dr.Jane Bennett and the Board of Governors at that time entered into agreement, we use the classrooms in the day time and because they were online they use it in the evening times. We appreciate that we are different .We are trying to make our students competitive with other schools from all over the globe. So one of the things that allowed us to adapt during the time of COVID is really because the transformation has been since 2010 to now. So the first thing is that content is everywhere. I mean content is inside the class, outside the class and from day one Belize High School has made it a point to get our students out of the classroom. So whether it’s travelling for robotics, travelling for debate, travelling for hackathons and different things virtually now it has been to appreciate a content is everywhere. The second thing is that teachers are not restricted to faculty. So we have different levels of expertise that are now available where students can meet with these people from all over the globe, thanks to COVID, but we were doing it before so it really helps so that when COVID came along they didn’t feel like they were missing out in any way. The third thing is that classrooms are no longer limited to four walls and chairs it’s really about a network of people. So when my students go for the model OAS debate for example they meet with kids from all over the world but they’re there interacting on Google Documents and whatnot. The fourth way is that learning really has to be personally driven. So where before you had to go and you learnt what your teacher knew so your teacher really set the limit on what you could learn about a certain topics but with this now we are able to then explore so much more depth based on what you find interesting. So learning has really stepped out of a time and place and really been about personal initiative and your drive. So you could wake up two o’clock in the morning and decide you want to learn about the Greek Gods or you want to learn about venn diagrams and different mathematical theorems and that’s where like I said there has been potential in COVID. But finally where we want to get back to the classroom is that there was a major social shift. Students needed that interaction and they needed that coaching so while we appreciate all the benefits of online and being there online before we want to get our students back to have that balance. So there’s definitely things that online has opened up for us but we find that there’s a great balance to having them in person with access to online learning.”
The school also focuses on different areas of learning including robotics and world history. According to the Head of the School’s Humanities Department, Joseph Romero the faculty prides itself on being unique.
Joseph Stamp Romero, Head, Humanities Department, BHS: “We’re celebrating transformation, we’re celebrating growth as a nation. I think one of the applications that we always strive for at BHS within the classroom if a student understands what’s happening locally and what’s happening internationally. And so they understand the importance of celebrating a nation’s independence, and learning that independence. Well in the classroom well history allows us to connect not just in what’s happening in Belize but what happens across the world. It gives us a chance to be more resilient. Often time we think about history as just a record of things that happened in the past but it allows us to appreciate our present and so as we prepare our students within this COVID season of our time we allow students to allow to understand the importance of how they grow, how they learn therefore we encourage adaptability. I think definitely the idea of online learning is one that scared everybody especially knowing that it was something new but the challenge was also taken up in a way that I thought was refreshing in that we know that the work had to be done, students were out there depending on us to learn and we had a school to move forward and therefore the approach to it I think teachers hit the ground running. I think what happened is that people realized that it required for us to embrace what the time was, embrace that there was a challenge that we had to meet and so the creativity, the spontaneity it all came out in our online approaches. There were challenges, hiccups along the way but I believe that we met them in a way that allowed our students to move forward and so we’re hoping that as we continue to learn – because we’re still learning – that we get better at doing it.”
Usher added that the school remains committed to its motto which is” Learners Today, Leaders Tomorrow. As one is gone, another is born.”