Mery Zaynoune

BPS Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot, Roxbury MA

Research the folklore and history of Cape Verde through interviews with artists, entrepreneurs, laborers and scholars to create literacy resources for a pilot school serving a student population that largely emigrated from the island nation.

Where I've Been

  • Fogo, Cape Verde Islands
  • Praia, Cape Verde Islands
  • Sao Vicente, Cape Verde Islands

My Fellowship in Images

Boa Entrada- Joca and Amilia gate keepers of Boa Entrada
Where we come from-The house where my mother was born
Road Builders- Xara and Carlos, proud builders of the roads in Cape Verde
Fogo Volcano- Active volcano , last eruption in 2014
Grapes of Fogo- Volcanic dirt is very fertile in Cha das Caldeiras
At the Market- Suzete and Tchila local market vendors who carry on the traditions of their families as vendors in the Praia Market

Your Personal and Professional Growth

How have your knowledge, skills and capabilities grown?

I have reconnected with my roots and have a better understanding of my culture and history. This experience has allowed me to dig deeper into my ancestral past to learn about the challenges that were faced and how kindness and compassion is a core value of Cape Verdeans. I enjoyed interviewing the local residents and capturing their stories, a skill that improved as we collected more stories. I am now better able to connect the past and the present for our students.

As a result, in what ways will your instructional practice change?

After speaking to several teachers in Cape Verde(CV) I have a better understanding of how CV instruction impacts the students in our school community. The environment and expectation of their learning in CV and the US is very different. I will use this knowledge to prepare for the challenges that my students come in with. One challenge I will be focusing on this year will be to support students in becoming independent learners, as we collabortively write these stories this should change.

What is the greatest personal accomplishment of your fellowship?

Two of my greatest accomplishments during this journey have been hiking through Fogo's Cha de Caldeiras and Brava's Covi De Mont. Cha de Caleiras is where the volcano erupted in 2014. Our guide Zuka who lived there at the time shared his story and showed us his families farm where fruits and many medicinal herds grow. Covi De Mont has a personal connection to me because it is where my grandfather built his home and where my mother and siblings were born.

Impact on Your Classroom, School and Community

How will your experiences positively impact student learning in new ways?

Our Cape Verdean children's books will impact our student population in several ways. First of all, we will be creating prototypes of books for our students and families to use that represent their culture and history, as not seen before in texts. Secondly, we will be implementing a school-wide project through classes as well as our after-school program to have our students and families continue developing their writing skills and creating books of interests that represent them.

What are your plans for working collaboratively with colleagues?

This year we will continue to have our Family Literacy Nights, however with a new purpose. This year we will introduce the idea of representing personal history and culture in these events. The first few sessions will highlight our CV stories. Our colleagues will have an opportunity to see how the work is done and even participate in creating their own stories. Additionally, our school community and anyone interested in our project will have access to the stories we create.

Imagining the Future

How do you envision celebrating of your students’ new learning?

We plan to have two major events during the year, as well as the monthly Family Literacy Nights that will highlight the history and culture of our students. The first major event will be an exhibit opening for the photographs of Kuny Mendes, who was one of the artists we met in Cape Verde. We will be donating nine of his photos to the school to show the people of Boa Entrada. These photos speak to where the students come from. Additional we will have a major publishing party for our CV stories.

Are there issues or challenges in your school, community or the greater world about which you and your students might try to make a difference?

The major challenge for schools in Cape Verde and here in Boston is having adequate resources and supplies. When visiting schools and speaking to teachers in CV, everyone kept asking for supplies and resources to use in the classrooms. I will work with students this year to do several supply drives for the schools we visited. I will also work with my colleagues to create a space in our school building to help new CV families adjust to the American culture.

How would you describe to a friend or a grant funder the most fundamental ways in which your fellowship has changed your personal and/or professional perspective?

Having participated in this project, I am thankful to have been giving this opportunity to meet exceptional people, capture authentic stories, and learning about a culture and history that is extraordinary. The CV people have an innate trait that allows them to overcome challenges without losing their core values of kindness, respect, and compassion. The stories that we captured link the past and the present, hopefully the stories that we will write will inspire the future. I am PROUD to be CV.