Alyssa Baumgarten

Alyssa Baumgarten (SMBS 1st Grade)

After a fun and rewarding year in prepa, Alyssa is excited to return to Santa Mónica and move up to first grade with her students. Originally from Bridgewater, Massachusetts, Alyssa graduated from Stonehill College in 2013 with a double major in Early Childhood Education and Sociology and a minor in Spanish. Throughout her time as an undergraduate, she had many valuable experiences observing and teaching in diverse classrooms. She discovered her love for the Spanish language, Latin American culture, and service through several trips to schools in the Dominican Republic and Perú. She also spent a semester abroad in Sevilla, Spain, where she volunteered as a teaching assistant in English classes. This year, Alyssa is looking forward to spending more time with the families she has met, growing as a teacher, and continuing to improve her Spanish.

Posted on Thursday, January 7, 2016, 8:17 am EST

Christmas Eve, 2015. I’m sitting in my bed at my parents’ house enjoying several relaxing days away from work and feeling nostalgic as I often do about my time in Honduras. Two years ago at this time, my students and I had just broken open a treat-filled piñata to kick off our vacation. Last year, we had just performed Feliz Navidad at Santa Monica’s celebración navideña. I reach up to the top shelf of my closet and take down the photo albums I made of my time with BECA. I flip through photos of luscious mountains and tranquil beaches, sweaty volunteers and grinning children, my favorite scenes and faces I know by heart.

Over the past few months, I’ve done this too many times to count, opened up my large collection of photos and videos to reminisce, and each time, I feel a little different. Sometimes I ask myself why I’m about to spend the next hour staring at images on my computer screen instead of getting work done. Sometimes I am surprised that my time there feels like yesterday and sometimes I feel the need to protect the memories that are starting to fade. Sometimes I know they’ll make me cry and wish I never left, but I do it anyway. On this Christmas Eve, though, I look through the albums and just smile. I laugh at the memories of playing I Spy with my students at recess, dressing up as book characters for Día Del Niño, and riding in a Honduran police truck (no criminal activity involved!). What strikes me the most is how strong a connection I still feel with everyone in those photos, no matter how far apart we are.

This fall, I began teaching Kindergarten 1 (4- and 5-year-olds) Spanish at a dual language school in Boston. It has been more challenging than I ever imagined. While I gradually become more comfortable in my new school community, I know I could never have made it this far without the support of my BECA family in Honduras and all over the States. I am constantly motivated by texts and phone calls from other alumni asking how I’m doing. I am encouraged by the Facebook messages from Santa Monica administrators, teachers, and families reminding me of my capabilities as a teacher. I am inspired by the success stories of the current volunteers that dedicate so much time and effort to their students.

As the new year arrives, I’m already counting down the days to my first visit back to Honduras in February, in which I’ll try to cram in as many home visits, paila rides, and baleadas as possible. I hope that it will be one of many visits in the coming years as I continue serving with the BECA community and it continues to shape where I am today.