Sitka Teacher Rings Chimes in Tobago

The Mt. Pleasant Adventist Church had a problem. In their small West Indies' town on the island of Tobago, illiteracy and drugs are rampant. Unwilling to lose youth, church leaders made a plan: Operation Mustard Seed. The church would start a musical group, teaching youth to play tone chimes.

Tamara Randolph, Walla Walla University associate professor, who had visited there, spearheaded the idea and raised money through the WWU Education Club.

But there was a missing element—a bell teacher. Randolph found her answer in Sitka, Alaska, where Ruth Millard, a summer WWU student, teaches in a one-room school. Ms. Millard has taught music for 38 years.

So in mid-December, Ms. Millard left icy Sitka, and after four planes, two days, and thousands of miles later, she arrived in tropical Tobago. Rehearsals began as soon as she got off the plane. Even though it was Christmas break, players practiced several hours each day. While some could read music, most couldn't. Nevertheless, the group performed "Angels We Have Heard on High" on Sabbath morning. Although Ms. Millard was there only a week, the practices paid off and the group played the following Sabbath, on their own.

And back in Sitka, Alaska, the one-room school boasted a Walla University associate professor as their substitute teacher.

March 01, 2009 / Alaska Conference