Area middle school teacher spending part of vacation helping school in Puerto Rico

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GUILFORD — In September the Category 5 Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico. The recovery effort is continuing five months later and Piscataquis Community Elementary School grade 5-6 teacher Grace McGeehan will be spending a portion of her February vacation helping a school on the island in the Caribbean Sea.

“I’m going to Puerto Rico in Dorado Higuillar and its K-12 school,” McGeehan said, as she will be on the northern coast just outside the capital San Juan of the U.S. unincorporated territory for several days.

“There’s a class of kids in grades 4-5 and we are putting together donation boxes for them with school supplies, clothing and items for hygiene needs,” McGeehan said.

“We have been learning about the geography of Puerto Rico and colors and numbers in Spanish,” McGeehan said.

“We started yesterday, we are collecting clothes, activities and games,” sixth-grader Summer Nesbit said.

Classmate Zachariah Demer said he and his peers learned about how hurricanes form and how devastating Hurricane Maria was for Puerto Rico. Demer said they are helping out and have filled a half dozen boxes for their teacher to bring with her.

Sixth-grader Emily Easler said she has learned how to count from one to ten in Spanish and now knows the Spanish words for various colors.

Grade 5 student Gabby Koscielny said she learned how to ask someone how they are in Spanish. “They don’t have enough resources and we have more than enough,” she added about giving back to help students in Puerto Rico.

McGeehan said she would be heading south on Thursday, Feb. 22 and is scheduled to return to Maine on Monday, Feb. 26. She said she would be spending all day Friday at the school, helping clean up there and at nearby beaches.

“I’m devastated by what’s happened there,” she said, saying she has been to Puerto Rico three times before.

McGeehan said the donations “have been brought in from many families in the community as well as many staff here.” She said students contributed “clothes that are too small for them, games that they no longer play with. It’s impressive how they have gotten into it.”

The teacher said she plans to post updates on her trip on the SAD 4 Facebook page.

“This entire week we have been doing Puerto Rico,” McGeehan said about classroom lessons, including having her students view before and after footage of the island. “They learned what creates hurricanes and listened to salsa music while writing letters to their Puerto Rican friends.”

McGeehan said the students described the winter landscape of Maine for those living in the tropical climate, asked questions about Puerto Rico and some tried their hand at writing in Spanish.

One letter that will accompany McGeehan included the words “when things get tough, remember you have some very cold friends in Maine.”

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