A dinosaur grapples with technology's place in education

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Our Benefactors

This is a photo of Agnieszka and Trevor, without whom the Liger Learning Center would be just another strip of farmland (very good for fruit and vegetables, as we can so readily see from the farm next door), but not the locus of an original educational experiment. The suspense had been building since the moment we arrived- Who were these people and what were they like? Would they approve of what they saw after three years of planning and building? Would they be authoritative and distant? Casual and supportive? My students short skits were simply that- story ideas conceived and fleshed out by 8-10 year olds, but part of me couldn't help feeling that more was riding on this than a novel brief entertainment. Trevor is a phenomenally hard working businessman, and his values are based on a lifetime experience of risk taking and self responsibility. Trevor came from a small town and from next to nothing. At one point in his youth, his mother relied on government assistance for the family's survival. He left a high paying, comfortable job to fly out on his own, and succeeded brilliantly. Agnieszka is an integral part of his success. Trevor is an experienced math and financial whiz - who know what his conception of education might include?
Our director, Robert, thankfully, is an educational whiz, and they listened when Robert advocated for a professionally trained and paid staff rather than a volunteer model; they listened when Robert advocated for a seasoned art teacher and weaving arts explicitly and liberally through the curriculum. This could have told us everything we needed to know about this incredible couple- that this project was not about their egos, but about making an authentic difference in the lives of children. Still, these are not squishy do-gooders - we have to provide evidence and results - and neither are they going to be distant donors, thinking about LLC once a year at tax time. They have an adoptive Cambodian son and they are already planning a longer visit to the school in February with both son and daughter.
What impressed me personally about both Trevor and Agnieszka was the clear hand of respect and friendship they extended to each and every person here- be it a student, a farm hand, a teacher assistant,  or yours truly. 

While they were here, we put together a time capsule of who we are and what is now, to be opened when this group of students sends its first graduates off to university.

In spite of the packed nature of their visit, they made time to talk with each and every teacher one on one, and on the final day, they added a sixth value to our existing five - Appreciation. He gave a wonderfully moving speech about how this sense of  'counting our blessings' is as crucial to the Liger Spirit as Determination or Ingenuity or the others.
And what a blessing they have provided us all with their generosity- not just 50 disadvantaged children, but the teaching, administrative, and support staff- to be able to go to work each day and know you are part of hope, part of a better future.

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