Interprofessional Education Course Supports a School Community in Panama

In the Spring 2019 semester, ten Marymount pre-service special education teachers, nursing, and health profession students worked together to support the San Pedro Nolasco School, a small Catholic school in one of the poorest provinces in Panama. These students were part of a Marymount course, ED 540 – Burunga, Panama with San Pedro Nolasco School, through Marymount’s Center for Global Education. The course was developed to enhance the emergent interprofessional education (IPE) constructs and support Marymount students in their professional growth.

San Pedro Nolasco was founded through the support of several foundations and the Catholic church and supports inclusive education in the community of Burunga, Arraijan region of Panama. The school and local Catholic foundation support pre-k through sixth grade students with and without special needs. The community is one of the poorest in the region, with high unemployment, low adult educational levels, and a lack of access to basic resources, to include fresh water. The needs of the community are vast. The foundation and school were built to make a positive change in the community by giving access to educational programs for the students and, eventually, to engage the broader community.

Marymount students (in three IPE teams) and faculty led by Drs. Clara Hauth and Ana Lado worked closely with eight pre-K through sixth teachers and classrooms at the San Pedro Nolasco School to engage students with English language lessons, sign language lessons, and STEM lessons. In addition, the school administrators asked us to complete literacy Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS/IDELS) assessments with students who were struggling in reading in both Spanish and English.

The Marymount teams completed eighteen assessments with recommendations for the classroom teachers and specialists. Our teams also supported the school clinic by creating office charts for over 100 children. Through our collaboration with the school and community, we were asked to continue our work together in the hope of building a sustainable relationship for the future with collaborative exchanges in both Panama and the US.

Marymount faculty recently received a 2019-20 community engagement grant from the Marymount Saints Center for Service to continue our work in Panama with San Pedro Nolasco teachers, administrators, children, and the community. Dr. Hauth stated, “We look forward to supporting this wonderful school and community while offering the opportunity for our students to enahnce their skills and professional growth.”

Marymount University Education programs provide current best practices in education to pre­service and in­service teachers through coursework, global education experiences, and service opportunities. Preparing teachers, both here and abroad, to address the needs of children with disabilities with supports in language and literacy development, pre-social behaviors, health, and well-being with the community is a critical area of need facing educators and communities today.