Miss Caitlin arrived in Honduras in 2013 with some teaching experience and a little Spanish in her pocket. In her two years at SJBS, a lot has changed--she's gained more experience and improved her Spanish, as well as become a master baker and grown close to the Cofradia community, spending time after school making pizza with parents or visiting water parks with families on the weekend. Miss Caitlin teaches 5th grade, what she calls a "transitional year," but she enjoys watching her students "grow and develop into the people they will become." Read more about the 5th grade class at SJBS, life in Honduras, and how teachers escape from school after the bell rings.
How did you find out about BECA?
After I graduated from college, I knew that I wanted to spend some time abroad teaching. In an effort to improve my Spanish, I started looking for jobs in Central America and found BECA through an Internet search. Their commitment to providing an affordable bilingual education across economic backgrounds and the support provided to their teachers was immediately appealing to me.
How has your experience been staying a second year?
My second year here in Cofradia with BECA has been even more rewarding than my first. I feel like I have been able to grow closer to the community and specific families. Cofradia really feels like home and it will be hard to leave here eventually.
What made you decide to stay for the second year?
The main reason I decided to stay for a second year was that I couldn't picture myself leaving a community that had just started to feel like home. One year just seemed too short for me since I had really just started to find my place and stride.
What is your favorite part of the day or class to teach?
I loved teaching literature circles this past quarter. I was able to break my class into three groups and had each group read a different book. While it was a little bit of a logistical nightmare in the beginning, everything calmed down and I was able to have some pretty amazing conversations about each book with the small groups. My kids have a great way of looking at the stories they read and the connections they make surprise me all the time.
Did you have any preconceived notions about Honduras before moving here? How did that compare with what you found when you arrived?
I had heard a lot about violence related to gangs and corrupt officials that plague Honduras, especially San Pedro Sula. Living here for almost two years I have seen how that violence has affected our students, but I have also been welcomed into many houses and spent time with many generous people and loving families.
What is your favorite place that you’ve visited in Honduras?
The mountains. It’s such a great escape from hot and dusty day-to-day in Cofradia.
What is your typical weekend like?
If I am not traveling on short weekend trips around Honduras, I like to hang out in Cofradia. Spending time with the families of my students is a great way to spend an afternoon.
What’s the funniest thing a student has ever said?
I have one student who is wise beyond her years and is always dropping hilarious lines that the teachers find funny. For a writing project, the students wrote a letter to themselves 10 years in the future, and hers opened with, “Dear Erin, do you still like Coldplay?”
Have you ever had any visitors come to Honduras?
I had my parents and my sister both come to visit this past year. It was interesting experience for them as none of them had ever left the United States before. Coming from hot showers, 20-degree weather (in the Wisconsin winter), and constant water and electricity, Honduras was a bit of a shock. They really enjoyed the school and the families that we visited were so excited to meet my family. I think this helped my parents and sister understand why I feel so at home here and needed to come back for a second year.
What’s your favorite Honduran food?
I am definitely a fan of baleadas and have one almost every morning for breakfast at school.
What would you say is the most challenging aspect of living in Honduras?
As I am writing this, it feels like the temperature is 119 degrees, so I am tempted to say that the heat is the most challenging aspect.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened outside of school?
Last year, a mom loaned my roommate her bicycle—which was built for a small child, definitely not an adult. One day after school, I biked home from school with a second grader in tow, standing on the back pegs (in high heels!). The ride was mostly downhill, which was lucky, but it’s definitely not something I’d volunteer to do again.
How do you relax and de-stress when not in school?
Because of the availability of fresh food literally around the corner from my house, I have started cooking and baking as a way of de-stressing on the weekends or after a long day of school. My biggest hits include breadsticks and pretzels.
How would you describe your class?
My kids are an interesting group. They are naturally curious which leads to a lot of questions and excitement. Fifth grade is a transitional year and it has been fun to help them grow and develop into the people they will become.