St. Maarten Native Excels with TTUISD

by BETHANY HOWELL

April 03, 2012

In many ways, Teala Howell is a typical teenager. She loves reading “The Hunger Games” and Jodi Picoult’s “My Sister’s Keeper.” Some of her favorite movies are Marvel comic-based movies like “Iron Man” and “X-Men”. She recently turned 18 years old, and like any other girl her age, couldn’t resist teasing her parents about her entry into adulthood.

“They wouldn’t even let me walk through the hotel by myself,” she said.

But this TTUISD student, who is finishing her senior year of high school using the online curriculum, is anything but ordinary. Teala and her parents, Jeff and Ting, live in Cole Bay on St. Maarten, an island in the Caribbean which is owned partly by the French government and partly by the Dutch. Formerly part of the Antilles, St. Maarten is now part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Howells live on the Dutch side of the island, where Jeff is the general director for a marina.

Teala recently visited Lubbock with her parents so she could take the state-required TAKS test. The Howells’ trip also included a visit to Austin, followed by a road trip to Houston to meet up with Teala’s older sister, Casey, who attends college in Washington State and whom they have not seen for two years. While in Lubbock, the Howells were very interested in meeting the TTUISD staff members who helped Teala enroll in TTUISD and have kept in contact with her throughout the school year.

Teala first learned about TTUISD when she and her parents Googled “home school programs.” TTUISD was the first school to come up. Teala and her parents were looking for a more academically rigorous curriculum than the one offered at her private school. They were all impressed with the highly structured courses, which would allow Teala to focus more on her studies without the distractions of traditional school activities.

“I wanted to get a meaningful education,” Teala said. “I wanted something where I could be by myself, focus on my studies and just get it done.”

Although she is homeschooled, Teala’s parents have ensured that their daughter still operates on a “normal” school schedule. She got a new laptop which is solely reserved for schoolwork. There are no photos, music or movies on it to distract her. Her mom stresses that Teala wakes up at her regular time, gets dressed and eats breakfast before heading to her classroom.

“We were lucky her older sister left home so we had an extra room,” Ting said. “So we cleared everything out and turned it into a classroom.”

The Howells are enthusiastic about the depth and complexity of the courses offered through TTUISD. Teala’s first art class assignment was so exciting for her that her mom wished that she could take the course too. Teala’s dad, Jeff, unhappy with Teala’s previously less-than-strenuous school curriculum, said that they had been looking for an opportunity like this for a long time and were very supportive of Teala’s desire for more structured home schooling. Jeff explained that TTUISD’s full-time program is ideal for students who are self-motivated.

“This program will not work unless the student can be disciplined enough to work on their own,” he said.

Teala chose a U.S.-based curriculum so that she could later attend a university in either the U.S. or Canada as a pre-med or nursing student. Her goal is to return to St. Maarten for an accelerated medical school program. After medical school, she plans to return to the U.S. to specialize in radiology.

Along with many other benefits, Teala and her parents have found that the TTUISD program has allowed them to spend more time together as a family. Teala noted that being in school for the majority of the day often prevented them from spending much time together. She said she has enjoyed being able to spend more time with her parents and that their family has greatly benefited from TTUISD’s full-time curriculum.

“It’s been pretty fun,” Teala said. “It’s been interesting spending all day with my parents, that way they get to know me and I get to know them. And then I go away to college and they will actually miss me!”

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