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A World Beyond Pahokee

Susan Notes: Sometimes you encounter an event that takes your breath away. What a remarkable teacher. And what a remarkable editorial department--who can see through the FCAT and remind people what education really is.

The state wants Floridians to believe that an FCAT score is the sum reflection of a good education. Try telling that to Lisa Girard's sixth-graders at Pahokee Elementary School, who learned the lessons of a lifetime through a remarkable adventure.

Ms. Girard grew up in Ottawa, Canada, and wanted to share the world of her youth with her students. Last month, as The Post reported Thursday, 20 of them joined her on an improbable journey from the shore of Lake Okeechobee to the Great White North. The kids never had been on an airplane, never had ridden in a horse-drawn wagon or seen a maple tree forest. They marveled over Ottawa's tall buildings and how the sixth-graders they met spoke French. And, of course, there was the snow.

Ms. Girard raised $15,000 and took money from her pocket to cut the cost per student from $850 to $350. She paid for the hotel-room movies and phone calls home. Her students came back to Pahokee counting in French, discussing Canadian government and pondering the unique wonders an afternoon snowfall can present.

At a time when leaders talk about learning and testing as if they are synonymous, Ms. Girard offers a reminder that a teacher's greatest accomplishment is opening students' minds to unknown worlds. For her Pahokee kids, the experience was nothing short of incroyable.

— Editorial
Palm Beach Post


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