When Veronica Carasquero was a child, her mother used to have her and her siblings stand on a bench and read stories aloud. She also ensured they got involved in community and church activities such as harvests, fashion shows, and washing by the river.
As she grew older, Carasquero learnt to make things like stuffed toys, children’s clothes and toolum to sell. Today, she is grateful for that foundation on which she has built to become an educator, author and storyteller.
Carasquero teaches a second-year class at the Diego Martin Boys' RC, and holds a London Montessori Centre diploma in Montessori teaching; a bachelor's degree in education from the University of TT; and a master's in education from the University of New Brunswick, Canada. She is also certified in the Jolly Phonics programme offered by UWI.
"We grew up old school in Paramin, in an extended family home with my mother and grandparents. Mummy did a beautiful job with us and always wanted us to excel...Looking at it now, I understand why she did things the way in which she did."
Carasquero has been teaching for over 30 years and recently published her first book, Penmanship Perfect! She told WMN she prides herself on teaching people, especially children to write beautifully.
"It is similar to the Ministry of Education's primary-school penmanship programme and the course I did at UWI. It's done in a step-by-step process, and the steps are numbered, because what I've found is that sometimes when you teach or show them (children) how, sometimes they may not recall all of the techniques. This way it assists them in getting the formation correctly...a prep for cursive writing."
She said the book also contains features such as a task page with the date to make it easy to determine when the child completed a task; a page-ticking box to keep a record of what the child has done; and a certificate at the end of the book.
"I believe children need motivation to work toward something, to feel such sense of pride."
Carasquero said during the almost two years of online school, she noticed that the handwriting of her students had been "compromised."
"Coming back out to school I saw a lot of shortcomings and told myself, 'I have to do something to assist those children and the parents.' I believe if they have the structure they will be able to help themselves, and I wanted to reinforce what they were taught in class, at home."
So why is she so adamant that penmanship must be taken seriously, considering that this generation of students is more inclined to take notes using devices?
"Reading and writing go hand in hand, and devices create a shortfall in learning to write properly. Children need writing skills.
"For example, think about the SEA exam. The whole exam has to be written, and the writing must be legible. Or when you go to places where you need to fill out forms.
"You still have to know how to write, it’s still pertinent in today’s world and there needs to be a foundation for writing."
The mother of two said although she found she struggled at school and "blossomed" academically later than others, her handwriting was always excellent.
Reading too always was and still is one of her favourite pastimes and something from which her students continue to benefit.
"I like to get in character to increase the interest of reading in children. Pre-pandemic, I used to promote the Dr Seuss books and dress up as the Cat in the Hat character and read the books to my students. Also, they (her students) would come in the lobby and sanitise and take a book and sit and read. I encouraged sanitising hands even before covid19.
"Sometimes I went to different schools in the area to promote reading...I remember once I read the story Stone Soup, and because I like to get into character, it turned out to be a whole dramatic production."
And in light of the fact that last year a number Dr Seuss books were pulled off the shelves and a "cancel culture" controversy had erupted as a result of perceived racist and insensitive imagery in some of his publications, Carasquero said she is now working on her own stories and character for her reading sessions.
"They will contain lessons for children in spirituality and morals and values."
She is also working on Penmanship Perfect! book two, and a number of other projects.
"I’m multi-skilled and always doing courses. I like craft stuff, so I do floral arrangements – real and artificial, makeup, sewing, cake baking and icing, fashion jewellery design. I've always been a busy body, but when I relax it will usually be by a lake or beach."
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