This summer Ms. Loi Booher, Lecturer in Mathematics, had the opportunity to work in an elementary school deep in the mountains of Guatemala. She was a member of a team , Teachers-2-Teachers International, an organization that provides culturally sensitive professional development for mathematics teachers in developing countries. During the week at the school, her mornings were spent in the fourth grade classroom and afternoons were reserved for professional development and one-on-one planning with a local teacher.
The residents of this small village are very proud of their Mayan heritage. They wear traditional clothing and speak the local Mayan dialect of Ixil. Children begin to learn Spanish at school in first or second grade. To be a teacher at the school, one is required to finish a high school program that is designed for future teachers. Academically speaking, this may seem like a minimal requirement; however, Guatemalans are only required to complete the 6th grade. In fact, there is no secondary school in this village, so a child would have to travel two to three hours by bus to attend the nearest school.
The team helped the local teachers to take their math classes beyond the textbook. They encouraged and demonstrated things such as group work, culturally relevant word problems, new approaches to familiar problems, and an improved number sense.
Speaking of her experience , Ms. Booher said, “I was privileged to work with a diverse group of educators from both the U.S. and Guatemala. I’ve traveled abroad before, but teaching in Spanish really made me appreciate the challenges faced by international students. It was truly an honor to be able to share my knowledge with the Mayan teachers as well as gain invaluable knowledge from them – both equally. Playing jacks during recess… that’s icing on the cake!”