The Reggae Chefs: Helping Future Teachers to be More Culturally Aware

“As a Teacher, what would you do if you saw a student drinking an alcoholic beverage on school property?” That was the scenario Peter Ivey used to begin his presentation at the two-day “We Are GREAT” (Gentlemen Ready to Educate, Advocate, and Transform) Summer Symposium at the Brooklyn College School of Education which commenced on August 16, 2017. A prospective Teacher who volunteered to solve the problem said he would contact social services because the student possibly has issues at home. Ivey then revealed that this scenario actually took place when he first migrated from Jamaica to the United States of America 17 years ago.

According to Ivey, “While, the teachers and school security guard were irate by what I thought was an innocent action, I was fortunate that the Dean who intervened used her cultural competence to handle the situation. She knew that the beverage was popular among Jamaican men and I would have already graduated High School back home. So instead of suspension or expulsion, she informed me of the rules and policies of the school as well as the USA’s drinking age and alcohol laws.” This potent example set the tone for Ivey’s informative presentation dubbed ‘The Role of Culture in Molding Minds’.

Peter Ivey, the CEO and Founder of The Reggae Chefs and the Scattered Jamaica Project which consists of a Video Series and a Passport Dinner Series was invited to be the Keynote Speaker due to his various projects geared at cultural preservation. According to Dr. Trina Lynn Yearwood, Director of the Teacher Opportunity Corps Program – Brooklyn College School of Education, “Mr. Ivey seamlessly amalgamated his educational experiences and love for culture to create an insightful, thought-provoking and interactive presentation for pre-service classroom teachers. By sharing intimate stories about the educators who influenced his own life and activating audience participation, he demonstrated the impact of cultural competence on student success. All participants expressed amazement at this ‘untrained educator’s’ ability to impart pearls of wisdom that they could apply in the classroom.”

Peter Ivey gets into character with Dr. Yearwood of Brooklyn College during a skit at the We Are GREAT Summer Symposium

One of the many Teacher Candidates that Ivey’s Keynote Address resonated with was Shamonique Jefferson. She said, “I connected with The Reggae Chefs’ presentation. I’ve personally had experiences where I was misunderstood because the teachers didn’t really care about the background of the students. I related to his story a lot.”

The symposium is funded by the New York State Education Department and was designed to help prospective teachers understand some of the professional responsibilities of teaching as well as their role in education as community builders. Ms. Doris Waiters, the Teacher Opportunity Corps II Program Director in the NYS Education Department said, “Mr. Ivey’s presentation was excellent! We need more activities like this because the more we can come out of the traditional boxes then the better-prepared teachers will be to deal with different types of students as well as learn how to better embrace their cultures.”

“It was an honor to address the Teacher Candidates at the Symposium. While the Scattered Jamaica project allows me to travel the world in search of cultural similarities and differences between Jamaica and the selected destinations, it was important for me to relay to the participants that cultural awareness can be attained not only by traveling the world but also by going out into the community. A train ride to Canal Street, Flatbush or Bensonhurst is like going to China, Haiti or Italy so the tools to enhance cultural competency are right here for us to use.”

Peter Ivey and the rest of The Reggae Chef team can be seen in action at Scattered Jamaica: Panama as they creatively explore the rich cultures of Jamaica and Panama through food and the arts on Saturday, August 19th at the Golden Hall at St. Gabriel’s Episcopal Church (331 Hawthorne Street, Brooklyn, New York) from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Visit for more details.

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