Sondra Cooper

Sondra was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a degree in Spanish. Her first exposure to Latin American culture was during high school when she spent a summer leading kids sports camps in Costa Rica. During undergrad, she also spent time interning and studying in Peru and Spain. Prior to moving to Honduras, she worked as a case manager for disadvantaged high school students, many of whom were first and second generation Latin-American immigrants. She is currently working toward her Master’s degree in International Community Development at Northwest University and is excited to see how her studies will intersect with her real-world experience as a teacher in Honduras this year!

Posted on Monday, October 10, 2016, 8:08 pm EDT

How did you find out about BECA?

My graduate school advisor recommended BECA to me because he knew that the organization’s mission and vision – particularly the community-partnership aspect – aligned really well with everything I’m passionate about.

What was your first day in the classroom like?

The first day in the classroom was a blur! A few days later I saw a picture of myself teaching on the first day of class posted to the school Facebook page; I didn’t even remember anyone taking it! I was super nervous before school started, but once I got into my classroom and met all my kids, I remember thinking that everything was going to be okay.

What is your favorite part of the day or class to teach?

My favorite part of class is after our lesson, when I give the kids a chance to work together on a challenging task or assignment. I love seeing them collaborate and share ideas; the light-bulb look never gets old! It’s also just really entertaining to watch teenagers interact. I can never predict what’s going to happen between classmates in a given day, which adds to the excitement of it all!

How would you describe your classes?

They are all so different! 7th grade is a bundle of energy all the time – they are so curious about everything and are always smiling! 8th grade is full of a bunch of hard workers. They love to be challenged and they consistently display positive attitudes. 9th grade is diverse class of lots of different characters! They like to joke around with each other and with their teachers; I’m enjoying getting to know their unique personalities.

What’s the funniest thing a student has ever said?

Last week, a group of 8th grade girls came into my room during lunch and started talking about boys (classic). The conversation went a little something like this: “Miss Sondra, this boy is sooooo cute. He is totally my crotch right now…wait no, I mean crush! He is my crush!” We all got a good laugh out of that one!

What's your favorite place that you’ve been in Honduras?

Being from the Pacific Northwest, I LOVE my mountains and my coffee! So this October break, one of the other teachers and I made our way to Gracias, Lempira, a little town right outside Celaque National Park. The greenery, the mountain air, and the cute little town (full of INCREDIBLE little coffee shops and super friendly people) made for the perfect weekend trip. I can’t wait to go back!

Where can you be found on a Saturday morning?

On a Saturday morning, you can find me at the fruit and vegetable market stocking up on food for the week or at Café Click working on lesson plans. But to be honest, you can find me at Café Click pretty much any day of the week – it’s my second home (have I mentioned how much I love coffee?)

How do you relax when not in school?

I love doing Zumba in the center on weekends, getting ice cream at Sarita with friends, going to church events, going to soccer games at one of the stadiums in town, or going into San Pedro for dinner or brunch on the weekends!

What’s your favorite Honduran food?

Baleadas, hands down.

Did you have any preconceived notions about Honduras before you went? How did that compare with what you found when you arrived here?

I think it’s definitely easy to focus on the “negative” aspects of a place before you’ve been there, and I think I probably did that a little bit before coming to Cofradia. But after being here for a few months, when I think of Cofradia and Honduras I think of the hospitality, the mountains, the beaches, the baleadas (how could you not?), and the amazing friends I’ve made here so far. Honduras is a beautiful country; there is so much more to it than I would have ever known.

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of living in Honduras?

While safety is not the first thing I think of when I think of Honduras, it definitely is something we always do take into consideration. Always being aware of our surroundings, of which neighborhoods we’re in, and of who’s watching is a challenge I’m still getting used to.

What’s the funniest thing that’s happened outside of school?

During our stay in Gracias, Lempira, we met a couple of middle-aged locals who offered us some tips on traveling in Honduras. Their number one recommendation? “If any guy asks if you’re married and you want them to go away, tell them you’re married to God and studying to be a nun.” They then had us practice the conversation multiple times and chastised us because we couldn’t stop laughing!

How would you describe the experience of working with BECA and living in Honduras for someone thinking about applying?

Living and working here is a CHALLENGE! I have traveled and volunteered abroad before, but this experience has proven to be harder than anything I’ve ever done. Everyone works long hours; we deal with tough behavioral problems; we worry that we aren’t doing enough. But this has also been the most fulfilling and exciting thing I’ve ever done, because I’m growing to care so much about these kids and this community. My students are so full of potential, so hard working, and so eager to know more of the world and to find their place in it. They deserve the best, and the fact that I get to be a small part of their journey is incredibly humbling. Plus, I have some of the best coworkers and roommates out there. They inspire me on the tough days to keep going, and they make me laugh on the good days with stories of ridiculous things their kids have done! Love being part of this organization and this community!