FORT MYERS, Fla. — In the heart of Fort Myers, at the intersection of US 41 and Colonial Blvd., a celebration took place at Peyko Venue. The occasion was organized by the United Haitian American Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Florida to honor teachers of Haitian descent in the Southwest Florida region, coinciding with ongoing meetings with the Lee County School District.
Louis Peyko, the founder of UHACC, emphasized the dedication and contributions of these educators, stating, "Majority of teachers are underpaid, but regardless of payment, we know when we put our heart in something, it's not about the payment. Haitians are truly the type of people that will go ahead and contribute."
This marks the second year the Haitian Chamber has hosted this event to acknowledge the invaluable role teachers play in shaping the community. Juniace Etienne, a Collier County teacher, spoke about how this event provides a boost of energy at the beginning of the school year, setting a positive tone for the months ahead.
"We have a lot that we do especially at home. I bring home homework, I bring home stuff I have to plan. We're told not to really do it, to just have time with your family, but teachers, we never stop," said Benissa Chery, another Collier County teacher.
Chery, with three years of teaching experience, highlighted the challenges they face, including overpacked classrooms and the need for more educators. She also shared her deep connection with the community, having taught over 60 students of Haitian descent.
"We have classrooms that are overpacked with children, and we're hoping that we can get more teachers," Chery added.
The event provided a much-needed break for the educators, allowing them to come together and highlight the profound impact of their "heart work" in the classrooms across Southwest Florida.