Alvin ISD Teacher shares her trip to Africa with students and community



“It’s overwhelming. It really is. I never imagined when I started teaching 6thgrade social studies and we were going to write letters to kids in other countries that this is what it was going to become.”


Those are the words Melissa Watkins said before she would spend her spring break in Uganda, Africa. Watkins is a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Harby Junior High School who traveled to Africa during the week of March 11 to pay a visit to the school where her students have had pen pal relationship for the past several years. This was the first time she got to see in person the friendship that Harby students have built with students on the other side of the world. Watkins shared her experiences with students and the community at an open house on Tuesday night March 26. For a couple of hours, students and parents got to visit several display stations highlighting the differences between the two cultures.


“It’s been amazing with the sixth graders actually. We’ve had over the last couple of days, 100 percent of the kids on task. With sixth graders, it can be tough since they have the tendency to want to go talk to their friends, but they’ve been so focused and so into this. Another thing I’ve seen are kids in the hallway that aren’t even my students, or I don’t even know their names are stopping to ask me how the trip was,” said Watkins.  


She adds about the experience, “I wasn’t surprised by anything at all except for maybe at how well behaved the children are and how they just do things. There’s no asking, there’s no telling, they just automatically do things and they’re so kind and so thankful for everything. So welcoming. One of the most amazing things to me was that every classroom I stepped into, even when I was trying to sneak in, they would stop automatically and in unison welcome me to their classroom, and when I would try to sneak out just as quietly, they would stop and stand and thank me for visiting their classroom. It’s just a very different kind of atmosphere.”


A small piece of that atmosphere was on display for the community to take in and what really stood out were some of the art pieces made by the African students.


“The mural over there was made by some of the secondary students, I’m not even sure who, and the art teachers spent the week making that for us at Harby Junior High and then this piece behind me is made out of banana tree fibers, and it’s dried and then they cut it into the size and shape that they want and glue it on in layers to make a design and that student made it in two days,” exclaimed Watkins.


Parent Kenneth Miller took some time to see the displays and said, “The artwork is really amazing for knowing the age of the kids that were doing that artwork. Speaking with Ms. Watkins and finding out details about how daily life works in a school like that.”


Watkins summarizes by saying, “It’s really a great thing. I’m just really impressed and blessed at how everyone has gotten involved with this and really wants to know more about it. Because we have some future plans and some things that we saw that we can make happen. We just need a little bit of time.”