Teacher stays connected to her roots

Dr. Anna Adjei-Barrett in her classroom at Lockport High School. She has taught in the district for the past 12 years.Connor Hoffman/Staff

Anna Adjei-Barrett, a Spanish teacher at Lockport High School, hasn’t forgotten where she comes from.

Born in Ghana, which is in western part of Africa, Adjei-Barrett created the Global Education Project, Global Partnerships, Inc., a year-and-a-half ago in an effort to help the people in her home country with yearly charity projects.

Adjei-Barrett created the group to carry on the generous mentality of her grandmother, who always helped those seeking refuge. Her grandmother always offered food, clothing and even help finance some children’s education. 

GEP’s mission is to teach the people of Ghana how to sustainably live rather than just giving them donations. 

This year, students, parents and Adjei-Barrett traveled to Ghana to facilitate the construction of water well on the island of Azizakpe. Next year they plan they hope to help facilitate the construction of a latrine on the island community.

Experience in Ghana

Adjei-Barrett came from “humble beginnings” in Ghana where she was raised by her grandmother. 

“Growing up in Ghana was fraught with many challenges,” she said. 

Her grandparents didn’t have much money, so she had to help them with their businesses. Her grandmother at one point sold bread and then a jewelry stand. 

“I had to wake up very early in the morning and not only do chores but also in most cases sometimes I had little small businesses on the side, because my grandmother worked in the bakery before she had her little stand,” Adjei-Barrett said. “So I would have to go and sell bread in the mornings before I could come home and do my chores and then think about going to school.”

Education in Ghana is not supported by tax revenues and people must pay school fees. 

“If we could afford it, I went to school because education was not free,” she said. 

At the age of 13, she moved to Nuremberg, Germany. 

Experience in Germany 

Her father, who lived in Germany, wanted Adjei-Barrett to move to Germany for better opportunities. 

One of the biggest differences for her was a uninterrupted education. This was a big move for her. 

“There was so many things that I was juggling as far as my limited teenage mind. Culturally, emotionally, physiologically,” she said. 

Since Adjei-Barrett did not speak German, she was put in a German as a second language class. She described her time in the class as a “fond memory.”

“The unity and the energy between the students and how we got along. It was just energizing,” she said. 

She met an American soldier in Germany, Kevin Barrett, and fell in love and married him. They moved to Fort Drum for two years and then moved to the area. 

A new home in America 

Adjei-Barrett said she noticed a difference with the way she was perceived in the U.S. than in Germany. 

“For one, I think I was questioned perhaps because of the way I looked. That was what precipitated that questioning I suppose. Because we in a way, and I don’t want to make blanket statement, but I believe that everybody was perceived to be black,” she said. “People just assumed that I’m African American and when I would open my mouth and talk to someone they would say ‘but you’re different.’”

Adjei-Barrett actually did not intend to become a teacher, and had studied to be a doctor while she was in Germany. But her credits had not transferred and thus she decided to become a teacher. 

“I would have had to start from scratch because of my language barrier,” she said. 

With her already knowing several languages, she decided being a linguistic teacher was the next step for her. 

“I had a linguist aptitude and by the time I came to the United States I was already multi lingual so it was just a great segue into doing something about linguists,” she said. 

She received a bachelors degree from the State University of New York College at Buffalo in Spanish Education. Her masters degree, which she received from the State University of New York at Buffalo, is in teaching English to speakers of other languages, and she has a doctorate in linguistics. 

Adjei-Barrett was a teacher at Niagara Falls High School for three years, and has been a teacher at Lockport High School for the past 12 years.  

Meredith Costello, a teacher at Lockport High School and member of  Global Education Project had nothing but fond things to say of her experience with Adjei-Barrett. 

“Dr. Barrett is very passionate. She is warm and welcoming. She is a self described ‘hugger’. She is highly dedicated to her family and the people of Ghana. She is driven to give back to these people who gave so much to her. Dr. Barrett is intelligent and highly educated,” she wrote in an email. 

Her favorite memory with Adjei-Barrett happened at Mole Motel in northern Ghana. They had just finished lunch and Adjei-Barrett had a bag of leftovers. Out of nowhere, a baboon came and charged for the bag. 

“At first she tried to hold on to the bag, but ultimately had to toss it to the animal. She was screaming, crying, and laughing all at the same time. She was so animated. It was wonderful. My daughters and I tell the story to everyone who asks about the trip,” she wrote. 

Adjei-Barrett now lives in Ransomville with her husband Kevin. Some of her hobbies include being an avid reading and hiking. She currently knows seven different languages which are German, English, Spanish, French, Ga Adanbge, Hausa and Twi.