While school was on summer break in the United States, some teachers from North Carolina traveled to Guatemala to teach professional development classes to local teachers in the rural public schools. The annual trek was in partnership with the Fundación Sergio Paiz Andrade (FUNSEPA), and supported by Heineman Medical Outreach, Inc. in conjunction with the Technology to Educate program.

The average teacher in Guatemala only attends school through 9th grade and there is no continuing education or University experience required to begin teaching. Professional development classes which are meant to enhance a teacher’s knowledge and capability to deliver quality education, is not available to the Guatemala teachers due to the exorbitant cost for such training. 

Surveys taken by the teachers indicated that they have either never engaged in a professional development class or that they participated only once. The practical training provided by the North Carolina Team is applicable for teachers of all class levels and incorporates utilization of computers. Teachers attend classes geared toward classroom rules, multiple intelligences, implementing math games and games that are used to enhance learning. The Team not only gave instruction, but they listened to concerns of the local teachers and promoted open discussions about what is working and what is not working in the classroom setting.

During each session, the participants were asked to work in small groups to evaluate and create materials modeled off the strategies and methods presented in the seminars. There was nothing better than to see local teachers working cooperatively to modify the teaching materials to meet their instructional, social and cultural needs. From day one, the participants jointly worked together and were collaborating at the conclusion of each day.

The actions of the North Carolina Team caught the attention of Licenciada Verá Gutiérrez, the Regional Director for the Ministry of Education, Department of Sacatepéquez. Ms. Gutiérrez asked if next year they could provide a 2-day intensive professional development class at the Marroquin School for Girls and the Fray Matías Delgado School for Boys, located in Ciudad Vieja. The classes will be attended by approximately 77 teachers and held in the municipality auditorium. These classes will be in addition to the other schools that the Team is already supporting.

The Team also had the distinct pleasure of meeting Carlos Gómez, Director of the Caldo de Piedra Library in Antigua. The mission of the Library is to support the creation of community-operated children’s libraries that augment school education by improving literacy and providing a wealth of creative projects. The typical Guatemalan reads at a 3rd grade level and books are not commonplace in the average rural Guatemalan home, making the library important for advancing literacy skills of children.

Parents and the community are involved in the children’s learning process and the library seeks to make the program sustainable through training local librarians. The children are taught to read in a safe environment and the interactive setting lends to other teachable activities such as music, art, drama, and poetry reading. Embracing the mission statement of Caldo de Piedra, the Team discussed with Mr. Gómez ways in which they could cooperate and perhaps invoke the participation of students from the United States. Stay tuned, there will be more to come!

A special thanks to the team of teachers who donated their time during summer break to share their expertise and effective teaching techniques.

About the partnership between Heineman and FUNSEPA: Heineman has a well-established and long-standing relationship with FUNSEPA, a Guatemalan Educational Foundation. Our activities were initiated by our highly successful “Computers for Guatemala Rural Public Schools” project, where we began collecting deaccessioned but still viable computers. We wipe the hard drives clean and ship them to Guatemala where the equipment is refurbished by FUNSEPA, and the software operating system is donated by Microsoft. FUNSEPA distributes the computers to the rural public schools and maintains them. To be selected for the program, each school provides a secure room with adequate electricity before they can receive the computers, and the teachers are required to take a basic computer class. As of today, Heineman has shipped approximately 18,000 computers, serving 1,300 rural public schools, and impacting over 500,000 students.