Lynne Paradis convinced Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange to allow Belize to use the reading portion of Alberta’s new K-6 curriculum to help its students catch up on reading skills lost after two years lost to COVID-19.
Paradis, who has encouraged children in the Central American country to finish high school through Rotary scholarships and mobilized a club-wide book drive for these kids, was recognized for more than a decade of altruism with an award Monday from the Rotary Club of Red Deer.
Paradis was presented with the Dr. Monty J. Audenart Inspirational Award for service. The award is named for the late Red Deer dentist, Dr. Monty Audenart who travelled the world providing free dental care to those who could not afford it.
Paradis recalled being inspired by Audenart and said she’s “delighted” to receive the award.
The former associate superintendent at Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, has been the lead on the Belize project since 2011. “It’s been a labour of love,” added Paradis, who also credited her team of volunteers.
Belize has many economic challenges and lacks a well-funded public education system. Students must pay to attend high school, and many families simply can’t afford it, said Paradis.
The Rotary Club of Red Deer, in partnership with the St. Ignacio Rotary Club of Belize, that country’s Ministry of Education and the Belize National Library Services, have been trying to educate as many children as possible. But COVID-19 set back their effort by about two years.
Unlike central Alberta children, who continued learning through Zoom, Belize does not have the resources for online education during the pandemic. Too many students have lost what they had previously learned after two years of no lessons, said Paradis, who believes reading is fundamental for success in school — and in life.
She thanked Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, MLA for Red Deer-North, for allowing Belize to use the reading portion of the new Alberta curriculum to help Belizean students catch up on reading skills.
Although the new curriculum has detractors in Alberta, Belize’s minister of education reviewed it and was impressed, “he wants to implement right away across the country,” said Paradis.
LaGrange, who was at the award ceremony in Red Deer, said she agreed to provide the reading portion of the new curriculum to Belize at no cost because she knows students there are falling behind and need extra help. “They are a poorer country without enough resources and supports…”
The curriculum has embedded interventions, designed to help students catch up on literacy and numeracy, said LaGrange. It also has built-in lesson plans and “easy to use assessments,” she added.
Paradis said Belizean educators knew their students were struggling and were getting worried. “They told us. ‘It’s a blessing from God you have come. We knew it was an emergency here, but we didn’t know what to do…’”
Paradis is superintendent for Suzuki Charter Schools in Edmonton.