Classroom Spotlight: Mr. Andrew

Where have you traveled in Honduras? What was your favorite place?
One of my favorite places has been Roatán, an island off the northern coast of Honduras in the Caribbean Sea. On the island I experienced a beautiful mix of culture and history that I haven’t seen anywhere else in Honduras. There are cultural influences from the Caribbean and from Honduras - many people speak both English and Spanish, and the people who speak English often speak with a Caribbean accent. The food is a delicious mixture as well, and it was easy to find Honduran favorites like tajadas and baleadas, as well as Caribbean staples like fried plantains and beans and rice. And, of course, the island itself has so many gorgeous beaches and stunning views. Little did I know, Roatán is surrounded by the world’s second largest reef, behind only the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I got the chance to snorkel in the reef during my time there, and I won’t soon forget the multicolored coral and vibrant tropical fish that I saw. While the island attracts many tourists, and as a result is more expensive to visit, I think I would have really missed out had I not made the trip there.

What is your typical weekend like?
When I’m not traveling, Saturday mornings are reserved for laundry. I typically make myself breakfast and drink some tea, then get to work on my laundry. I’ve come to appreciate that time as a chance to listen to music or podcasts, and having clean clothes to start the week is a great feeling. Saturday afternoons are for relaxing, and then most Sundays I spend preparing for the week ahead.

What is your favorite part of the day or class to teach?
I love reading together with the class. We read together every morning, and it’s always a delight seeing their eyes glued to the book and their ears hanging on every word. There are other classes that we get to do less frequently, like Art. We have Art once per week on Fridays, and seeing the students be creative and work with their hands is a joy. Science class is three times per week, and our discussions in those classes lead students to be more observant and questioning of the world around them. I love seeing that a topic has piqued their curiosity.

How would you describe your class?
This year’s 3rd grade class has quite a few characters, and many high-energy students. The class is full of smart and funny students, who love to play soccer, perform skits at our school-wide events, and, most of all, to read! I’ve loved seeing so many of the 3rd graders embrace reading, and pursue reading as a form of enjoyment outside of class.

What’s the funniest thing a student has ever said?
One of the 3rd graders has a ritual for when we are about to begin our Word Work activities. When I announce that we’re getting ready to do Word Work, this student will, without fail, begin belting out the words to “Work” by Rihanna.
One day recently, I was getting ready for a trip to go back home to see my family. One 3rd grader has a unique way of referring to the United States - when I announced that I would be going, he exclaimed excitedly, “Mr. you are going to the Uniteds!”

What is a challenging aspect of living in Honduras?
One challenging aspect of living in Honduras, especially in contrast to the United States, is limited mobility. It’s more difficult to get around, and long distance trips require more time and planning. It’s also almost impossible to rely only on yourself for transportation - deciding to hop in the car one day to drive to Copan is likely not a possibility. Instead, you’d have to make your way to a busy road and hop on a bus that’s headed to your destination, when one comes your way.

How do you relax when not in school?
I love to cook, and I’m glad that I haven’t had to leave that behind while living here. There are plenty of opportunities during the week to cook for myself and for the other BECA volunteers. I love to read as well, and I’ve enjoyed poring through our shared “library” of books that have accumulated in the BECA house over the years. It’s been a pleasure reading some of the books that past volunteers have left, and I’ve been able to cross a few classics like 100 Years of Solitude off my reading list.

How would you describe the experience of working with BECA and living in Honduras for someone thinking about applying?
Despite the difficulties of moving to a country that’s new to me, and despite the growing pains involved with being a first year teacher, I never once questioned the importance of the work that all the teachers and volunteers do here. Keeping in mind BECA’s purpose of providing a quality bilingual education to children in Honduras has helped me get through many long days here at Amigos. I’ve also found that there’s always something at Amigos to lift my spirits and offer me perspective when I’ve had a difficult experience. Whether that’s our weekly prayer circles, or the joy I feel from students at the hogar, or the beautiful views of the hills in the distance, there’s always something to remind me to think of the bigger picture.

What’s your favorite Honduran food?
Aside from everyone’s favorite, baleadas, I love the fruit and produce that’s available here. We always have so many fresh fruits and vegetables within arm’s reach - I’ve had the best mangoes and papayas of my life in Honduras!

How did you find out about BECA?
I found out about BECA through a friend and former Amigos de Jesus volunteer named Jillian Gerrity. Jillian reached out to me this year when the 3rd grade teacher position opened up. I heard such great stories and memories from both her and her family, who had been able to visit Amigos de Jesus during her time here. They shared such positive and endearing anecdotes about our students, the school and the hogar that I was convinced to come see for myself!

What motivated you/why did you decide to volunteer for a year in Honduras?
Aside from Jillian’s stories about her time here, I saw many opportunities for growth from this experience. I knew that I was interested in teaching, and coming here would be an incredible opportunity to get into the classroom and gain teaching experience. I also knew that teaching here would be a challenge, but that’s part of why I made the decision. I wanted the challenge of helping students learn while also adjusting to a culture and place that are new to me. Finally, I wanted to improve my Spanish. Through conversations with students, Honduran counterpart teachers, and parents, and through weekly Spanish classes, I feel much more comfortable conversing in Spanish than when I arrived.

What did your family/friends say when you decided to move to Honduras?
Luckily for me, my family and friends were very supportive of my decision to live and work here. After the initial surprise when I broke the news, my Mom and Dad could not have been more encouraging. My Mom was excited about the idea, and told me to go for it from the beginning. My Dad had a few more questions about the program and about what it’s like to live in Honduras, but he was just as supportive after learning more about BECA and hearing from Jillian and her family.

How is life in Honduras different for you than life at home?
In a number of ways, I’ve noticed that people tend to be self-sustaining here. Here on the Amigos de Jesus grounds, there are both a woodshop and metal shop that employ people from the hogar and from the community. The woodshop produces a great deal of the furniture, windows, and other materials that the school and hogar use every day. Workers at the metal shop are always tinkering with or fixing things that have broken. Tortillas are almost always made by hand; it’s rare to see people eating baleadas made with store-bought tortillas. And, of course, laundry is almost always washed by hand and hung out to dry. Living here has pointed out many of the conveniences that I often take for granted at home, which people here are perfectly happy to do without.

How was your first day of class compared to where you are now?
Having come to Amigos after the school year had started, I had the opportunity to observe Sean Kelly teach the 3rd grade class when I got here. My training involved watching and learning from Sean as he taught the class, who he had also taught the year before. My first “real” day was when I took over the class completely on my own - I felt confident in myself, but still did not have a firm grasp of how to take control of the class when they got a little too rowdy. I probably let a few too many rulebreakers slip by that day, but have since developed more strategies to take control of the class. That way, we can focus on learning!