07 Apr Networking in Quito, Ecuador
written by Jenny Goldner
“Amor y Esperanza”
As the name states, this school is based on love and hope. What an appropriate title for the Teachers2Teachers-International trip to Quito, Ecuador. There is so much I could talk about in regards to this life-changing trip: the wonderful food and fellowship, the rich culture, or the beautiful scenery. But today that is not what I want to relay. Today I want to focus on one powerful word. It is a word that makes Teachers2Teachers-International a global classroom. It is a word that every educator on the planet should have in his/her “teaching toolbox.” What is the word? This is a word that has made me a better teacher than I started off to be 18 years ago: NETWORKING. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Do you know what? It is. But it does require effort, hard work, and perseverance.
I want to talk about the fact that on this single trip I networked with three main groups: the Amor y Esperanza staff, the Teachers2Teachers-International team, and the Amor y Esperanza students.
Networking with the Staff at Amor y Esperanza and Alliance Academy International
The story of how Amor y Esperanza was founded by Poncho and Pity is absolutely phenomenal. They are wonderful people with an outstanding vision of helping students who would otherwise be on the streets and would not be able to succeed in life. From the very moment we arrived at Amor y Esperanza, we were welcomed with open arms by the students and staff as they sang for us and gave us a formal introduction. We were also blessed to have several members of the Alliance Academy International staff to serve as our interpreters for the week.
In the first session with the teachers I told them through my interpreter that though we have a language barrier, one thing shines through: the love they have for their students. I explained to them that we were not there to tell them we had a better way of doing things. Rather we were with them to provide new ideas, to collaborate and get new ideas ourselves, and to share the common goal of helping our students succeed in our world. Our entire team bonded with the staff as we did team building activities together, shared our hearts, and shared our ideas. We listened to each other and learned. We respected each other as colleagues. It was so eye opening for me to see that no matter where you go in the world, that love between a student and his/her teacher is priceless. I felt blessed to be able to give these teachers more ideas in helping their students achieve greatness. They were extremely grateful for our help and supplies we brought to them. We, in turn, were grateful for the lasting friendships we built at Amor y Esperanza.
Networking with Teachers2Teachers-International Team
I truly cannot say enough about our dynamic team. We each share a common goal of pouring our hearts and souls into education. To that end we all made financial and personal sacrifices to leave our families in order to help the students and staff at Amor y Esperanza. We bonded almost instantly during our conversations, dinners, excursions, and planning for our week of teaching and sharing at Amor y Esperanza. And though I have not met him in person, I got to know the founder of Teachers2Teachers-International, Chadd McGlone. He was there for us every step of the way, via electronic means. He cheered us on and asked for our opinions of how to make our organization more effective. I am so glad he chose to share T2T-I with the world. I know firsthand it has changed my life for the better.
Networking with Amor y Esperanza Students
My dad always has said, “People are people no matter where you go.” I have found this to be true. Sure, our skin colors, cultures, and beliefs may differ, but we all share the same basic human needs. As I taught the students I could sense things about them as I do with my students. I could tell that some were happy, others were sad, and still others seemed distant. As the week went on, I gained their trust. We formed a bond in that short time because they could tell I was there to bring them love and hope as the name of their school portrays. It felt like Christmas morning as I got to hand out gifts from my students and town! They loved their gifts from our Cherokee Tribal Council member, Harley Buzzard! They especially loved the new lessons we did as teams. They laughed and learned. They thanked me over and over. I thanked them as well. They touched my life as much or more than I touched theirs, I am quite sure.
I want to share one last story about networking that is so powerful, I saved it for last. This story is about a little boy named Jesus, a wonderful student who attends Amor y Esperanza. He has had some difficult things he has faced in life. One of them is that he has vision problems. With the help of Dan Oates, coordinator for SCIVIS (Space Camp for Interested Visually Impaired Students), Jesus is applying to receive a St. Louis Lighthouse Visions Grant to attend SCIVIS in September of this year. He and his chaperone (Pity, Headmaster at Amor y Esperanza), will travel to Huntsville, Alabama, in the USA to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. All expenses (airfare, room, board, meals, and tuition) will be paid. Jesus will not only be the first student to attend from Quito, he will also be the first person to attend from South America! At Space Camp Jesus will study math, science, technology, and engineering as he flies in simulators, performs team building lessons, and learns about space. None of this would have been made possible if I did not get to meet Jesus through the Teachers2Teachers-International program. So you see, if you only take a chance to put yourself out there, to travel around the world, to make a difference, to NETWORK, you will find that there are endless possibilities. Just ask our student, Jesus.