At Dignitas, we empower educators to transform their schools through leadership development and instructional coaching so that their schools become vibrant places of learning. We work with dedicated teachers who are focused on improving student outcomes. In the coming months, we will focus on sharing stories on our Thriving Teachers Series so we can introduce some of the teachers in our program.

This week, we introduce you to Tr. Joseph Wangai from Tulaga Primary School. Mr. Wangai has been teaching since 1985. He has worked in four Primary schools before joining Tulaga and he vividly recalls all the differences in each school. The last 19 years at Tulaga Primary have been full of growth and learning opportunities, highs and lows, but he would not change anything if he was to do it all over again. He jokes and says, “Having been at Tulaga for this long, I will soon become one of the physical features at this school!”

In his time at Tulaga, Tr. Wangai has been able to interact with the community, the students, the parents and he has seen the progress they have been able to achieve together. He feels extremely honored to be a part of the transformation in this community. For some of his current students, he taught their parents and they have now transitioned to pursue different careers. Seeing this cycle is a proud moment for him as a teacher.

Mr. Wangai is one of the school leaders in the Flying Kites School Network who recently graduated after completing one year of a training program which is a collaboration between Dignitas and Flying Kites. The aim of the training is to improve teacher effectiveness so that children can receive quality education.  We believe that excellent teachers help drive student success and achievement.

With 30 years in the profession, he is still committed to his duties and he conducts his classes with a lot of enthusiasm.  We sought to find out how he manages to stay engaged and discuss some the techniques he is learning to improve his practice.

Making Learning Engaging for Students

As an experienced teacher, I ask Mr. Wangai how he is able to stay motivated in his job. “I like singing!” he says with a lot of excitement. Singing has been my hobby and I have been able to use it effectively after I went through the Dignitas training.

“Although I’m not an expert I can compose and interpret a simple song. I take a topic; I compose a song and practice with the students. For those who enjoy songs, they are able to remember key components of the lesson in just a few minutes. It makes it easier to teach a very big topic in a short time. Learning becomes a fun experience.”

Mr. Wangai goes ahead to sing a brief song on Kwa speakers that he composed for his social studies class. His teaching methods have results, in 2018, his social studies class was leading in performance for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.S.E)!

From this discussion, I also learn that the students have been using drama as a method of learning. Students now set the rules themselves as part of ownership and culture. They prepare acting scenes covering all the rules, the expectations and consequences showing all angles of the story so that students can internalize the message better. From this exercise, Tr. Wangai finds that all his students can easily remember the class discipline plan at all times.

Goals as a Teacher

Mr. Wangai is the Class Teacher for Grade 8C with 33 pupils. He also teaches other classes like Grade Six, Mathematics, Seven, Science, Eight Mathematics and Social studies. He gets to interact with at least one hundred students every day for his different lessons. One of his main goals is to see students enjoying learning. This is why he focuses on introducing engaging learning techniques in all his classes.

“My wish for my students is that they become reliable, responsible and respectful citizens. I would like for them to be successful in life. I would also like for them to emulate me and be even better than I am, when they one day become teachers themselves. I’d like for them to grow holistically, in all ways.”

Key Lessons from the Dignitas Training

“I have benefited a lot from the Leadership Academies I have attended. One of the key things I learned was on the methodologies of teaching. We learned about methodologies while in college, but those were so many years ago. By being updated I feel refreshed and I am able to adapt to change.”

“The methods that we have learned through Dignitas are very effective, even more than using the stick. We now have many techniques and we have come up with a system for a school routine for Tulaga. When you have a routine in a school, you find that the children are clear about expectations. They know what to do at all times. You do not have to push them, they become self-driven. This has saved a lot of time and improved the culture of the school.”

“There are also other strategies under multiple intelligences. I did not know that in a class, I could be having such a diverse group of students. I was only dealing with the academics part. We are now able to nurture the talents in a child so that they can excel in whatever gift they have.”

Stay tuned to meet more teachers in our Thriving Teachers Series. We work with many passionate educators who are working to transform opportunities for the next generation. See other stories here:

Contributor: Gloria Omuya, Communication & Operations Manager