Teacher Profile: Agnes Bukachi

Oct 2, 2015 | Teacher Profiles | 0 comments

To celebrate World Teachers Day (October 5), we’re sharing stories from our teachers here in Nairobi. In these profiles, Josephine, Vincent, Lilian and Agnes share their experiences working in the informal settlements, reflect on their interaction with Dignitas, and provide wonderful insight into the challenges and joys of educating Kenya’s next generation. Why not honor and celebrate our teachers by donating to Dignitas today?

One of Agnes Bukachi’s most memorable moments as a teacher revolved around a Kiswahili grammar lesson. “It was a killer,” she recalls.

Initially, she thought it should have been an easy topic. But after teaching the full lesson she realized the students had not grasped the concepts. Agnes went home that night feeling low and unsettled. She sat down and wondered what she should do. “I had to repeat the lesson,” she says, “So I re-did it.”

By the end of the night, Agnes had not only re-designed her curriculum for the grammar lesson, but had made it into two lessons. The students picked up the content and appreciated their teacher’s extra effort. Agnes felt fulfilled.

Now she asks her students after each lesson if they need a repeat and is insistent on ensuring that they have understood what she has taught.

“I realized I should not rush the syllabus. Let me go the pace of the kids.”

Agnes did not set out with a plan to become a teacher. At first, she wanted to become a nurse. But nursing school didn’t work out; she didn’t pass the required test. Instead, Agnes became a teacher, which she considers a blessing in disguise. She has been teaching now for eight years.

Agnes teaching philosophy is centred around ensuring her students understand their lessons.

“There is no perfect teacher,” she says, but a good teacher is willing to make mistakes and try again.

She is maternal toward her students and loves when they stay after class to ask questions. Teaching, she says, gives her a peace of mind and makes her feel good. She gets her happiness from building relationships with the children.

In Dignitas’s Professional Development workshops, she is the first to ask questions or admit that she doesn’t know something. The trainers in workshop sessions look hopefully to Agnes – sitting in the front row neatly dressed in a blazer, skirt and her braids in a low bun – to answer questions, because she isn’t afraid of being wrong. She is as diligent about ensuring her own understanding of a subject as she is of her students, and the result is that she is sharp, genuine and highly self-aware.

Perhaps the reason Agnes feels so comfortable asking questions is because she is still a student at heart. Geography, which she now teaches, was her favorite in high school and secondary school. “I love geography,” she smiles. “It easily flows. Giving examples is easy. It is practical.” As for Kiswahili, she was initially wary to teach it because of the overwhelming cascade of handouts and work it requires. However, she has realized that through teaching Kiswahili, she is also learning. “I learned to love it. It’s a growing language, it’s a changing language. So [I am] changing with it.”

Agnes’s school, Alpha Glory, began partnering with Dignitas in April 2014. Since that time, Agnes has seen a number of positive changes around the school, including the implementation of lesson plans, accountable financial management, and – as she calls it – an “attitude change” among the teachers. However, one of the changes that most tangibly impacts her work on a daily basis is the development of classroom teaching materials.

As a teacher, Agnes was quick to assume that since her school didn’t have any money, she couldn’t have teaching materials. But Dignitas encouraged teachers to procure low-cost, locally-available materials and create their own teaching aids.

“It was also eye-opening for us. We don’t need really to just rely on money.” She says that the old idea that ‘We don’t have money, we don’t have a teaching aid’ is now obsolete.

“Right now, I see teachers just going a step further, trying to use whatever is available.”

For her classes in particular, visual aids are crucial: “Geography is all about maps. You can never teach without a map.”

Even for her Kiswahili classes, Agnes is a firm believer in displaying grammar rules on the classroom walls.  Some students won’t page through their books to look up a grammar rule, so “You’d better have it on the walls,” she says. Adding the visual component is what helps students learn.

Agnes succinctly sums up the partnership between Dignitas and Alpha Glory: “Teachers get encouraged, teachers get taught, teachers get empowered. And in the end, they also transfer the same to the pupils.”

Agnes’ experience with Dignitas has changed her as both a learner and a teacher. Her teaching style used to be improvisation: Come to class, “ask random questions,” and assign some kind of work to the students. But through Dignitas, she has learned how to plan and follow up. “Now I am a better teacher because I formulate my questions prior to going to class.” This, she says gives her time in class to go around from student to student and ensure that everyone in her class understands the lesson.

Agnes succinctly sums up the partnership between Dignitas and Alpha Glory: “Teachers get encouraged, teachers get taught, teachers get empowered. And in the end, they also transfer the same to the pupils.”

Learn more about the Dignitas model, our partnership progression and our impact here in Nairobi, Kenya, and donate to support teachers like Agnes. And be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for regular updates and stories from the field!