An Inspiring School Teacher
The following are reflections by the Pencils for Africa editorial team after Skyping with Alan Cutler, Karim Ajania’s middle school teacher in Nairobi, Kenya, and Alan’s wife Anne Cutler.
(The photo of the classroom above – and on the home page of this website – is the classroom in Parklands, Nairobi where Alan was Karim’s teacher).
Reflections by the Pencils for Africa Team after their Skype call with
Anne and Alan Cutler, former teachers at Hospital Hill School, Kenya
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Cutler,
Thank you so much for having a Skype call with us!
I really appreciated you taking time out of your day to talk to us.
I enjoyed hearing both of your stories and experiences from Hospital Hill School. It was really interesting to find out more about Mr. Ajania and where he is from. Both of you talked a lot about the “ripple effect” which I thought was a particularly interesting topic that we had discussed. You encouraged us that our small acts of charity to multiple organizations can truly make a big difference. To me personally, it gave me an inspiration to work harder and put more thought into our organization, Pencils for Africa.
Thank you so much for your advice and your stories, I really appreciated getting to know you.
Above, Mr. Alan Cutler and his students at Hospital Hill School
Below, Mrs. Anne Cutler and her students at Hospital Hill School
To me personally, the Skype call with the Cutlers gave me an inspiration to work harder and put more thought into our organization, Pencils for Africa.
Colin, Deputy Editor
It was fun and interesting to meet Mr. Ajania’s old teachers, Mr. and Ms. Cutler. One of the main points I found interesting about them is their reaction to teaching at Mr. Ajania’s school.
At first they were afraid to teach, having grown up with only one race, but soon realized how amazing and special all their students were.
They overcame the views that they had been taught and instead saw everyone as a person.
Overall, it was an amazing experience to meet the Cutlers.
At first the Cutlers were afraid to teach, having grown up with only one race, but soon realized how amazing and special all their students were. They overcame the views that they had been taught and instead saw everyone as a person.
Overall, it was an amazing experience to meet the Cutlers.
Carly, Assistant Editor
Talking with the Cutlers was an amazing experience.
Through this interview, I learned how much a teacher can affect someone’s life.
For example, Mr Ajania would not be where he is today without the help and encouragement of Mr. Cutler. It was also funny to hear stories of Mr Ajania’s childhood. One story was about how Mr. Ajania was dancing to impress some girls and they started crying.
Later, he learned that he was dancing on the grave of their pet hamster.
In conclusion, this interview taught me how inspiring one person can be in the life of others and about Mr. Ajania as a child. Thank-you for taking the time to inspire us as well.
Through this interview, I learned how much a teacher can affect someone’s life. Mr Ajania would not be where he is today without the help and encouragement of Mr. Cutler.
Charlotte, Assistant Editor
Anne and Alan Cutler inspired me to think differently about the world.
I really loved the way they said that they were educating themselves by skyping with us and volunteering to tutor at schools in Canada. They said that they realized that they wanted to learn a much as they could while they were still alive. They both love being educators as well as learning new things and engaging with students. It was interesting that Hospital Hill was different then the other schools in Nairobi at that time.
The school the Cutlers taught at was for different races and affordable to most everyone. Most other schools were segregated by race.
I also loved when, at the end, Mr. Ajania walked in and had a conversation with Alan, who was his old teacher. Mr. Ajania got so sentimental and it was so nice to see the chat they had.
It really showed me that they were all a big community at Hospital Hill School and really cared about each other, teachers and students.
They were all a big community at Hospital Hill School and really cared about each other, teachers and students.
Blanche, Assistant Editor
I thought the Cutlers were very interesting people. I really liked when they reunited with Mr. Ajania, I thought it was very beautiful. Also, looking at pictures of Mr. Ajania when he was little was very fun.
Thank you for giving Mr. Ajania the gift of wonder and interest in giving back to the world, you are the roots to our PFA program.
The attempt of Mr. Ajania to doing the twist anecdote was hilarious.
It was a very special skype call, I thought of myself in the future calling my teachers from today, it was very touching.
Thank you for giving Mr. Ajania the gift of wonder in giving back to the world, you are the roots of our PFA program.
Lucia, Assistant Editor
Anne and Alan Cutler had a huge impact on how I think of Pencils for Africa. When I looked at my teachers the next day I respected them because it showed me how much a teacher can give you the confidence to go out into the world and start something like PFA. Mr. Ajania said that PFA would not even be around if it were not for Mr. Cutler.
Seeing Mr. Ajania react to Mr. Cutler with the same respect that he gave him when he was 10, really affected me in a special way.
Another story that fascinated me was when Karim told us about using red lines in his writing, that his teacher showed him during school.
His teacher wore a red stripped shirt to remind the students to use their red lines for the important sections in their writing. Though it sounded funny, Mr. Ajania remembered to always use red underlines in his writing because of his teacher. This showed us how influencial middle school teachers are to students and what they remember when they are grown ups.
I loved this Skype call and will always remember it, and Anne and Alan Cutler.
When I looked at my teachers the next day I respected them because it showed me how much a teacher can give you the confidence to go out into the world and start something like Pencils For Africa. Mr. Ajania said that PFA would not even be around if it were not for Mr. Cutler.
Shannon, Assistant Editor
At the last Pencils for Africa meeting, I had the opportunity to meet a couple who had taught at Hospital Hill School, in Kenya where Mr. Ajania was enrolled.
They told me and my PFA teammates about how the school was and I was able to detect interesting differences between my life and the lives of the students through Mr. and Mrs. Cutler’s point of view.
I learned about the history of the school, and why it was founded.
The Cutler’s told us about how there was segregation in the schools in Africa. These schools were based on racial differences, keeping Africans seperate from the European students. During the Scramble for Africa, the Europeans took over many parts of Africa, including Kenya. When the Cutler’s began to teach at Hospital Hill School, they wanted to make it a place where students were not segregated, and all could learn.
I think that the school did a very good thing to become a racially indifferent school.
Hospital Hill School set an example of kindness and bravery for other people to follow.
People should follow this example of bravery now, and put themselves out there to help the children who cannot, unfortunately, afford to go to even quality, accepting schools like Hospital Hill.
There are people who put a lot of money, time and effort into helping fight poverty and help educate the youth of Africa, I am happy to have met Anne and Alan Cutler and hope to carry on their tradition of openness and acceptance.
I am happy to have met Anne and Alan Cutler and hope to carry on their tradition of openness and acceptance.
Karim, PFA Founder
Dear Mr. Cutler,
I would not have become a school teacher or a headmaster had it not been for the wonderful example you set for me.
In the same year that you were my teacher at Hospital Hill School, after which you became headmaster of the school, I read a just published novel about the life of a school teacher. The name of the book was To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield.
I naturally associated this book with my time in your classroom and the dedication and care you demonstrated to serve your students.
I naturally associated this book with my time in your classroom and the dedication you demonstrated to serve your students.
Over a decade later, I was an investment banker on Wall Street and I wanted to change professions toward a vocation that was more meaningful and fulfilling. I reached for my tattered old copy of Delderfield’s novel on my bookshelf, dusted it off, and read it through once again. The book triggered memories of my happy time in your classroom and a renewed respect for the teaching profession.
A few weeks later, I was teaching school at Martin Luther King Jr. High School in Harlem, New York.
I have not looked back since.