Tue | Feb 20, 2018

Jamaican woman invades Accompong with Spanish

Published:Thursday | March 24, 2016 | 12:00 AMTamara Bailey
Dr Mildred Smith-Chang, author of ‘Spanish Simple and Natural'.
Dr Mildred Smith-Chang's students show off their Spanish books.

ACCOMPONG, St Elizabeth:

Mobilising people out of poverty through education is a passion for stalwart educator and philanthropist Dr Mildred Smith-Chang, who continues to impact children with her knowledge and expertise.

Having been born and raised in May Day, Manchester, Smith-Chang, after acquiring formal education at Holmwood Technical High School and later, the University of the West Indies where she pursued a degree in education with a major in Spanish, Smith-Chang taught at Mandeville All-Age, Knox Community College in Spaulding, and St Elizabeth Technical High School, giving approximately 37 years of service to the education sector.

She left for Mexico City and acquired a diploma in Spanish and also had the opportunity to take 32 students to experience the culture of the country.

Smith-Chang soon migrated to New York, where she continued her studies, this time completing a master's degree in Spanish and political science and a doctoral degree in Education and Spanish.

wonderful teacher

"Many ask why Spanish, but I had a teacher by the name of Carl Melbourne at Holmwood, he was such a wonderful teacher, we travelled in our minds to Spain. I would listen and question how he got this language and I decided I had to get it. When I went to UWI, I had another lecturer, Helloise Lewis. She wrote the book Vamos Amigos for the Caribbean, and I said I had to be a doctor like her. Those two teachers really impacted me," said Smith-Chang.

Admitting that if she had acquired all that knowledge and not give it back to those with whom she came into contact, she would not have lived a fulfilled life, hence her outreach projects.

"I realised the students in America are not into education as much as the children here, and I said, what good is the use of a PhD if you are not using it to transform lives. When I teach in the maximum security prison systems, I am always asked if I'm Cuban or from Panama, and it dawned on me that I want children of colour to get it just as I have got it and be fluent," she told Rural Xpress.

That dream was soon turned to reality when the very place Smith-Chang travelled to, to do her dissertation two years prior welcomed her with open arms for her educational sessions.

"I have seen where my American students have grown, even reading their Harry Potter books in Spanish, but I saw the needs of the children at Accompong Town and I wanted to return here. I wrote a Spanish book called Spanish Simple and Natural with them in mind, and they have been receptive of the material. They lack resources and the poverty there is real, but the children are brilliant," said Smith-Chang.

Over a three-month period, Smith-Chang taught 110 children in Accompong Town from grades one to six.


"In just three days, the students learnt the national anthem in Spanish. One little boy warmed my heart; when I gave him his workbook and CD he said, 'No TV nah watch tonight, every TV a tun off, everybody a gather roun come larn (learn) Spanish'," said Smith-Chang who leaves the island in a few weeks.

She plans to return with specially compiled workbooks for her new students.